"Miria, a young noblewoman on the cusp of an arranged marriage, meets the Ausir Tsalrin, her father's mysterious assassin, and sparks fly immediately. Tsalrin is trapped by an ancient curse, and Miria cannot escape her father or the husband to whom he would sell her, a man who sees her merely as a political tool. Miria and Tsalrin's position is impossible, but neither one will give up their hidden love. Theirs is a story of struggle against abuse, bigotry, and paterfamilias. Their love is both their greatest danger and their only comfort as they search for their mutual freedom."
I had been looking forward to read Worth His Freedom, by Adonis Devereux, since it made its first appearance in Litopia’s Bragging Writes. There were three things about it, all ceaselessly tickling my curiosity. First, the cover, hot yet really elegant; second, the fact that it was written in tandem by husband and wife, which looked like a truly remarkable feat to a loner (creatively speaking) like me; and third, that the husband half of the duo, a fellow Litopian, once threatened to whack my ass with a ruler, which seemed a delightfully auspicious way to start a friendship between, ahem, romance writers.
Ok, seriously, now.
The fact is that I was extremely curious to read into this completely original fantasy world, because I am a sucker for fantasy. I read more fantasy than romance, to be honest, and I was delighted that somebody had gone, invented a whole new universe and then set a romance novel in it. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this is a fantasy novel with strong (very strong) erotic-romance theme, not a romance novel with a fantasy setting. It completely transcends the romance genre (in all its multifarious sub-genres) because of the complexity and originality of its world, Gilalion. The only other romance novel with such a rich original universe that comes to my mind is Lauren’s P. Burka’s “Wishbone”.
Gilalion draws you in and make you want more. I want to know about Lorins’ magic, Nohrs and Wyrms. I want to know more about the Ausir wars and history. I want to see the Ausir cities. I want to know about the complicated customs and religion of Nirrion. I want to know about the geography and the languages and, and…
I loved that Nirrion is not a medieval empire, but even older, classical in fact. There’s reclining dinners and lyres. There’s temples and cleansing rituals. There’s also slavery and rather serious violence because Adonis Devereux does not pull punches (which is good).
Of course there is a love story. Now, as a writer of super-dissolute, multiple-partner erotica, I find some aspects of this love story a bit hard to bear. Not to put too fine a point to it, Tsalrin and Miria are a bit too obsessively jealous for my taste. Other than that, they are an engaging couple, and well deserving of the happy ending they get. Tsalrin is moody, dark and mysterious, as befits his role of cursed assassin. He is also however, a skilled artisan, which really raised my interest. It always bugs me when vampires, elves and immortals of various kinds waste away their long lives bemoaning their lonely lot and being generally miserable. If I were immortal (or going to live a few centuries at least) I would pick a hobby and get damn good at it. That’s what Tsalrin does, and it makes him a rare breed of sensible and sensitive creature. However, Miria is my favourite of the two, perhaps because one sees her growing up during the story and change from a tearful, soft girl into a seriously steely young woman.
There is of course sex, naughty wicked sex, because sex is a pretty pervasive aspect of the Nirrion society and all the characters are pretty uninhibited. There is more of it in the first half of the book, less in the second, where the plot takes precedence (it speaks for the quality of the plot and setting that I – smutty I - actually liked the second half of the book better than the first).
The style of the book was also a nice surprise in that it is written in a high, learned prose, which puts the antiquity and complexity of this world in even sharper relief. Sometimes I wished the dialogues were less formal, more actual, but it may have jarred with the style of the narrative, so perhaps it’s better this way. There are many many names of places, creatures and gods which create the strong impression of a native language (several languages, actually) different from ours. Some of these names are wonderfully musical and keep singing in my head. Elendrie, Nistaran. Silbrios (=Forest-of-Stars), Mirmanduil. Tsalrin, of course.
All in all I am pretty enchanted by this read, and wish Adonis and Devereux could be closeted in a tower somewhere, and chained to their desks, and forced (with a ruler, if necessary) to produce three mighty, red, leather-bound volumes of Gilalion tales.
If the Long Lost Volumes of Gilalion Lore cannot be produced, I will for the moment content myself with their new release, “Bride for the God-King”, which was published just a few days ago and is set in the same universe.
Worth his Freedom @ Evernight
Bride for the God-King @ Evernight