Author: Lotus Oakes
Series: – –
Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance
Length: Short novel
In a world covered by a deadly miasma, humans survive by way of the protection of powerful mages known as Keepers. In the town of Ravenhearth, the Keeper requests a companion every ten years. What happens to them after those ten years, no one knows, for none has ever returned.
Ash is a young orphan who dreams of learning magic. When the newest request for a companion is posted, he volunteers. Upon his arrival, he finds the Keeper’s home is nothing like the fearful whispers shared around the village. Instead, he slowly grows to become part of the close-knit family of the Keeper’s castle—and falling for Giles, the butler of Ravenhearth, rather than the mage he’s been sent there to attend.
Source: ARC from Less Than Three Press via NetGalley
This is a sweet, easy read that treads familiar Beauty and the Beast ground, with a young innocent willingly walking into an enchanted castle to become a companion to a magical being, in return for the continued safety of – in this case – the local town. On top of that Ash is an orphan, and though he’s twenty-one, he frequently acts and is treated much younger. In fact, for the most part I would rate this a YA read, except for the occasional sex-related scene here and there that doesn’t really fit in with the tone of everything else and pushes it firmly into New Adult.
The story itself is pretty straight forward, as is the world-building. I would have liked a bit more depth to both, if I’m honest. There’s so much left mysterious and unexplored that I found myself a touch frustrated at times. For a large part of the novel I thought the miasma kept all the towns isolated from each other, but Ash and his mother seem to have travelled in from afar, so apparently not. And what was Ash’s history? The hints that were dropped made it seem like it might have been important, but it’s never explored, nor is Ash even curious about it. What kind of magic can the Keeper do? What kind of things come out of the miasma? Why didn’t anyone kill those awful twins, and just what is their relationship with Giles anyway? I had so many questions throughout, and none of them were answered.
Mostly because this book is about Ash and Giles. Ash only meets the Keeper once, and the rest of the time he spends with Giles – is it any wonder he falls in love with him? I actually found everything with the Keeper kind of annoying. Why is there a new companion every ten years? Why not more often, or less often, since it clearly isn’t working out too well? Is there really supposed to be a sexual element to it all, or did Ash jump to the wrong conclusions? Why doesn’t Ash see him more than once? It just irritated me. Yes, I put all the various pieces together very early on, but Ash doesn’t. In fact Ash rarely makes any connections. He is very naive and a little dim, despite his talent for magic. I found him a bit too ingenuous for my tastes. He’s a bit dull and because of that the story itself drags along across a year in the castle.
So overall this is a sweet, easy fantasy which spends half of its time bumbling along in an innocent way, and the rest seething with dark sexual undertones that didn’t really fit. The fantastical setting is painted with broad brush strokes that seem good at first, but don’t hold up to deeper scrutiny and there are just too many questions left unanswered. Fine for a bit of light reading, but if you think too hard about it, things start to fall apart.
Ravenhearth is Out Now!
Visit Less Than Three Press for more details.