Review: Bitterwood

cover-bitterwood.pngTitle: Bitterwood
Author: Rowan Speedwell
Series: – –
Genre: M/M Fantasy
Length: Short novel
Available: 19th Sept

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Outrunning a winter storm in the north, Captain Faran of the King’s Guard leads his men and a young mage named Meric to shelter at Bitterwood Manor, the ancestral home of the Daenes. Faran and his troops have been searching for weeks for a mysterious, lion-like beast that reportedly haunts the uncharted northern woods. For Meric, finding that prophesied cat is a matter of life and death.

Though Faran is deeply focused on their mission, the enigmatic Joss Daene, Lord of Bitterwood, fascinates him. Strong and proud, Joss is everything Faran wants in a lover. More, if he were honest. But Joss belongs to Bitterwood, and Faran to his duty.

Together they will need to brave the oldest, darkest part of the Bitterwood in the coldest, deepest snows of winter to find the legendary cat. But time is running out—for Meric, for the kingdom, and for Faran and Joss’s fledgling love.

(Note: This is a revised second edition, previously published elsewhere.)


Source: ARC from Riptide Publishing via NetGalley

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from this book, but I think it was more than what I actually got. There’s a bit of romance, but it’s mostly lust, there are mages and a little bit of magic, there’s the mystery of the cat, the mystery of Meric, a snow storm and lots of wandering around in a wood, but it’s pretty slow going and although a light, easy read, it never quite caught my attention as I’d hoped.

Part of this is because of the romance, or rather complete lack of it. There are actually two in this book, the one between Faran and Joss, which starts from nowhere and is mostly lust without any hints of chemistry, because we only have Joss’ side of the tale and Faran keeps his thoughts and emotions close to his chest and can also be moody on occasion. There’s also a sweeter romance between Meric and Faran’s son, Eissa. But this isn’t a romance either, because it’s love at first sight and pretty boring.

Which is kind of like the mystery of the cat. I had a few theories about that cat and, sadly, it was my least interesting one that came true. I can’t really say why without too many spoilers, but I just found the whole thing a bit weak and flimsy, with too many pertinent details coming out afterwards, when they really would have helped to build the mystery if mentioned before.

Having said that, the world-building in this is great. There are loads of little details about manor life, which probably didn’t need to be in there and definitely slowed down the pace, but were still interesting. The descriptions are good too, and I would have liked to have spent more time in the Bitterwood, especially if it had been given more presence.

So it’s definitely not all bad, I just would have liked more connection between the characters, a stronger build up to the cat plot and just more depth all ’round. However, if you’re looking for a light, easy M/M fantasy that definitely has its roots in Medieval Europe then you might want to give this a try.


Bitterwood is out September 19th.
Visit Rowan Speedwell for more details.

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