Title: The Painted Crown
Author: Megan Derr
Series: Unbreakable Soldiers #2
Genre: M/M Fantasy
Prince Istari has spent his life reviled: his parents wish he had never been born, the royal court of Belemere avoids him for fear of angering the king, and everyone else is kept away by his notorious reputation as a deadly sharpshooter. Now a hostage of peace in Tallideth, he is subjected to their hatred as well—even that of Regent Vellem, who once considered him a comrade in arms.
Unexpected solace comes in the form of Lord Teverem, a sad, quiet lord who assumed the title when his brother was killed in the explosion for which Istari’s father is to blame. He is kind and sweet and a sorely needed bright spot in Istari’s life—until Istari meets his family and learns of a dangerous family secret with unexpected ties to Istari’s past, a secret that could drag Tallideth and Belemere right back into war…
Source: Review copy from Less Than Three Press via NetGalley
Oh, Istari. I spent most of the first part of this book just wanting someone (other than Teverem) to be nice to him. To just give him a chance. He’s in a bad situation and everyone around him is making it worse. Not that he blames them, because Istari isn’t used to people valuing him for any reason, so he naturally expects to be treated badly. But he’s lovely, smart, kind and good at whatever he turns his hand to. I got so angry at everyone around him for directing all their grief and anger over the war onto his head.
And that’s what I’d expect from a Megan Derr book – characters I can really care about. Istari is definitely one of those. He’s a hostage, he’s wounded, he’s emotionally scarred, he had an awful childhood and his adulthood has mostly been spent being valued only as long as he kills people. He’s heartbroken and worn out, but isn’t bitter or angry even when he might be entitled to feel that way. He’s just tired, and I loved Teverem and his trio of cheeky kids for bringing some light into his darkness.
Okay, if I’m honest, as sweet as Teverem is, he isn’t a particularly dynamic character. This book is all about Istari, doing this and that and saving the world in his own way, while Teverem mostly stays in the background, getting dragged here and there by fate. I still liked him, but he’s quite passive for most of the book.
Yet this didn’t take away from the romance for me. The very fact that Teverem is prepared to just be there when Istari needed him was pretty much what Istari needed most, so that worked beautifully. I also liked that this isn’t an insta-lust tale, thanks to Teverem being demisexual and Istari more ace-leaning (he rarely feels sexual interest, except for a few certain people). Both of which means that their romance is slow-burning and grows out of their existing friendship – and is somewhat complicated by an arranged/political marriage. I also loved the children, particularly the girls. They’re great fun.
Overall I really enjoyed this. It’s emotional at times, but also has a bit of action here and there, even if some of it got a touch repetitive towards the end. I loved Istari and found the world this is set in politically complicated and intriguing. I haven’t read the first book in the series yet, but I followed along with this one easily enough. I’ll have to catch up on that book soon and will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one.
The Painted Crown is Out Now.
Visit Megan Derr for more details.