Prince Adrianus’ father sends him to the neighboring kingdom to offer help to King Thanos with two goals: solidify friendly relations between the two kingdoms and gain King Thanos’ daughter’s hand in marriage for Adrianus. The prince, however, wishes no marriage between himself and a woman, let alone a union offered as a prize for helping a king. Instead of a loveless marriage, however, Adrianus finds himself entranced by a slave named Fedor.
Fedor is a man with little hope and no prospects—until Adrianus spies the harsh treatment to which Fedor is subjected and the prince wins Fedor his freedom. To show his gratitude to Adrianus, Fedor is determined to help the prince with the task King Thanos has given Adrianus: to find a magical stone to break the curse upon his daughter. Against Adrianus’ friends’ better judgment, the prince allows the former slave to join their small band as they embark on their risky venture.
Through the journey, the small group faces bandits and beasts. Yet not every bandit is a villain and not all beasts are violent. Adrianus and his comrades find help in the most unexpected places, not the least of which being Fedor himself who proves nearly indispensable on their quest. There is more to their task, more to the curse on Thanos’ daughter, than meets the eye. There is betrayal in Thanos’ court and Adrianus and his group must work together, and fast, if they are to save the day.
I’d like to preface all the “bad” stuff below by simply stating that I kind of liked this book. It appealed to me in the same way Golden Era Disney films appeal to me. The simplicity of the story makes it a great choice for when you want to read something, but are emotionally unavailable because you’re really still thinking about that last heart-wrenching book by your favorite author. At its core, Rescue is a book about the attractive good guys falling in love while on a quest to vanquish the ugly bad guy. There’s melodrama galore and tropes up the wazoo, all combined is a pleasantly blandish package spiced up with gratuitous sex (so it’s unlike a Disney film in that regard, I suppose).
If you are looking to take a break from some heavy reading or need to fill a reading gap, this would be a great book (provided nothing that I found appealing is a total turn off for you).
On to the critique!
On the whole, this book is a slave to it’s plot. It feels like the author knew exactly what they wanted their characters to do and just had them do it, sans mystique. The style reminds me of something one of my high school English teachers said: tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them. That is to say, as much as Rescue is a get-together cum actiony-adventurey kind of book, the straightforward storytelling leaves little if anything for the reader to chew on or angst over. The villain is painfully transparent, the pairings pretty much resolve themselves within the first quarter of the book (but then that makes way for sexy times later, so there’s that). The lone edge-of-your-seat scene where a good guy gets seduced by dark power lasts a few paragraphs before True Love squelches the fleeting impulse. In that regard, this book goes everywhere you expect it to and nowhere you don’t, so there won’t be any surprises, good, bad, or otherwise.
Then there’s the prose. Take the following quote for example. It comes early in the book, after the scene were Adrianus (accompanied by his friend and body guard Leonid) has spared a slave (Fedor) from corporeal punishment at the hand of a mean, beefy guard by telling said guard that the slave shall join Adrianus’ entourage. The guard threatens to King Thanos that Adrianus is basically stealing the king’s property. This is Adrianus’ reply when Leonid asks why the prince wanted to take the slave with them:
“I don’t know, but if [King Thanos] wants me undertaking this quest, he won’t refuse me. Don’t ask me to explain it, Leonid, but I’m not leaving him here.” The idea of leaving the youth behind appalled Adrianus. Not going to happen.
The “don’t ask me to explain it” tripe just feels like the biggest cop out. Without any attempt at justifying Adrianus’ feelings anywhere, I’m inclined to put this feeling down to hormones, that Adrianus is “appalled” at the thought missing out on tapping dat ass. Salting that wound is Adrianus’ “Not going to happen” thought. This bothered me because, despite the lack of real world building, the story is still playing at a swords-and-sorcery kind of medieval setting, but the mode of speech is decidedly, jarringly modern to me.
Another example of the fabricated un-angst:
“Master.” Fedor dropped to his knees instantly, his head almost touching Adrianus’s feet.
The young man’s reaction made Adrianus grimace. I don’t want him to fear me. I don’t understand why, but I feel inexplicably protective of him.
This is about a page after the previous snippet. There has been virtually zero time for either of them to establish any sort of rapport. What’s more, this is a scene between a slave and a prince. Given the status spectrum here, what else could a prince possibly expect a slave to do except fall to his knees and prostrate himself? Bonus points for more of the “I don’t know why, but…” nonsense. This saccharine (hormonally driven?) sentiment escalates as these two move from lust to instalove and they start referring to each other as “beloved” and “my love.”
Moving on to world-building. I touched on this earlier, but there’s not much presented to the reader so they can build a world. We have the bizarre inclusion of a few foreign loan words randomly thrown in to replace common terms like table, seat, and napkin (lecti, mensa, mappae respectively). More meaningfully, we get pet names for the lovers in the book: agapi mou and omorfas. At least these refer to our principle characters and help reinforce the connection between them. Much of the story happens outside palace walls, but the reader is left to flesh out most of the wilderness with the kind of medieval imagery generally associated with a fantasy type book. And the one scene that feels like a discount cave island from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Overall, this book has some significant kill-joys for me in the writing/style department. I don’t think they render the book unreadable, but it puts the book firmly into the “read it once and forget about it” category for me. If you like a straightforward story, or just something to fill the reading void while you try to digest another book, this would be a great, easy read.