For Jehan and Giraud, dating is a disaster. Their first date ended with Jehan being beaten by bullies and Giraud having to talk their way out of being arrested. Their second dinner had Jehan spending most of the night with a naked water nymph, and date the third had the pair of them naked, clad in wolf pelts, and chasing a magic rabbit through the woods.
All Jehan wanted was to live his life much the same way he had been living it. Visiting his brother and sister in law and their many children; catching and selling fish — much as his parents had done while they were alive — and occasionally talking to the small spirits who lived in and about Perigord. If it weren’t for the shameful feelings he has towards the blacksmith’s son, Giraud, life would be perfect. But when Giraud comes to him asking him to to see if there is indeed a curse on his adoptive parents — and offering to pay with a kiss — Jehan can’t say no. Not after that kiss! But it’s a complicated and powerful curse, and none of the spirits are willing to help. Even the ancient and powerful oak dryad, Cassanoe, refuses to do more than give him a warning.
It’s Jehan’s dying grandmother, the much beloved and midwife, who guides him to the first step on his journey. With Giraud at his side, it’s off to find the ancient witch Raelle and discover who cursed Giraud’s parents, and how on earth Jehan is supposed to break it! Unfortunately all he she gives them are more questions and another quest that leads them into the neighboring city of Castleton where Giraud offers to take Jehan to dinner.
Their dinner date, however, turns out to be a debacle, and things only go downhill from there!
Jehan is a pleasant enough character. Mild and mannerly, he’s almost a Mary Sue, but manages to avoid the obvious pitfalls of perfection. He comes across as fairly mature, though he’s only a few years older than Giraud, and has spent much of his life trying to avoid his own sorcerous powers. Because Giraud needs him, and his powers, he’s trying to push himself to do what he can.
Giraud is more or less perfect, which — owing to his heritage — makes perfect sense. His charm, his charisma, his ease and grace all come from who he is. It makes him a little boring, but he has moments of honest obnoxiousness that make up for that perfection. His slow growing relationship with Jehan feels natural, flowing with the story and the characters. It never feels forced or fake, and while there’s honest instant attraction, it takes time for both of them before it grows into love. And when it does, it’s believable and sweet.
Because much of the story is teased out during their conversations and interactions — and because I don’t want to give any of the plot twists away — I’ll keep it at that. Two boys on a journey, with Jehan growing in power and confidence as a sorcerer, and Giraud leaning about his own powers and abilities, and what it means to him to use them. Oh, and a small spoiler:
[spoiler]Giraud is an adopted child and several times is approached by his powerful, noble father who offers to accept him as his son, to come live with him as a prince. Giraud has already made up his mind about this, about staying with the people who loved him and ye … there’s no black and white mentality, here. He isn’t saying no to his father, he’s saying no to a man he still needs to get to know. And his father’s gifts at the end of the book hint at an ongoing relationship between the two of them.
Issues between children and parents — adopted or not — are complex ones, and this book doesn’t try to cheapen Giraud’s relationships with either Jehan, his parents, or his father. It was handled with a delicacy I appreciated.[/spoiler]
The world building in this book is imaginative and the authors’ interpretation of the fae races felt fresh and new. I believed in this world. The towns of Castleton and Perigord felt real and the people in them very much seemed as if they belonged. I actually would have preferred just a little more time in them, watching the day to day lives of the people. Unfortunately, the magic system and Jehan didn’t work as well, for me. There never seemed to be consequences for Jehan’s magic, no sense of what — if anything — using his power cost him, and much of it seems to be a touch inconsistent. He was more a friend to the magical folk asking them for favors rather than a powerful sorcerer, until the plot needed him to be a big, powerful sorcerer.
I would have rather the authors took more time to develop Jehan and his magic rather than treating it like a switch to be turned on when needed. And the reward Jehan and Giraud receive for their actions on behalf of a powerful fae felt … a little cheap, to me. It felt like this bit of magic was not quite in harmony with the rest of the book. If we’re already in a fantasy land, why not have people take either no notice of a homosexual relationship, or a very mild reaction to it? Why keep the need to hide and lie about their relationship… but give them a magic ring so it doesn’t matter anyway? It didn’t work for me. But considering how interesting the wold was in itself and the depth of detail with the magical races, it’s only a small moment of dissatisfaction.
Jehan and Giraud were charming, together, and every action felt honest and sincere. The world was bright and shiny and engaging. The writing was smooth, the pace was a little fast and I’m looking forward to more stories by these two authors.