To begin, I only read this book to 25%, and then had to put it down. In the end, I decided to not finish the book rather than continuing to read. It’s not something I like doing, but in this case, I just couldn’t keep reading. First, the blurb:
Two kingdoms. Two princes. One secret to break them, or to bind them.
When a rowboat washes up on the riverbank, Prince Malires puts his kingdom’s security first. The dead man lying in the boat can’t answer many questions, but the seriously injured survivor might be able to give Malires some details about what happened in the hostile kingdom to the north. If, that is, the young man ever wakes up.
Malires knows who the survivor is: Prince Aleric, youngest son of the King of Gerelen. He’s the most renowned warrior that Gerelen has ever known, and Malires has barely survived their previous encounters. Only his need to understand why Gerelen suddenly stopped communicating with the outside world keeps him from taking advantage of the situation and taking out this threat to his kingdom.
It has nothing to do with the sudden discovery of how beautiful Aleric is.
Unfortunately for Malires, when Aleric does awaken he has no memory of who he is or even of his own kingdom. The court physicians insist that Aleric’s memories must return naturally, or else they might be lost forever.
While both men recognize the urgent need for answers, they cannot fight their attraction for one another. Aleric comes to feel just as defensive of Malires’ kingdom as he once did of his own. When the truth comes out, will love conquer all, or will misunderstanding and pride drive Aleric to a desperate undertaking?
Okay, so reading that blurb, I was intrigued and really looking forward to this book. I love fantasy stories, and two men who shouldn’t be together but can’t help themselves is something I usually enjoy. I was a little wary about the amnesia aspect, but I was excited to try this story. Unfortunately, right from the start, the book left a lot to be desired.
It starts with a man waking up…and realizing he has no memory of who he is, where he’s from, or how he got there. Instantly, his caretaker, who is a kind and jovial woman, tells him he’s been injured. And when he admits to the amnesia, she insists he can’t be told who he is. This was my first problem, and it’s a huge plot hole. Malires knows the man is Aleric, knows where he’s from and what he’s capable of. But he’s forbidden to tell Aleric anything. And he goes a long with it. But Janna, the priestess in charge of Aleric’s care, insists.
“Yes. And he has to recover his memories naturally. You can’t go in there and just say, ‘Oh, you’re so-and-so.’ That’s the best way to make sure he never remembers. He’d just go with it. He has to remember on his own. Do you understand me?”
This is repeated, in different iterations, numerous times in the portion of the story that I read. So much so that it became tedious. And that’s as much of an explanation as we get. It’s clearly a plot device, but it doesn’t work. It’s farcical, and did absolutely nothing to endear me to the characters or the story.
Especially because Malires knows exactly who Aleric is and what he can do. And yet Malires, who is a prince, just goes along with it. A few pages later, Malires is lamenting:
“It’s frustrating. He’s—I’ve faced that man in battle so many times, Janna. So many times, and he’s in there, and he’s vulnerable, and I can’t do anything about it because he doesn’t know who he is and because he’s a refugee and a guest.”
At that, I actually stopped and stared at the page. Malires is the heir apparent, and he rules the kingdom with his father the king. He’s got a prime role in keeping his country safe. And yet, he just lets this man, who has given him multiple scars, not only recover in luxury, but then join the guard to protect the temple and then become the personal bodyguard of the high priestess, Janna, who is also Malires sister? I would have expected, at a bare minimum, for Aleric—or Sokol, as he goes by when he can’t remember who he used to be—to be confined and questioned, even if he isn’t mistreated. Instead, he’s allowed free rein. None of that makes sense to me. Not on any level, and I could not understand Malires’ motivation at all.
So the glaring plot holes right off the bat were a big problem for me. I couldn’t get into the story, and the sheer ridiculousness didn’t work for me. But I might have been able to keep reading and at least finish the book if all that wasn’t coupled with lackluster writing. The style wasn’t engaging to me. It was a bit simplistic to begin with. But it also had long passages of info dump. Many of these were information about Aleric, which again got me wondering why they just couldn’t give Aleric information and why he was allowed to run free. And considering this was fantasy, there were also phrases that seemed out of place, such as when Aleric, as Sokol, calls himself “a big goofball” and wonders if his past is something “not even a mother could love,” that really yanked me out of the story as they didn’t fit the style of fantasy at all.
And then there was the romance. Now granted, not much had happened by the time I put the book down, except for both Malires and Sokol/Aleric thinking about how attractive they found the other man. This whole thing left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable. Not so much on Sokol/Aleric’s end, as he has no memory, so he’s just appreciating the pretty prince. But Malires, who does know what is going on, is now suddenly attracted to and making allowances for the man who has almost killed him on several occasions. Just because he thinks he’s good looking? It was so far beyond believable I couldn’t even suspend disbelief to go with it. So this didn’t work for me either.
In the end, I decided to put the put down at 25% rather than continuing on. I didn’t care about the characters or the story, and I wasn’t interested in finding out what happened. The over the top plot and characters, coupled with mediocre writing, just couldn’t hold my interest. This isn’t the book for me, and I’ll leave you to make your own judgement where it’s concerned.