After Camria lost a battle with a neighboring fiefdom, Derek finds himself the new Count upon his father’s death. Derek never agreed with his father’s decision to go to war with Mulberny, and now his family is in mourning and his people are suffering. What makes things even worse is that to ensure a truce, Derek is being forced to marry Callan, the son of the Duke of Mulberny. Derek knows the marriage puts Camria at a political disadvantage, not to mention he has never even met Callan. On top of that, rumors swirl about Callan’s role in the death of his wife, and Derek fears he may be walking into a trap. Nevertheless, Derek has little choice in the marriage if he is going to keep the peace between lands.
When Derek arrives in Mulberny, things are pretty much as expected, with Callan clear he has no interest in the marriage either. For Callan, Derek seems far too soft and unprepared for his role as a leader. Not to mention that Callan is still not over the death of his wife and has no wish to marry again. The ceremony is rushed, however, by attacks on the northern coastal villages of Mulberny by the tribes of the Outer Isles. Callan is determined to travel to help his people, and while he assumes Derek will return to Camria now that they are wed, Derek surprises him by insisting on coming along. It may not be the marriage either of them wanted, but Derek isn’t going ot stand by and let his new husband fight alone.
The experience gives the men a chance to get to know one another, and soon the cold indifference between them begins to turn to a grudging respect and friendship. There is even an attraction beginning to bloom between them. But the fight with the Outer Isles is far from over, and now Derek and Callan must put their lives at risk to help their people and try to ensure peace for their land.
The Wolf and the Sparrow is an engaging fantasy story, with some enemies to lovers elements and a bit of a road trip vibe. We join the story in the aftermath of the war between Camria and Mulberny, and Adler does a nice job setting the stage for the politics and the social climate. We are given enough background that I had no problem jumping in where the story begins and we get right into the action with the wedding and Derek and Callan’s journey to the coastal villages. As I said, we get a little bit of a road trip element here, as the journey gives the men a chance to get to know one another and begin to appreciate each other’s merits. The pair make a fairly fast transition from enemies and begrudging husbands to recognizing their appreciation for and attraction to the other. I would have liked to see more development on this end of things to really feel the commitment and love they ultimately have for one another. Things felt a little fast for me to really get that full feeling of connection I wanted.
Much of the story is focused on the conflict with the people of the Outer Isles. There are old feuds between the tribes and the people of Mulberny that are in play, as well as current conflicts that get caught up in things. I think this part was interesting and blended well with the relationship and personal end of the story, as well as giving some conflict for the newlyweds to face together. There is a side element here surrounding the use of magic that is clearly significant, but the impact and resolution didn’t get as much time as I wanted given the importance placed on this issue in the story.
Overall, I enjoyed this one as an entertaining fantasy story. The politics and world building were interesting and I enjoyed seeing Derek and Callan fall for one another despite their first impressions.