Story Rating: 2.75 stars
Audio Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 12 hours, 41 minutes
It’s a foolish man who would look a gift horse in the mouth. But for Fenn Todd, who has been a homeless, horse-less vagrant for too long, this particular gift is nothing more than a kick to gut. He was promised food, drink, and a horse in exchange for working a long, grueling day of backbreaking labor digging a new ditch for a farmer’s latrine. All day long he has been dreaming of that horse. Whether it’s an old nag fit only for the butcher or a worn down beast needing love and care, it would be his. His to love, his to care for, his to cherish.
Instead, the ex-groom is given a pile of rags fashioned to look like a .. well, calling it a horse might be generous. There’s a body, a neck, dangling legs, and a scraggly tail, and something that is more-or-less head shaped with triangle ears, crudely drawn on eyes, and a long red tongue. That, and the laughing, jeering mockery of the watching crowd. Gathering up what little dignity he has left, and the sackcloth horse, Fenn stalks out into the forest.
What happens next is nothing more than a miracle as the sackcloth thing he uses as a pillow that night comes to life. Whether it’s in response to Fenn’s own dreams of horses or it’s own shape, the monstrosity seems to think it’s a horse. It certainly acts like one, following Fenn around, nosing at him, and when he finally decides to take a chance and ride it … it moves like one. Okay, so it’s galloping on air rather than along the ground, but that’s just part of the magic, isn’t it? And the ride it takes him on is anything but normal, taking him to the tower of the most feared magician in the empire: Morgrim.
But, just as a sack of rags somehow turned itself into a horse, Fenn finds himself being turned into something special. Morgrim says he, too, is a mage. And in a world where magic is power, Fenn, for the first time in his life, has a chance at deciding his own fate.
The audiobook for Seducing the Sorcerer is over twelve hours long and, at times while listening, I thought I’d have a lot to say. However, it all boils down to four main parts: Fenn, Fenn and his horse, the sorcerer, and the plot. Fenn is, always has been, and always will be, a horse person first and foremost. His every thought has something to do with horses. When he’s dealing with people he thinks of them as horses, how they move, how they shy away from a touch or react to threats, how they spook or come closer for pats and treats. There is no person who shall ever be to him what a horse would be, which is fine. But it does feel like his relationship with the sorcerer, Morgrim, will always come second to the relationship between Fenn and his ‘horse.’
The sackcloth horse Fenn was given turns out to be a creation of magic. A worpal horse. It’s sentient, loyal, and flies. It also eats rags, blankets, curtains, rugs, socks, and anything and everything cloth it can get in its mouth, which leads to — at the end of the story — the best scene in the entire book. And, to be honest, the only moment of the book I actually, actively enjoyed. The worpal horse, named Squab, is in almost every scene Fenn is. And when it isn’t, Fenn’s thinking about it, wondering about it, or talking about it. Which leads to some comedic moments, but I was six hours into the book and it the story still felt very much a romance between a man and his sackcloth horse, so when I say this book is a slow burn … I mean slow burn.
Morgrim, the sorcerer, is a man of so many rumors that Fenn doesn’t know what to think. He doesn’t like the man, though, and doesn’t think highly of him. He also doesn’t make much of an effort to get to know him as a person, for all that they spend time together. Fenn seems more interested in magic Morgrim says he has than Morgrim the person. And when Morgrim tells him the truth behind some of the rumors floating around him, Fenn just shrugs it away. Much as he shrugs his way into Morgrim’s bed. Morgrim feels like a means to an end for Fenn. Even after the first time they fuck, Fenn’s thoughts are on the worpal horse rather than the naked man in bed with him — made all the more pointed by the fact that this book is from Fenn’s point of view, and all we see of Morgrim we see through Fenn’s eyes, except for those moments where Fenn isn’t paying attention, but the reader can.
Morgrim may now be the powerful court sorcerer, but before that he was the son of farmers. Somehow, in the forty years between then and now, Morgrim became court sorcerer to a kingdom at war. He has mastered powerful and violent magics, and been put in a position where he must choose to sacrifice this for that — this person, these people, for those, for the better and greater good. He is constantly under threat from attack, must always watch what he says and how he presents himself, and knowing that he prefers to be the receiving partner in any sexual encounter (the rougher and more demeaning the better), he cannot always be true to himself. And it’s breaking him.
But Fenn doesn’t see that. What he sees is the Morgrim has power, something Fenn has lacked. And that Morgrim has a comfortable palace to live in, food to eat, and Fenn doesn’t think he deserves it. Oh, yeah, and there’s a war going on with politics, but that’s incidental because most of this twelve hour audiobook is all about Fenn and his worpal horse. The world building feels indifferent and haphazard and the pacing is all over the place. The relationship between the two human characters feels like more a friends with benefits and Fenn really loves his worpal horse.
Normally, for audiobooks, I enjoy Joel Leslies’ narration and the choices he makes for characters, but here, I didn’t exactly care for his reading. He made the choice to overly enunciate some words and that style took me some time to get into. He did well at keeping Fenn and Morgrim’s voices separate, as well as with the additional character voices, but this was a long 12 hours with a book that I wasn’t having fun with. As a matter of personal taste, I do not think I would have made it through the whole thing if I hadn’t had the audiobook version available to me, but even so, between the story itself and my personal lack of connection with the narrator’s style choices, I struggled with this book.
As much as the one single scene at the end made me smile, it was too little, too late. I do not recommend this book as a romance. In fact, I regretfully can’t actually say that I recommend it at all.