Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella

 

On her deathbed, the Divine Sibyl gives her final prophecy, a prophecy heard only by her youngest son. It warns of a troubling future filled with darkness, and the way out — the light in the darkness — is friendship, love, and kindness. Elias is a kind man, more interested in botany and anonymity than hunting with his brother, though he still goes when asked. Elias loves his brother and it gives him a chance to go into the woods and look for some new plant samples, something there isn’t always time for with the threat of orcs always at hand.

Orcs, unlike humans, are violent and dangerous. They are larger, with fanged teeth and claws, and everyone knows the best orc is a dead orc. However, when Elias finds one in a trap, he’s unable to kill it. The man looks tired, worn out from trying to free himself, and Elias lets him go, much as he would were it a fox or a bird. But Gurrkk isn’t an animal; he’s a thinking, feeling being who is interested in this human who didn’t approach him with a knife or a spear, but kindness.

Gurrkk follows Elias back to his temple, sneaking over the wall in the darkness, and ends up hiding in Elias’ room, sleeping at the foot of his bed. It’s a strange friendship, slowly turning into something more, but there’s no way Elias can keep Gurrkk a secret. He has to let him go. If only it didn’t hurt so much.

This is a short, sweet, fun little book with deft world building and excellent chemistry — not only between Elias and Gurrkk, but Elias and his brother, as well. Elias, as the sweet, chubby, soft-hearted young priest could easily have fallen into a stereotypical trope, but the author keeps him bright, energetic, and always curious. He works hard, but for all his smiles and sweetness, he’s neither naive nor feckless. Elias is an interesting character, and I’d like to see more of him.

Gurrkk is an orc, whose people are held in some contempt and fear by humans, and yet, he isn’t prejudiced himself. When the merchants come to the village, Gurrkk tries to learn from them. When Elias helps him, teaches him to speak and read the human tongue — convinces him to try eating an apple — Gurrkk’s enthusiastic to learn. Elias, who isn’t allowed to teach the young children, is delighted to have a student. He’s also delighted to find someone he can snuggle up against without the pressure of anything more.

Elias has never had an easy time with partners. Too often they want his mother’s power and her attention through their relationship with him. More often, they want more than Elias wants to give. Elias isn’t interested in sex; he doesn’t enjoy it and doesn’t want it. Gurrkk, though he would be interested in more, loves Elias enough to accept him as he is. Orc society is polyamorous, and — should Elias be comfortable with it — Gurrkk might find other companions for a more physical relationship. He has no reason to push Eli into something he doesn’t want.

Then add in the prophecy, the politics, the treaty between the two sides … really, this book is a strong entry into anyone’s fantasy collection. I highly recommend it, and hope you enjoy it.