Rhory has always tried to be helpful to his twin brother, Tycen, King of Aish. That includes temporarily swapping identities when Tycen needs a moment to escape the stifling confines of their castle. One night, Tycen just wants to have fun at a pub party, so Rhory agrees to pretend to be the king, as Tycen will surely be too hung over to perform his duties the following day. But when Tycen ends up poisoned by a dangerous plant, Rhory suddenly finds himself having to pretend to be king for more than a ceremony or two.
Rhory is sure that Aish’s formidable healers will find the cure to Tycen’s poisoning. But as days turn to weeks turn to months, Rhory finds himself more and more desperate for help for Tycen. Luckily, a prince from a far away land comes to the court and brings with him a deep knowledge of plants. Of course, Rhory wants nothing more than for Prince Maya to be able to help Tycen, but he also cannot deny that he wouldn’t mind getting to know more about Maya as a person, either. Too bad Maya thinks Rhory is actually King Tycen.
Maya’s home in the Kingdom of Ahye is all about balance and he knows something is off about the balance in his own royal house–probably due to his overambitious father. That’s why Maya is so glad to make the lengthy trip to Aish. The change of scenery will hopefully get him back on an even keel. No sooner does Maya arrive than he learns about the poisoning. Maya instantly jumps in, leveraging his knowledge about plants to help devise a cure. It doesn’t hurt that he gets to spend a great deal of time in the presence of the very attractive King Tycen. If only Aish did not require their king to produce an heir, then Maya might seriously entertain courting the king. Only Maya comes to learn that who he thinks is King Tycen is actually Prince Rhory. But just as the dust settles over the mysterious poisoning, a new villain appears and threatens to end happiness for Maya and Rhory both.
Twin Elements is a light fantasy novel from author Mell Eight. It features themes of mistaken identity, the gentlest kinds of unrequited feelings, political intrigue, and some very, very light touches of social justice. I thought the writing and the plot were very straightforward and simple, yet able to sustain a bit of intrigue, as I had no clue who the real bad guys were until they were revealed on page. The story is very low spice, with a few suggestive glances, a flash of bare chest, and a very chaste kiss.
This book offers a simple, but very imaginative world. The flora of Aish is at the heart of the plot here. I liked that some parts of the dangerous plant were considered a delicacy, other parts were gifted to the gods, and other parts were known poisons. Plus, there were several other ways plants featured in the story, making this a robust theme and giving Maya’s character something to excel at and to drive his involvement in the plot–not to mention a reason to stay and get closer to Rhory (who was acting as King Tycen). Rounding out the plot elements was Rhory pretending to be king and how he balances the royal duties with caring for his brother. Ruling the kingdom was neatly handled in broad strokes that showcased more of this beautiful, harsh world where Aish is located, while the nursing aspects offered ample chances for Rhory and Maya to get to know each other.
One of the shortcomings of this book is its development, however. I thought the passing of time was not handled as smoothly as it could have been. Maya’s introduction presented a huge time-scale whammy for me. The previous chapter ended within days of Tycen having been poisoned. When Maya’s chapter starts, it absolutely indicates Maya had been traveling for weeks, if not months to reach Aish for the purpose of helping the royal family. I was very confused until several pages later, Rhory explains that it actually has been months since Tycen was poisoned. I wasn’t a fan of how so much time got glossed over, or the fact that the time skip happened when there was not only a shift in perspective, but a new character (Maya) was being introduced for the first time.
One other small gripe was the way every character, no matter how minor, had a name. Maybe that was intentional as a way to obfuscate who the real villain in the story was. For me, however, it muddied the waters about who was a key player and who was just padding the plot.
Overall, I think Twin Elements was a fun, easy read. It’s very simple and straightforward. I think this would be a great book to jump into when you want don’t want to get involved in high fantasy or complex narratives. If you enjoy sweet, chaste romances or stories about mistaken identities, then you’ll probably enjoy this book a whole lot.