I'm a sucker for a good fantasy and this blurb drew me right in. This is my first read by Lauren D.M. Smith, and I have heard great things about her debut with The Emperor's Arrow. Hopefully I can fit that one into my 2017 reading calendar. This review will be a quickie to coincide with the novella length story.
Sir Terrwyn is a female knight of the realm, and was chosen by Princess Aricia to be her personal bodyguard. Though Terrwyn and Aricia have become friends, Terrwyn is tough as nails and takes her duty seriously. When Princess Aricia is kidnapped right in front of Terrwyn, she is filled with guilt, regret and self-recrimination. Showing her characteristic bravery, Terrwyn sets off to rescue the princess from the clutches of magic users when she, herself, has no magic. You really can't find fault with any of Terrwyn's actions. She was determined and steadfast in her loyalty to Aricia, but she also seemed humble and didn't rub her superiority in anyone's face.
Zelek is a shadow-whisperer with the ability to communicate with and hide within shadows. A mission which has taken up the last four years of his life sees him crossing paths more than once with Terrwyn, and he seeks to join her on her dangerous quest into the Wild Land. Zelek is mysterious and holds his cards very close to his chest, but he is also somewhat flirty and loves making Terrwyn blush. While his shadow-whispering gave him an advantage, his fighting skills are not on par with Terrwyn's and he is impressed by her prowess.
The relationship between Zelek and Terrwyn was a slow burn for such a short novella. They meandered along on their quest, getting to know one another and working toward their common goal. They roughed it on the road and battled dangerous creatures that are found only in the Wild Lands. I liked Zelek's flirting with Terrwyn, and her almost virginal response. Their pairing was more sweet than steamy, and the romance wasn't the main focus of the story.
I did enjoy the story, but wanted a little more when it came down to it. It's hard to fit a good fantasy into a novella, as I always seem to want more world building and character development. The bones are here and solid, but they needed to be fattened up. I would have also liked a more thorough ending, or perhaps an epilogue showing how Zelek and Terrwyn worked things out in the years to come.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Carina Press.