Duty: a novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano
Amazon Book Description:
Duty to King
Tomas Dyrease, the newly made Earl of Irvaine and the village of Wisenvale, owes his good fortune to his king and the recent civil war. When his benefactor demands Tomas marry the cousin of a noble, he obeys. However, no one warned him that she wasn’t a typical noblewoman.
Duty to Others
Brielle Solarius struggles to keep her village from starvation under the new Lord Wisten, her cousin. The men rode off to war and never returned. The remaining women and children face a dire winter if they do not find a solution soon. When she learns her cousin sold her into marriage to save his life, she isn’t surprised. However, she is taken aback by Lord Irvaine’s unpolished ways. Was this man a noble or a foot soldier?
Duty to Each Other
Bound by the words of their vows, they face a rough future. They must forge a marriage while battling betrayal, accusations of treason, and villains from the past. Survival depends on their precarious trust in each other. Failure could mean death.
I always enjoy a good fantasy and one set in a medieval-esque setting is one of the best ways to pique my interest. Of course, the premise is one that can handled very badly or very skillfully. I was pleased to find it was definitely the latter.
Plot – Grade A
The premise of the book rests on the arranged marriage of Brielle and Tomas. But, there’s more at work than “Will they or won’t they fall in love?” Loyalty and duty, most especially the struggle to balance duty to home and to King, are also key factors. The main characters have their marriage forged by fire, which makes the plot stand out to me as one of the best in-depth explorations of how to take the archetype arranged marriage plot and fashion it into something far more interesting and intriguing as layers are added to both plot and characters. The main characters, Tomas and Brielle, are imperfect and struggle with the various challenges their marriage brings, but I connected with them and wanted them to make it work.
Content – Grade A
This is a clean fantasy on the romance front. While there are kisses and you can read between the lines at a certain point to guess that the marriage was consummated, it is very chaste overall. No true bedroom scenes except for Tomas and Brielle sharing a bedroll while they’re camping (part of the show to make it seem they are a very loving couple already) and there are references to married life, including bedding a new wife but it is tasteful. There is also a case where Brielle overhears herself being promised as a reward, but that is also handled well without venturing too far into grittiness to be disconcerting.
There are references to the less scrupulous raiders pillaging the villages and leaving fatherless children in their wake. Tomas himself is illegitimate and his mother is slandered several times by the villains for having a child out of wedlock. However, even this is handled with dignity as the worst names written out are “harlot” and “witch” with the more descriptive slander being left unsaid as the focus shifts to Brielle’s reaction. The worst language used is also in connection to the illegitimacy of Tomas with a villain describing him as “baseborn” and then Tomas himself struggles with the bitterness and declares himself to be “bastardborn.” That’s as crass as it gets and I do give more leeway since the description doesn’t carry the same unfortunate connotations as it would if the “-born” had been left off.
There is violence in this book. Battles are fought and people are wounded or die. Blood is present, especially when the wounded are being tended to, but the descriptions never come across as gratuitous.
Technical – Grade B+
There are only a few typos and wrong or missing words used in this book. I found one spot where a word was missing and another place where the wrong homonym was used, “shear will” instead of “sheer will.” There are two places where I was confused due to a description: First, the time of day changing two or three times – the sun was described as setting, then it was before noon, and then it was some time after noon…all in the same short span of time. I could not figure that scene out, but it seemed likely that this was a blending of the drafts that didn’t quite manage to be as uniform as it should have been. The second time was in the final battle where one sentence looks as though the word choice was changed but the previous words weren’t deleted.
I try to be lenient with medieval-esque fantasies (as opposed to my unyielding expectations for historicals) when it comes to phrases that don’t always fit the time period. However, there were a few times when the choice of phrase or word pulled me out of the moment because it sounds too modern. For example, when Tomas tells a friend to “Tell (Friend’s Wife) I said hi.” That really pulled me out of the world because it comes across as too modern. But, this only happens a few times and we are so accustomed to using these phrases or words such as “okay” and “alright” (technically it really is a word, “all right” is just more common and therefore seems more right to the grammar fanatics, but I digress) in every day conversation that authors and readers may not always catch it.
Final Grade – A or 5 Stars
Overall, this is a very good and intriguing fantasy set in a medieval-esque world. The plot moves forward at a steady pace and I was fascinated by the relationship between Tomas and Brielle as they went through the various twists and turns. This book is a standalone, but there’s obvious room for expansion into the world Rossano has created with this novel and I look forward to reading the sequel. I would recommend this book to people looking for a clean Christian fantasy and enjoy fantasy novels set in a medieval-esque world. Recommended for ages 15 and up.
Duty is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.
*Please note I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid to provide a positive review. My opinions are my own.
Next Week – Illuminated: Book One of The White Road Chronicles by Jackie Castle