Wren (The Romany Epistles) by Rachel Rossano
Wren Romany is as unconventional as they come. Born to a large, devout family and then forced out to fend on her own, she earns her living as a bounty hunter. As her second winter alone looms, she decides to stay in one place for the season. Seeking shelter, she offers her hunting skills in exchange.
Tourth Mynth, the master of the ruined fortress in the valley, needs help. His small household faces a hard winter. As son of a disenfranchised noble, he has plenty of space beneath his roof, but not much to eat. Wren’s offer seems a good fit.
Wren soon learns the residents of Iselyn need more than simply meat on their table. The valley’s residents squirm beneath a harsh master. Unsolved murder and betrayal lurk in the Mynths’ not so distant past. And Tourth’s battle with his emotional scars from the recent civil war will determine the fate of the whole valley.
This story caught my attention as soon as I read the summary. This another fantasy set in a medieval-esque world by Rachel Rossano who wrote Duty. After reading Duty, I had high expectations for Wren and I wasn’t disappointed.
Plot – Grade A
The plot took the bounty hunter becomes a hero motif and added enough twists to keep me hopping (in a good way). Wren is not the typical female bounty hunter, she’s not a girly girl but neither is she disdainful of women who stick with convention or like being the more delicate and genteel lady. I was thrilled to read this kind of story that allowed Wren to step outside the conventional and softer roles of medieval/fantasy women without her demeaning them or hating men. She steps into bounty hunting because she needs to survive. This plot brought in the threads of romance and mystery to skillfully combine with the spiritual journey Tourth is on as well as Wren’s finding her place without losing focus or becoming too difficult to follow.
Content – Grade A-
This is a clean Christian fantasy. There is a development of a romance between Wren and Tourth and also two secondary characters but it is all quite sweet (nothing more than a few kisses and some hugs). It was also cute how both Tourth and Wren tried to reason their way out of falling in love. I call it the knowing smile reaction because I (and plenty of characters) can’t help but smile knowingly when they try to explain away the attraction. 🙂
There is violence in this story but nothing feels extraneous or unnecessarily graphic. There are also references to women being in danger of unwanted attention or being forced into selling their bodies in order to survive, but each time it occurs it is handled very tastefully. Language is handled in general by a simple statement along the lines of “so and so blistered the air with every name he could think of and some I hadn’t heard before.” I was impressed with how it was handled without resorting to a ridiculous substitute like “you’re going to Riggy diggy ding dong pay for this” because if Rossano hadn’t opted for this approach, it would have been very difficult for me to read the book. There are exactly two exceptions to the language rule where the main villain is called a “bastard” not because of illegitimate birth but because that was the analysis of his character. I was surprised when this word was used in this context due to all the other language being handled so skillfully with the “readers can fill in the blank” strategy. Some Christians will be very offended and others will be okay with that choice. I am slightly disappointed but I am also grateful that it wasn’t some worse name and since it is only used twice, I can tolerate it more than if it and other profanity was peppered throughout.
Technical – B+
There were only three or four technical errors present in the book, mainly punctuation. An opening or ending quotation mark missing and a missing period. Told through the eyes of both Tourth and Wren, the POV changes are handled in a clear and well-devised manner. I particularly liked how we avoided rehashing exactly what one character just told us even when they are narrating their perspective on the same event.
The main detraction on the technical side was how the long prayers were not italicized or otherwise differentiated from the first person narration. I was confused a few times when this happened because I didn’t immediately realize the tone had switched from narration to prayer. It would have been easier due to the first person narration to have the prayers italicized like their thoughts were or to have some other means of clearly delineating that this is not part of the regular narration.
Final Grade – A- or 4.7 stars
Overall, I enjoyed the book and I look forward to reading more of this series (note: This is apparently a multi-author series). The plot moves forward at a steady pace and paints an interesting picture of the medieval-esque fantasy world that makes me want to explore more. I recommend this book for Christians looking for a relatively clean Christian fantasy and enjoy medieval-esque fantasies. Recommended for ages 16 and up.
Wren 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 – Resistance by Jaye L. Knight