Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Sidhe by Charlotte Ashe: #Review, #Interview #Giveaway @CobwebsandAshes

The Sidhe
(The Heart of All Worlds, Book 1)
by Charlotte Ashe

Length: 442 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M), Fantasy, Romance
Since his childhood, Brieden Lethiscir has admired The Sidhe, the beautiful and magical beings native to the Faerie world outside his homeland of Villalu. Though he grew up in a culture accepting of Sidhe enslavement by Villalu’s elite, Brieden finds that he can no longer tolerate the practice when he becomes a steward to Prince Dronyen, who is viciously abusive of his sidhe slave Sehrys. Captivated by the handsome and mysterious sidhe slave, Brieden vows to free and return Sehrys to his homeland. 

As they escape the capital and navigate a treacherous path to the border, Breiden and Sehrys grow close. Breiden soon learns both the true power of The Sidhe, and that the world that he thought he knew is not what it once seemed. If they survive to reach the border, he will have to make a choice: the love of his life, or the fate of his world.

Carly: Today I’m interviewing Charlotte Ashe. Welcome Charlotte! Can you tell readers a little about yourself, your background, and your book, The Sidhe?

Charlotte: Thank you for having me! I am a social worker in Portland, Maine , and The Sidhe is my first novel. I majored in creative writing and literature way back in college, but it took me some time to find my way back to writing. I am so excited to finally write the books I’ve always wanted to write, combining elements of fantasy and romance with a focus on LGBTQ characters.

Carly: Do you have any unique writing habits?

I am very particular about my environment when I write--I can’t listen to music with lyrics, I can’t have too much or too little light, and I absolutely have to tie my hair back. I suppose all that might be a little strange now that I think about it…

Carly: Every author hopes that their books will inspire others. What books have inspired you?

Charlotte: Books like Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler have all inspired me because they are fantastic stories that also push the boundaries of their genres. All of those books had a huge impact on me both as a reader and a writer, and solidified my love of speculative fiction (and I would personally classify all of the above as speculative fiction of one type or another). They helped me to realize that world-building meant making my own rules, and that as long as I followed the rules I laid out for myself, nothing was out of bounds.

Carly: What do you consider to be one of your greatest accomplishments in writing or in life?

Charlotte: Learning how to balance benign selfishness with radical compassion. It basically boils down to this: Don’t apologize for what you need, and don’t judge others for what they need. Not an easy balance to learn, but it has had such an enormous impact on the quality of my relationships with others as well as my own personal happiness. 

Carly: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Charlotte: Ideally, writing full-time and volunteering at the agency where I currently work. I love the work I currently do with homeless teens and I’ve been doing it for quite a few years, but I would love to be a full-time writer even more.

Carly: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Charlotte: That’s such a hard question! Super strength would obviously come in very handy, but ultimately I don’t think I could turn down the ability to fly. Though maybe I could pair that one with invisibility so I didn’t get shot out of the sky-- I doubt I’d be any more graceful in the air than I am on land, so it would only be a matter of time.
The sidhe was tall, supple and lithe, as all sidhe tended to be, with milk-pale skin that glowed like moonlight over lean, taut muscles. Like all the others before him, he was naked, giving potential buyers a full picture of what they were bidding on.

And he was extraordinary, head to toe.

His chin-length hair was violet-red and it gleamed in the afternoon sun. His lips were pink and delicate with a pronounced bow, his nose had a narrow, smooth slope and his eyes...

His eyes.

It wasn't that they were the most incredible color imaginable: a storm of deep, contrasting, impossible greens unlike any Brieden had ever seen. And it wasn't that they were large and almond- shaped beneath a fan of plum-colored lashes.

It was that they were full to the brim with life.

Never before had Brieden seen a sidhe slave with such lively and expressive eyes, even as he stood for auction. Those eyes were not dull or defeated in the slightest. Wary, yes, and utterly devoid of trust, but also blazing.

Blazing like the eyes of that sidhe Brieden had seen at the riverbank when he was twelve years old— the only free sidhe Brieden had ever had the chance to behold.

The elf stood on that platform as if he owned it. As if he were judging every human man before him, and not the other way around.

He tucked a lock of hair behind a delicately pointed elfin ear, then jutted his chin to reveal a chiseled jaw that contrasted beautifully against his tender features.

And though he knew it was insane, Brieden was quite sure that he was in love.
My Review: 3 of 5 stars
I loved the idea behind this book. It includes not easy to read elements like slavery, discrimination, intolerance and ugly truths about society, both imagined and real. Love, magic, selflessness and determination balance out the darkness. I don't know if the societal parallels between Charlotte's world  and our own are deliberate, but I suspect that they are. The broad scope and meticulous attention to detail makes the setting that surrounds the characters fascinating to approach.

The character's story, or stories if you include the sub-plots, are not nearly as well developed, which I found to be extremely disappointing. I understand that the sheer volume of information that needed to be incorporated into this story in order to fully expound upon both aspect was daunting, and it's unfortunate that the story development took second place to world building. A delicate balance under any circumstance, but particularly challenging when writing the first of a series of fantasy titles. I would have rather seen this initial offering broken down into two fully developed parts rather than forced into one.

Sehrys Breiden's story is completely told inasmuch as it focuses on the two of them. Where things start to unravel is where Ashe begins to blend the ongoing subplot of the conflict between societies into their romance. The primary issue being that this IS a series, the sub-plot is obviously going to be ongoing and the missing pieces between what is happening politically and socially between the worlds is so integral that the lack of carry-through is so obvious that it deeply impacted my overall enjoyment of this story.

The concept is brilliant, the characters engaging, and the potential for greatness is obvious but in the end, The Sidhe inspires to epic status but only makes it half way there. I wanted to love it, I wished I could rave about it, but in the end I found myself checking and re-checking my progress like a kid in the back seat asking 'Are we there yet?' as the story progressed further and further off course. Despite my disappointment, I will be giving book two a chance. I'm hopeful that since the foundational world building been laid the next installment in this will flush out the missing elements within the overall storyline and recover the momentum that is currently lacking. 
Charlotte Ashe is a social worker by day and a writer of romantic fantasy by night. A long-time fan of speculative fiction that skews feminist and features LGBTQ characters, Charlotte loves writing stories that are sexy, heartfelt, and full of magic and adventure. She has put her B.A. in literature and creative writing to use over the years as a writer of online fan-based fiction, and her most popular work has drawn more than one million readers worldwide, been translated into several languages, and been featured in online publications including The Backlot.

Charlotte lives in Portland, Maine and can be found sleeping at the beach all summer and clomping along the cobblestones in her Bean boots all winter, writing fairy tales in her head to distract from the cold.

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  1. Thank you so much for reading my novel and hosting me on your blog!

  2. congrats on the release and wlecome

  3. Charlotte, congratulations on the release of your book. Adding this to my TBR list.

  4. Congratulations on the release of your new book Charlotte! I can't wait to read it!