(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.
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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