Welcome to my nightstand. This week I’m very excited to tell you about my favorite page-turner of the week~
The Devil Lancer by Astrid Amara
I’ll admit I was surprised by the depth and breadth of details regarding the Crimean War in Ms. Amara’s historical romantic fantasy (despite the subtitle: A Novel of the Crimean War- duh!) I was all set for a juicy demon-rich fantasy with sprinkles of a historical backdrop for interest. Whoa, did I get a heck of a lot more than that. And I’m happy to say, it’s all fantastic.
At first I was a bit taken aback by the grim reality of the British troops’ dire situation in Turkey in 1854, but Amara sucked me in and had me hooked before I had a chance to get persnickety about the violence and muck. Be warned, this is war in all it’s ugliness, but thankfully, it revolves around the developing love of two extremely well-developed characters, Captain Elliott Parrish, a totally lovable, upstanding young officer and Cornet Ilyvas Kovakin, a morally challenged half-Russian with a terrible secret.
The developing relationship between the two opposites is presented skillfully and with just the right amount of tension/anticipation. I both marveled at and cursed the author as I tore through the pages, anxious for the men to achieve intimacy against incredible odds. And when they do – oh, man. It was worth the wait.
The fantasy side of the story is also wonderful. It’s unique and seemingly grounded in folklore. Maybe the demons and their coffins are entirely fabricated, but Amara does it so well you feel like you’re getting a glimpse into an ancient, forgotten culture. Another admission for me here, it is the fantasy in the novel and the hope it provides that got me over my fear of reading about the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade, a military disaster of epic proportions which Amara handles deftly and believably. She presents a breathless, harrowing scene that could be studied in how-to-write-a-battle workshops.
I’m delighted to have discovered this author. Color me impressed. I find myself wishing once again that truly gifted authors like Amara might find a larger audience in historical fantasy and not be limited by the fact that her protagonists happen to be two gay men.
- Series: Crimean War Novels
- Paperback: 475 pages
- Publisher: Blind Eye Books (October 7, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1935560301
- ISBN-13: 978-1935560302
Captain Elliott Parrish of Her Majesty’s 17th Lancers cavalry division finds most details about his assignment in the Crimean peninsula insufferable. Rampant cholera, missing supplies, and inept planning start the British war effort against the Russian Czar’s expansion into Turkish territory on poor footing.
What should have been a swift and decisive summer victory soon drags into a harrowing winter campaign, and Elliott must rally disheartened men through sickness, battle, and starvation. But when he is assigned the additional task of spying on a fellow officer, the inscrutable Cornet Ilyas Kovakin, he finds himself disconcerted and fascinated by both the work and the man.
Rumors surround Ilyas Kovakin, the half-Russian officer who reports to none in his division. People say they’ve seen snakes slithering into his tent at night, that he has another face visible only in certain light, and a penchant for violent acts carried out in darkness, alone. But the truth that Elliot soon discovers is much more dangerous then mere superstition.
For Ilyas, his return to Crimea is colored with the horrors of his past.
Once a mercenary, he has made a terrible mistake and inherited horrifying powers that he can barely control. He feels his hold over his humanity slipping away daily, and fears that salvation may already lay beyond him when the cheerful Captain Parrish catches his attention. Among men who hate him and superiors who covet his brutal power, Ilyas finds the young captain’s charming company almost irresistible.
But Ilyas knows that the closer he is drawn to Elliot the more he will endanger them both.