City of Jade
Have you ever read that book that was completely different from what you expected? This was that book for me. It stayed pretty true to the book description, but it was still not what I thought it would be.
Gallienus, former soldier and current gate guard for the grand city of Constantinople, feels stuck in his life. He hates his job and feels like he was thrown away after he was injured in battle. But one day, the mesmerizing Misahuen arrives with a caravan. He is immediately attracted to the foreigner, but the laws of the Byzantine empire do more than frown upon relations between men – they prohibit them by death.
So what are the new lovers to do in a country that does not approve of them? The journey they follow covers the lands from Constantinople into China, guarding a merchant caravan along the way. But will they get there safely? And will they find a home that accepts them for who they are?
I love The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, and really enjoyed the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel, and this story reminded me a lot of those. It is obvious as you are reading that the author did her research on the time period, the different countries and cities, and the anthropology of the time period. It is actually pretty amazing – she even includes a detailed bibliography at the end, separated out by topics (culture, swords and armor, etc).There’s really only one problem with this.
I wouldn’t say this was a romance novel.
There is romance in it – Gallienus and Misahuen fall in love, get together, go out seeking their place in the world – but all the romantic fall in love part takes place within the first 30 pages. From there on out, there are dangers, yes, but nothing that threatens their relationship, not really. There’s not conflict, other than “we need to get away from the homophobes who want to kill us.” Basically, the established couple goes on a long journey, acting as caravan guards, and not much happens. It is definitely more of a study of history and anthropology than a romance.
That being said, though, I enjoyed it. I liked our main characters, and while the journey itself was a little boring (as I said, not much happens), the heroes and side characters are interesting enough to make up for that. For a romance, I’d give it a C, but for an anthropological/historical novel, I’d say it’s a solid B. So, we’ll just average that out, shall we?