How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days
Welcome to the world of Aerthlan, where, of the five kingdoms it comprises, only one exists peaceably. This is the setting for Kerrelyn Spark’s new series The Embraced, following a group of young women, raised as orphans in a convent in that one peaceful kingdom, who take on the rest of the world and remake it for the better. Or at least, that’s the plan. Based on the first heroine, I have much more hope for their romantic counterparts.
Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, far away from the four kingdoms of the mainland who are forever at war with each other and anyone else who doesn’t follow their collective religion of the Sun God. At nineteen, Luciana is sweet and happy and has a family in her fellow orphans, all of them basically planning on entering the convent in which they were raised when the time comes. But that time definitely doesn’t come for our heroine when her father shows up in the midst of a storm, bearing a coffin and a ghost that looks identical to Luciana.
It turns out that Luciana’s family (or at least, her father, Lucas) is very much alive and is in need of her help. Tatiana, Luciana’s twin sister, has died, and without a daughter to bestow upon the king’s nephew in marriage, the Lord Protector of the realm, Lucas, Duke of Vindalyn, will be killed, his lands and people absorbed into a kingdom rife with corruption. And so off Luciana goes, pretending to be Tatiana in order to save her father’s life and lands (even though she’s never met him before, and failure will result in her death as well). The problem? She’s too nice, and her ghostly twin lets her know it. Constantly. Bitchily. Plus, she and her father are still in danger, since the king wants their land back, so that’s another problem.
And so, enter Leofric (Leo to his friends, thank goodness, cause I don’t think I’d be able to take him seriously otherwise), the Lord Protector, who is also known as The Beast. Leo, like Luciana, is one of the Embraced, though unlike Luciana, who can see dead people, Leo attracts, absorbs, and emits lightning. ‘Cause why not? Leo hates his uncle (the feeling is mutual), and is basically just trying to stay alive while keeping the kingdom safe from outside forces. There’s only so much he can do about the internal ones.
So. We have a couple who are both are hated by the king, who is actively trying to kill them. Each is keeping secrets from the other. Not exactly the best start to a relationship. But they really are adorable, and that part of the story worked well for me.
I think if there was one thing I didn’t really like, it was the characterization of Luciana. She is, quite honestly, a little boring, and that’s saying something about a woman who can see and speak with ghosts, and has a tendency to make scarily accurate predictions about the future. She’s just so… perfect. Seriously, her big flaw is that she’s just too kind. Like, that’s the actual problem, it’s mentioned multiple times. As a result, she’s somewhat bland, and it really stands out in a story that’s full of colorful characters, including an entire secondary cast who are obviously set up to star in future books.
Slightly less annoying, but still troublesome, is the whole man gets active powers, woman gets passive powers trope that is alive and well here. Honestly, I really wish Luciana had the lightning-bolts-from-hands thing; it would certainly make her more entertaining.
The plot itself starts out pretty simple, but quickly morphs into a bit of a free-for-all. The king is out to get Luciana’s family, but then there is a poisoner, a skinchanger, and at least one other assassin hiding in the wings, and really, they all just need a break. Not to mention Luciana’s less living family – which again, she can see – are a huge part of the plot.
But for all of that, the story itself is solid and enjoyable, and I definitely feel comfortable recommending it to fantasy lovers. The world building is pretty solid, the hero is really interesting, the heroine is….not terrible, and I liked the overall plot (even if it did go overboard at times). Plus, Luciana called Leo’s penis his ‘lightning rod’ – I mean come on, it’s perfectly ridiculous, and wonderful.