Dropped at 39%.
This started off as a very compelling and interesting read. There is quite a bit of world building involved in this story and the characters are full of personality. I loved a lot about the characters, the banter between them, the way Derr showed the closeness between them and the intricacies in their relationships. It was also nice that before we see Vellem get to Tallideth, before he ever meets his betrothed Prince Perdith, we are able to become acquainted with Vellem and get to know his own character, outside of the relationship. This better shows how his character is changed upon coming to Tallideth and how all the events there shape him.
Vellem is an engineer and a soldier first and foremost, he’s certainly no politician (which makes him much more relatable for me, personally, since I’m also no politician, although I know a bit more than even Vellem here which makes me feel pretty good). So he knows how to navigate a battlefield and how to protect himself and how to use caution when rational is needed over rashness and acting boldly (although sometimes he does allow himself to be ruled by emotion, but don’t we all?). Unfortunately, there really isn’t much action in the first third of the story despite how it makes you think, almost crave for there to be more action, a touch more suspense and intrigue. Vellem himself may not be particularly politically savvy, but he gradually comes to understand all the true implications his betrothal and marriage bring him as a foreigner marrying a prince, even if he is the fifth prince. But although Vellem is still learning and coming into a full understanding of his new position and life, this doesn’t excuse him from some important mistakes, mistakes that as a soldier and with some common sense he could rather easily avoid. I don't have any proof as I haven't gotten far enough to have the theory confirmed, but I suspect that this poor decision making on Vellem's part (sorta combined with someone else, but..) for keeping some guy around and not following through on the proper questioning is something that provides more conflict for the plot and I'm just not happy with that.
There are quite a few editing errors strewn about and some time jumps that could have been improved with at least a few more paragraphs for the transition (ex. the time jump from the journey across the mountains to suddenly arriving in Tallideth and getting off a ship. I can assume nothing important transpired during this time - have to, really - but it would be nice to not have those events simply bypassed beyond a single sentence describing the remainder of the journey as “uneventful past a bit of rain at the start”). And then there's what happens when Vellem gets to Tallideth: some more action that gives the plot more of a push, but very little of Vellem and Perdith's relationship. And while it makes sense that there wouldn't be any romance so soon upon finally meeting and that the two would be rather awkward around each other while they both try to find their footing, it still would have been nice to have a little more of the fledgling romance I'd been looking forward to getting. Unfortunately, due to events
the entire royal family is among 2thousand other deaths that occur during a celebration for the the union between both Vellem and Perdith and their two nations when multiple bombs go off, leaving Perdith injured and apparently in a coma that they don't know if he'll wake up from, ever, and Vellem the only person left to rule in everyone's place while he must now deal with facing a war
the romance just doesn't happen, at least not by 39%.
I haven’t been in much of a book reading mood lately, veering more toward the side of fanfiction (I guess since with fanfic I already know the characters, or at least the originals the fics are based on, so I don’t have to try and see if I like the new ones I’m reading about), but this one was still difficult to get into after a while. I found myself putting it down for hours at a time, a day, and being fine and almost having to make myself pick it back up, reminding myself that I was currently reading it as part of a challenge and that there were yet more to read after completing this one. But once I did start reading again I would be fine for a while, reading a few chapters and putting it down for a bit again, as you can see by my status updates.
In the end I don’t know how to feel about this one. There was a lot I liked and enough I felt put off by that a specific rating doesn’t come automatically to me. This certainly isn’t my favorite my Megan Derr but as I already know her from her stories Deceived of Deceived and Other Tales(back when it was available for free online on her website alongside other stories, but I think it all got taken down?) and Blood in the Water this isn’t a story to put me off reading her again. Actually I think since the two I've already read are both shorts, while this was quite a long novel, that the story length difference also had something to do with my level of enjoyment. So this story is getting 3stars from me but I don’t see that as a bad thing.