Author: Hailey Edwards
Page Count: 110 pages (novella)
Genre: fantasy romance
Copy for review sent by the publicist in anticipation of an honest review
Back Cover Summary:
"The strongest net is no match for destiny. "
An "Araneae Nation" Story
Daraja has grown up watching her brothers journey down the river on the traditional Deinopidae rite of passage. Each returned with riches from their travels, and lovers with whom to share their lives.
Now she has reached the age where she would strike out on her own to seek her fortune-if she were male. Instead, she is expected to sit patiently, weave her nets and wait for the river to bring a husband to her.
Patience, however, has never been her strong suit.
Brynmor haunts the forest surrounding the city of Cathis, his disembodied spirit inextricably bound to the wild canis roaming his lands. Until the day he stumbles across a brazen trespasser in his woods.
Compelled to step in when the canis suspect her of poaching one of their own, Brynmor fears he has lost a piece of his ragged soul to the feisty, adventure-seeking female. And when the canis confront the real poachers, he is forced to choose which life to sacrifice. Hers...or his own.
Warning: This book contains one heroine with a knack for weaving nets and one hero who relishes getting caught. Expect singing, some howling, ghostly shenanigans, and the start of a love that transcends death.
So I'm pretty much in love with the Aranae Nation series at this point and was so excited to be offered a copy of this novella for review that I broke my "no more books for review" rule. This has seriously been the only exception and it was totally worth it.
I'm usually on the fence about previous villains coming back as the hero in future books. There's just something about a person being a douche in the past that makes it hard to imagine them getting their own happily-ever-after, you know? I think it takes a lot of skill for an author to work with this element convincingly, and the author here did a great job.
Spoilers (sort of) ahead, ye be warned.
If Brynmor was on the Aranae equivalent of Facebook, his relationship status would definitely have to be "it's complicated." While he was alive, he was married to Isolde, who was in love with her soul mate, a cornerstone of her religious beliefs, to the extent that she stepped out on her marriage to Brynmor and had a child with her soul mate after bearing Brynmor a son of his own. Brynmor flew off the handle and killed Isolde's lover, and Isolde (naturally) never forgave him, and the bitterness between them seeped over into every facet of their lives, including their relationships with the two sons that were involved.
Fast forward to after Brynmor has died. He's still kicking around in a sort of spiritual waiting room, watching over his loved ones. That's the odd thing- despite the fact that his marriage to Isolde was to settle a debt and she was clearly in love with someone else to the exclusion of all others, he genuinely loved Isolde and was hurt by her actions. He understood after the fact that he had committed a serious moral transgression (even though as paladin he can do pretty much what he wants and none of his clansmen would have faulted his actions) but also realized that he couldn't change the past. All he could do was secure a safe future for Isolde and both of the boys, even the one who wasn't his. He understood he had tanked his relationship with his biological son. He didn't know what to do about any of this.
When he meets Daraja while she's fishing, he's immediately attracted to her but isn't sure how to make the first move. When he was paladin, he just did what he wanted; now he's a nobody and he has to reassess his entire way of thinking and doing things to fit his new situation. He's bound to a wolf alpha because he needs a body in order to stick around, and he finds himself in a new situation - being unsure how to proceed.
Daraja doesn't want to hear that, though. She's on a quest to find herself a husband, and her future husband has to meet a few pretty obvious criteria. One, he has to be emotionally available. Two, he has to be a decent person. Three, he has to be willing to become her husband, that is, not sticking around in limbo forever living with wolves in the forest. Daraja is decisive and bold; Brynmor doesn't stand a chance.
Like all good novellas, in my opinion, this one covers a lot of ground in a few short pages but doesn't shortchange any aspects of the story. I think it was a wise choice to tell this story this way- at the end I felt satisfied with how things had turned out. I think Brynmor will probably make some different choices this time around.
I have no idea when the next book in this series is coming out but whenever it is, I will definitely be reading it. What a fun story!
What's Next at What Book is That?: Planning a Series Catch-Up