Description from Goodreads:
Brute leads a lonely life in a world where magic is commonplace. He is seven and a half feet of ugly, and of disreputable descent. No one, including Brute, expects him to be more than a laborer. But heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and when he is maimed while rescuing a prince, Brute’s life changes abruptly. He is summoned to serve at the palace in Tellomer as a guard for a single prisoner. It sounds easy but turns out to be the challenge of his life.
Rumors say the prisoner, Gray Leynham, is a witch and a traitor. What is certain is that he has spent years in misery: blind, chained, and rendered nearly mute by an extreme stutter. And he dreams of people’s deaths—dreams that come true.
As Brute becomes accustomed to palace life and gets to know Gray, he discovers his own worth, first as a friend and a man and then as a lover. But Brute also learns heroes sometimes face difficult choices and that doing what is right can bring danger of its own.
I thought this book was ok, but ultimately a bit of a disappointment. This is partly because I went in really expecting to love it and ended up just liking it, which is fine, really. Normally that would be enough, but when you have especially high hopes, ok feels far worse than it is.
There were several things I didn’t like about the book, but let me start by saying how much I did like Brute, Gray and the characters of the palace. Plus, I loved that the main characters are a bit older, both physically disabled (one a maimed, ugly, giant and the other blind, stuttering, and emaciated) and this is a really sweet read. I liked the book, but the following things were an issue for me.
I was uncomfortable with the power dynamic in a romance between a prisoner and a guard. Yes, the prisoner is the one who initiates the relationship. Brute is not supposed to have taken advantage of Gray in any way. You can tell that from the text. But I was still never comfortable with it. There are too many ways it could go wrong and too many ways that Gray’s psychological state surely was effected. I just couldn’t be comfortable with it.
The book is slow. It takes a long time for Brute to even meet Gray, and then a long time for anything to progress between them, and even once it does, there’s still a lot of book left. Because of this it did seem to drag at times.
I couldn’t buy how Brute’s life went from being so horrible in his village to being all hearts and rainbows as soon as he moved to the palace. Was there really not one kind person in his whole previous 27 years? Was there really not one jerk he encountered in the city? It was too stark a difference and honestly just felt clumsily done.
Lastly, everything was too easy. For over a year Brute and Gray were never once interrupted, never once caught doing anything they shouldn’t. Then there is the whole last adventure, which I won’t spoil, but it’s all too easy. Until, in the end, a happily ever after is just dropped in their lap without their even pursuing it. People suddenly let old hurts go and forgive each other before running off into the sunset.
All in all, a sweet read that I’m glad to have spent time with, but not the home run I had hoped for.
What I’m drinking: Hot almond milk with sorghum molasses, kind of like hot chocolate, but…you know, not.