Review of The Rules of Enchantment, by Wendy Tardieu

I accepted a copy of The Rules of Enchantment, by Wendy Tardieu, for review.

Description from Goodreads:

When a Sorcerer and a Scribe Team Up to Fulfill an Ancient Prophecy, The Fate of The World Lies in Their Hands

In the mythical kingdom of Salyndria, an exiled sorcerer named Leith plots to overthrow the restrictions placed on the use of magic by the Academy. Suspecting the worst, the Academy sends a beautiful young scribe, Kyler, to be his apprentice and act as an unwitting spy.

Leith tries to drive her away by proving his reputation as a vicious and unforgiving master, but he soon discovers his new pupil is far more useful than she appears. As her charms and magical abilities become all too tempting for him to resist, the two join forces to fulfill a hidden prophecy that will grant them incredible power.

Together, the sorcerer and the scribe will change Salyndria’s history forever.

Review:

I am utterly confounded by this book. Not because it’s bad, but because it goes to such lengths to declare itself something it’s not. At its core, it’s a student/teacher romance. So, if that’s your thing you’ll probably love it. But for me, my confusion started before even page one, with the cover.

For a book with “erotic fantasy adventure” on its cover, there is remarkably little eroticism in it. There isn’t even so much as a kiss until 60 pages into a 142-page book. And when it shows up, it’s totally abrupt and feels out of nowhere since there hadn’t even been any sexual tension up until that point. Nada-none. What’s more, it felt like he creepily lept on her the moment she showed weakness.

Then, there’s no more until 20 pages later. And though she’s the instigator, it’s again in a moment of weakness and felt like him taking advantage. Annnd the next time she’s asleep when he starts. She wakes up to him panting and “prying” under her robe. (There’s only one more sex scene after that, but I’m pleased to say it’s not creepy.) None of these scenes are explicit or frequent enough for me to consider the book erotic. It’s not even as titillating as a standard romance novel.

I don’t usually chronicle every episode. But I’m trying to make two points, that almost every single sexual encounter seems to be icky and problematic in a way that compromises its appeal for me, and that the book does not earn it’s “erotic” stripes.

And honestly, there isn’t really much adventure in this supposed “erotic fantasy adventure” either. And what very little there is, the heroine doesn’t much participate in. (The book is definitely a prime example of a book with a female main character that is overshadowed by the male characters.) So, considering the book doesn’t live up to either claim of erotica or adventure, I can’t begin to imagine why someone would put it on the cover. It leads the reader to false expectations and then disappointment. The book stands fine as what it is. So, why claim it’s something it’s not?

The book also is guilty of one of my biggest pet peeves, something I seriously consider DNFing books over. The heroine is 21-years-old. She’s basically whored out, though she isn’t told she’s being sent as a honeypot. And she is repeatedly referred to as a young girl. (Her personality is even described as child-like.) A woman being sent into a sexual situation in a (supposedly) erotic novel should never be referred to as a young girl. She isn’t 6-years-old. She especially shouldn’t be referred to as a girl in the sex scenes. She’s an adult.

What’s more and making it worse, it’s not like the hero is sooo old. He’s 30; not that much older than her. But he is presented as fully mature and adult. I don’t know what twist of modern toxic culture makes authors equate female childhood and sexy, but I hate it more than I can express. It’s not even that I’m particularly prudish. I just super hate seeing women infantilized, especially during sex. Let women BE women for god’s sake!

Outside of the cover giving me a false expectation and my one BIG pet peeve, the book is pretty good. The writing is sharp and well-edited. There’s an interesting world and it concludes nicely. I’d give Tardieu another shot.

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