Published by Bold Strokes Books on September 15, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Romance
Like heroes from an ancient tale, Aesa and Maeve plan to raid foreign shores, claiming gold and glory for their homeland. Young and in love, neither considers what will happen if one is chosen to be a warrior and the other is left behind.
On a mist-shrouded island, Aesa meets Ell, a woman enslaved by an insidious curse. Maeve walks the path of dark magic and finds Laret, a woman well acquainted with pain. Together, they must break the magic surrounding Ell, an act that will force them to choose between their dreams, their homes, and the women they love.
THRALL: BEYOND GOLD AND GLORY is a standalone LGBT fantasy set in a Viking-esque world. I was drawn to this book for two reasons: strong female characters and Vikings. I mean, lesbian warriors and witches? Gimme!
In some aspects, THRALL is a fantastic book. In Aesa and Maeve’s country, there’s no judgment for liking who you like. A woman who likes women? Great. A guy who likes guys? Great. Do you want a polyamorous relationship? That’s great, too. Are you the partner of a warrior away on a raid? If there’s an agreement, there’s nothing wrong with you seeking a bed partner.
I don’t want to make it sound like THRALL is all about sex, because it isn’t. Those things are mostly mentioned in passing, which is both good and bad. Good because it’s just a part of Aesa and Maeve’s society, and there’s no need to comment. It’s just how life is. Bad because I’m a greedy reader, and I would’ve liked to see more of all the different relationships in the author’s Viking world.
Aside from Aesa and Maeve, who are both strong women who want to do what’s right, there’s another great character in THRALL. Laret is the first transgender woman I’ve read in fantasy, and she stole the book for me. I think she was good representation, and also because her magic was the most interesting to me. Laret’s a blood witch, but instead of cursing people, she breaks the curses of other blood witches.
THRALL also has an interesting take on fae, and I enjoyed puzzling out that mystery. But otherwise, the book lacked a bit for me. Maybe because THRALL is a standalone — I really wanted to learn more about the author’s version of Vikings, to see more of their magic system and culture beyond raiding. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think I just wanted more overall. More magic, more worldbuilding, more character and relationship development, more action.
I think if THRALL were the first in a series, I’d be more lenient, because that “more” would come in other books. But then again, a standalone is always nice… I don’t know. I just went in with high expectations, and while I really liked some parts, other parts didn’t live up to those expectations.
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