Reis was promised the Heir of the Chalice as a companion, only to have her stolen away by another man. Frustrated and confused, Reis avoids the couple as long as possible, but is shocked when his promised gift comes in the form of his stolen lover's child. The question now, is whether or not Reis can protect his beloved Shadowen from not only her vicious father, but from a dangerous fate Reis never expected.
One of the most compelling aspects of this book is the world the characters live in. Valantis is an underground society ruled by magic, but not your typical fantasy-style magic. Valantis is ruled by shadows. These shadows are everywhere. They can be used to travel, drawn from to gain power, and to a select few they can do even more. I enjoyed this unique style of magic for its creative slant as well as its somewhat dark quality.
The relationship that develops between Shadowen and Reis was very good as well. Reis meets Shadowen when she is a small child and immediately knows she will be his. That may seem a little creepy on the surface, but Nemnich handles it well, keeping Reis focused on her protection through the early years, then easing the relationship into a more romantic stage. This was a very tortured relationship, and the tension between them made it quite compelling. Shadowen has had a very difficult life which causes her to fear Reis' love. Put that up against Reis' desire for Shadowen fighting against his need to guide and protect her, and you start to see what I mean. As a warning to younger readers, there were several sex scenes and adult topics, that while not terribly graphic, were descriptive.
The overall storyline was also interesting. This book is a small glimpse into the arching plot of the Chalice, the effect corruption has on this world, and the fates of these two characters. Nemnich gives you good reason to keep reading further into the series.
Aside from the interesting story and world, and good romantic relationship, there were a few areas that gave me some trouble. The beginning of the story was quite slow. There was a lot of explaining about the world as Reis went through day to day motions rather than letting the reader experience this world first hand. This was a show vs. tell issue that mainly held up the first several chapters, but was also an issue throughout the book.
I also felt like the language used wasn't fantasy based and it took away from the reality of the story. This came through in the prose as well as the dialog. Straight up fantasy usually leans toward a more formal writing style, even when it comes to internal thoughts and dialog, and this felt to modern for me to really fall into the fantasy mindset. Serious fantasy readers may have the same issue.
Another area that needed improvement was the editing. With indie publishing, it is hard for the author to catch all the mistakes on their own, but there were enough errors that it was distracting. Another pass at cleaning this up would help improve the overall experience.
As a whole, the story and characters were interesting and entertaining. The modern language, editing errors, show vs. tell, and over-explaining gave the manuscript a less than polished feel. For some this won't be a problem, for others it will. The Royal Assassin has good potential as a series, but it did have shortcomings that will hopefully be addressed in future books.
Would I recommend this book? I would because the story was good, but only selectively. Hard core fantasy readers may struggle with the writing style, the sex scenes and adult topics were enough that I wouldn't pass it on to my nieces, and the more technical issues will hold up picky readers.
Who would I recommend this book to? Adult readers, mainly light fantasy readers who lean toward urban fantasy than strict fantasy and won't be bothered by the more modern style. Those readers looking for a good romance will enjoy Reis and Shadowen as well.
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