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This story is a such a fantastic twist on a fairy tale, but like the original fairy tales that were full of blood and horror and killing and hope and love and redemption.
This story is beautiful and special and wonderful and strange and fantastic.
The character of Naef (called "Knife" by almost all) is so hurt, closed off and untrusting at the beginning (with good reason) but by the end has blossomed into such a wonderful character who burrowed under my skin and into my heart.
Nick J. Russo knocks it out of the park with this one. I'll admit, I wasn't really sure about Naef's character voice in the beginning, but it grew on me, as much as the character did. I just LOVED the narration.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
The story is a slightly warped “Beauty and The Beast”, with a strong theme of inner beauty and humility.
Naef/Knife is a deformed young man who suffers at the hands of cruel villagers but is indulged with love by his sister and mother. He’s a master craftsman with wood, and has trained himself in defense with knives, thus his nick-name, a play on his real name, Knife.
Aerie-Smith is a Prince whose pride got him cursed into lion form. (There’s more to it than this, but this is a rough interpretation to save the story from being “spoiled”.) Like the original fairy-tale he must do something to overcome his curse and save not only himself but his entire village from permanently turning into the animal forms they’ve been cursed with.
When Naef’s sister meets Aerie’s cousin, they fall in love but she won’t go with her beau and leave Naef. So, a bargain is struck wherein Naef can receive gold and peace and a new life in exchange for 18 months of his life as the “companion” to Aerie on his island after doing a “regrettable task”.
On the way to the island Aerie and Naef cement the budding friendship/love that started on the boat and continued on land. There is a lot of magic and story that I don’t want to share because it gives too much away. But it’s beautiful and oh… so creative.
Aerie tells Naef that at the end of his time, there will be a “regrettable task” he’ll have to undertake but the rest will be lovely. When it becomes clear just what the task is – well, of course the angst begins.
Fortunately, Amy is a brilliant writer and finds a way to give us our HEA and it is truly magical.
I have to say, I avoided this book because it looked so dark and angsty… and well, it is. But it’s not even the darkest in Amy’s repertoire. Naef is a tortured soul, but he’s funny. Aerie is too good to be true, but vulnerable and sweet. The magic is unique and compelling and the story reads so quickly it’s over before you know it.
It’s just that good. Amy shows us with stories like this that she is a true master craftsman, a true expert, a true wordsmith. She harnesses the words and forces them into submission giving us a fairy tale, a cautionary tale, a look at modern morality and a love story all wrapped together. It reminds me of both “Brute” by Kim Fielding (another masterful tale) and Alice In Wonderland. The story gives us a moral but without banging you on the head with it.
I’m always surprised by her breadth – from the light and fluffy, through timely and contemporary, to otherworldly and creative – Amy can write it all and do it well.
As for the audio.
Oh. My. God. Nick J Russo has done so many of Amy’s books and I was scratching my head at this… trying to figure out how that’d work. How would he voice this, it’s so different from his other narrations.
I should not have worried.
He was amazing. Truly. His Naef is spelendid. Grouchy, snooty, prickly and wonderful. Aerie is just the right amount of good with a dash of sensual to make their unlikely pairing work.
I was so glad I experienced this book as an audiobook for my first pass – it was a fantastic listening experience and I highly recommend this method of partaking this story.
I can’t give it more than 5 of 5 stars – but I would. 6, 7 maybe 8.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful