Friday, June 20, 2008

Illyan Daughter by Brynneth N. Colvin

TITLE: Illyan Daughter
AUTHOR: Brynneth N. Colvin
PUBLISHER: Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 65k)
GENRE: Fantasy
COST: $5.99

As the daughter of her people’s leader, Liss strikes through life with the same courage and bravery of her warrior father, learning how to fight, how to pillage, how to do what is necessary in order to survive. She doesn’t know much about her past or her dead mother, but a strange shapeshifting woman continues to haunt both her and her father, through the years until they finally conquer a town and settle for a short while. This is where Liss comes into adulthood, and it’s there that her life changes irrevocably…

Though I bought this story from Whiskey Creek’s erotic romance line, I refuse to categorize it as such. There are certainly erotic scenes in it, with graphic language, but they aren’t the primary thrust. I hesitate to call it a romance, either, since the hero of the story isn’t even introduced properly until well over halfway through the story. Instead, I think of this as a coming of age story, set in a fantasy milieu. There’s a romance that occurs as part of that course, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about a young girl named Liss, her father Math, and the past he is running away from. Math is a fierce warrior, suitably equipped to lead his nomadic people as they plunder and pillage across the plains. When the story starts, Liss hasn’t yet “bloodied” so is considered a child still. Throughout the book, we watch as she grows up under the aegis of this man, taking on the mantle of warrior, fulfilling the same function a son would have without shame that she’s a woman. She earns this place rightfully. I liked her both as a person and as a fighter. But all the while, she has questions – about her mother, about the woman she’s witnessed change into a crow, about why she thinks she’s different from the others. It’s an engaging path she takes, and one I followed willingly. Even when I found some of the baser actions repugnant – such as ruthlessly killing adults of the town they’re capturing and enslaving the children – I felt like I knew this girl, and I sympathized with her.

For as much time as we spend in Liss’ perspective, however, we spend just as much in Math’s. We see his POV as he struggles to raise this child he’s so proud of. We witness his reluctance to take partners, his fear about the shapeshifting woman. Because he’s the adult in the first half of the story, I actually found myself understanding his tale more in the first half. Because of this, the arc of his character – while ultimately not as satisfying as I’d like – was as important to me as Liss was.

What stops me from falling head over heels for this book are two things. First of all, certain sections are overwritten, with more details about seemingly superficial minutiae than answers to the story itself. I found it difficult not to skim during those sections, to get back to the parts where Liss and Math actually did something. Secondly, for as much as I wished parts in the middle would speed up, the last quarter of the story sped up way too much. There is a leap of a couple years where it felt like I was told what happened – in what felt like a very crucial time – instead of shown. I ended the story wondering a little bit about what I missed, which was disappointing after traveling this journey for so long. I even tolerated the quite unobtrusive headhopping throughout the story more than that, which for me is big.

Maybe the reason this gets categorized as a romance is because when the romance does finally come, it is sweetly told, with delicacy most stories lack. This is when I truly fell in love with Liss, and then in love with her new partner, and why I was so emotionally wrought for the last few chapters of the story. I yearned for their happy ending, but this is certainly far more thought-provoking than any simple romance. The ultimate message is one more realistic than many so-called contemporaries offer.


8/10 – The pace drags in sections more interested in detail than storytelling, but other than minor editing issues, it reads pretty well.


9/10 – Not a flat character in the bunch, my only quibble is wanting to know more and being denied


7/10 – Lovely coming of age story that gets held back by some of the overwritten sections

Entertainment value

8/10 – I found myself drawn into these characters’ lives even when certain aspects were unappealing.

World building

8/10 – The details of the present were excellent; it was the world outside of the present and the past that I wished to know more about.



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