Monday, November 3, 2008

If Wishes Were Horses by Sarah Leslie

TITLE: If Wishes Were Horses
AUTHOR: Sarah Leslie
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 20k)
GENRE: Gay fantasy erotic romance
COST: $3.50

The fey are finally at peace, but for wounded Forge Master Alaric, the scars will be permanent. Disfigured, he hides away from the world, including abandoning the lover he had only just found. His best friend Lily takes it upon herself to play matchmaker one last time, by dragging Alaric to a fairy ball where Valerian, the man Alaric left behind, is set to attend…

NOTE: This is a review originally written for Uniquely Pleasurable.

The story will be familiar to many. It’s CinderFairy, minus the ugly stepsisters. There’s the ball, and the fairy godmother answering wishes, and the prince – okay, the Captain of the Guard. But the similarities are too striking not be deliberate, all the way down to the button Alaric leaves behind when he flees before midnight. Rather than the Cinderella eager to escape her drudgery, though, Alaric is a reluctant hero in love with his quiet, private life. He doesn’t want to go to the ball, and only complies when his best friend – a woman with too much time on her hands, if you ask me – shows up ready for him to accompany her. He can’t say no to her, a trait she is willing to exploit to get her own way. Of course, her motives aren’t selfish. She knows Alaric’s ex-lover, the one he’s still in love with, the one he’s convinced he’s lost forever, is going to be at the party. All she wants is for Alaric to be happy. It’s hard to begrudge her behavior when she really does mean well, and honestly, she’s not doing any harm.

Part of attending a fairy ball is receiving a single wish. In this case, Alaric wishes to be handsome in an attempt to mask his disfigurement. The fairy in question changes him into a goneril, which is the same type of fey Valerian is. It makes him unrecognizable, so when Valerian asks him to dance, he agrees. The romance is sweet if predictable, and there’s an earnestness between the two men as they struggle to overcome their history. Just as things start to get interesting between them, however, the story jumps to the fey politics, with Lily or Valerian’s companion Darvan.

Therein lies my biggest problem with the story. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t read a lot of fantasy about the fey. I am not well versed in what might be considered canon or standard or anything of the like. This story, however, gives the distinct impression that there’s a greater world that’s already been explained. The fey have had this civil war, with various factions vying for power, and I spent a good bulk of the story trying to unravel it all in my head. The blurb on Samhain’s website describes this as a “Land of the Fey” story, but this is the only one written by this author. If it’s a Samhain collection of sorts, I couldn’t find other stories labeled as such. So I end up having questions, and having to backtrack to keep the politics straight, and ultimately wonder if there’s something I’m missing. I spent far more time considering the history than contemplating the romance. If the author is intending to target all m/m readers rather than those who might only read this type of fantasy, I’m not sure she hit her mark.

Because of my preoccupation in trying to sort out the complicated backstory and world – for which the author deserves kudos, for making it interesting and varied enough to capture my attention in the first place – I’m never as invested in Alaric and Valerian as I should be. They’re sweet, but in the end, forgettable. In a way, it’s characteristic of the entire story. I never did manage to get all the details straight on the world building, and the prose, while clean, never sparkled enough to make me notice it.


7/10 – Technically clean, but the questions about the world and backstory keep it from being a fast read, even with its brevity

Hero #1

6/10 – Sweet and angsty

Hero #2

6/10 – Appropriately strong where the other hero is stubborn

Entertainment value

5/10 – My questions regarding the world kept popping up and derailing my immersion into the romance

World building

7/10 – It’s clearly part of a series, but the lack of explanations of what the different sects might be or the history involved keeps it from reaching its potential.



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