🌟One of my faves!🌟When Shrike, a fae, is crowned Oak King, he seeks out someone who can help him defeat the current Holly King he will have to fight, and the magic leads him to Wren, a human. As the two men spend time together, they grow closer, tackle problems that come their way together, and try to figure out how to save Shrike's life from future Holly Kings.
*I received an advanced ecopy of this book from the author. This has not influenced my review.*
This was such a lovely, sweet, gentle romance about two lonely but good-hearted men being thrown together, realizing their mutual attraction, and growing closer and closer over time until being with each other felt like home. I especially loved how, despite having a lot of differences, mostly due to one being human and one being fae, they never tried to change each other or pressure the other to “fit in” with their people. Shrike got stared at every time he wore his outfit around London, but Wren never asked him to dress differently. Wren was shy and wary about openly displaying affection in public with Shrike, even though the fae didn’t care about two men being together, and Shrike just let Wren have however much time he needed to get accustomed. Shrike was always patient with Wren when he questioned magical things. That sort of thing. It was such a healthy relationship, and they were always a team. Also, anytime a character does something gross or kinda disturbing to help their love interest, I’m like, “That’s true love, right there.” In this case, it was Wren cleaning the gory remains of velvet from Shrike’s shedding antlers.
The plot had two threads to be resolved and kind of strayed on some winding side paths, but all the while, Wren and Shrike were growing closer and dealing with any problems that came up together. And I think that was the true point of the plot, to be the catalyst for their meeting and to give them some things to do that brought them closer, but I don’t say that as a bad thing. There were small bursts of action here and there, moments of discovery and fun, hints of danger, a bit of mystery, a looming threat, but this was overall a calm, gentle story, the kind you sink into slowly. It wasn’t something that really sank its hooks into me right away, but I found myself getting more and more into it, just enjoying it more and more, as it went on. And I have to say, their solution to the main problem was so clever!
I don’t normally talk about covers in my reviews, but this is one of those covers that got it exactly right. It perfectly captures the characters, the relationship, and the whole vibe. Not to mention it’s also gorgeous! (Alt text description at the end of the review.)
I loved how fantastical the fae element was. Traveling through fairy rings. Riding on magical stags. Attending festivals and battles and markets. Seeing and meeting fae of all kinds with such unique and interesting appearances. Doing magic rituals in the forest.
The ending felt a little sudden, in a, “Wait, that was the last line?” sort of way. Nothing was rushed, everything was concluded satisfactorily (and I can extrapolate anything that wasn’t explicitly stated), but it just felt like it would’ve benefited from another paragraph to feel a little less abrupt. (Unless the final copy has a bit more, since I had an ARC.) *Update: There’s now a collection of short stories that takes place after this ends.*
Overall, reading this was liking sinking into a big chair with a warm drink, comfy and soothing, and I loved this book with its fantastical fae, lonely but good-hearted characters, and sweet, gentle romance!
Cover Description: Illustration of two men standing close, almost nose to nose, gently holding/touching each other, in a forest clearing, under an arch of branches and leaves. One is human with almost shoulder-length brown hair, wearing a long coat and cravat with slacks and nice shoes. The other is fae, slightly taller, with pointy ears and long, wavy black hair, wearing boots, a sort of tunic with intricate designs, and a cloak that reaches to the ground with a fur-lined hood resting on his back.
Anyone who likes sweet and gentle romances in which the characters tackle problems together, m/m romance, Victorian England, fantastical and interesting fae, and fairly calm books.