Release Date: June 5, 2018
Received From: Review copy from the author
Kelpana was never supposed to love humans this much.
As a mermaid tasked with keeping peace between land and sea, her job is to be fair. Neutral. Diplomatic. Political. But her carefree spirit is bewitched by the carousing, free-swinging ways of the landfolk…yet one night of careless fun becomes a death sentence when she spurns a bratty prince. Now she’s facing life in prison—but that life won’t be long without the ocean waters that keep her alive.
Yet if Kelpana dreams of better things than this new, grim existence—so, too, does the young man set to guard her in her cell. Morgan Sunilian wants to be more than anyone ever believed he could be. He wants to be an Absolute, decked in gold armor and fighting alongside the kingdom’s most elite guardians. Morgan will do anything to prove he’s strong enough to be more than a prison guard.
To prove he can be an Absolute.
Yet as each day watching over Kelpana passes with him falling under the sweet spell of her soft voice and quiet stories, he realizes the truth of who he wants to be more than even an Absolute.
He wants to be a man of honor. A man of kindness. A man of fairness.
And a man with the strength to defy his orders, risk his life, and save the woman he’s come to love.
GENDER: transgender, cisgender
SEXUALITY: pansexual, hetersexual/heteroflexible
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: panromantic, heteroromantic
TROPES: prisoner x prison guard, height difference, fated mates / soulmates, magical abilities
TAGS: adult, fantasy, mythology, romance, queer romance, queer characters, POC character, brown character, disabled character
WARNINGS: sexual content, mental illness (anxiety, panic attacks), survival sex (offers of sex as currency/bargaining tool), drugging, slutshaming, past child abuse, abusive family, explicit violence, fire, imprisonment, physical injury
As anticipated, this is another novel by Chace Verity that I absolutely fell in love with!
The plot that Verity wove together in this story was so intricate and full of twists and turns. Some of the reveals I was able to figure out, given clues from the text, but there were some that were so unexpected I gasped out loud. They successfully lull the reader into a false sense of security (and superiority) by providing something that’s fairly easy to figure out, and then almost immediately following it up with something so surprising it knocks you down a few pegs on your confidence you know what’s going on. The best part, though, is that none of these twists feel gratuitous. They all are clearly vital to the plot and the worldbuilding, and Verity provides us with a world and mythology that one could easily get lost in.
Also, there were two things specific to the worldbuilding that I really loved. First was the mythology. Verity creates a world where a multitude of different creatures from mythology live alongside humans, and they are all involved in all facets of society and culture. I loved the way that Verity introduced familiar creatures, ones we could recognize and say, “oh yes, I know about them!”, but also made the creatures their own. They changed and added different aspects to all the species to make these particular mermaids or dryads or centaurs specific to their series, and it was really fun and interesting to read.
The second thing I loved is the normalization of our current terminology for gender, sexuality, and romance in the fantasy setting. So often, science fiction and fantasy authors don’t include these terms and make the sexualities and genders of their characters more of an implied thing than explicit, which can make it difficult for readers who enjoy SFF and are looking for explicit representation. But Verity has never hesitated to include our words in their work, and I really appreciate that.
And speaking of queer identities, Verity did a fantastic job in that area as well! From the very first chapter, we learn that the heroine, Kelpana, is pansexual. She is a mermaid who loves sex, is unashamed of it, and will have it with a person of any gender. Kelpana uses the word pan/pansexual on page more than once, which as I mentioned above, was really refreshing and made me happy because it’s so rare to see them used. Also, the hero, Morgan, is transgender, and I loved the way Verity introduced this fact, for it’s simplicity. He flat-out tells Kelpana that he’s trans when she makes an assumption that he has a penis (which she apologizes for on page), and uses the word trans more than once on page. In addition to this, there are multiple mentions to binding and a brief mention of his having monthly menstruation. But all in all, he is allowed to just be trans, without judgment or disdain from others. (Except for his family, but they were abusive to my poor son even before they found out he’s trans.) Also, at least half of the supporting cast was queer as well, and I love books where the queer main characters are surrounded by other queer people.
And finally, I loved the anxiety representation to be found in Morgan. His anxiety and the panic attacks he faces were so realistic and relatable. Verity did a great job of accurately depicting a panic attack, both from Morgan’s point of view, but also from how it looks on the outside, from another person’s view. The rep really resonated with me, personally.
All in all, this novel was really amazing! I adored the cast of characters and the rep within the pages, and the plot was thrilling and engaging the whole time. I definitely recommend this book, and series, and I cannot wait for the next to come!
Chace Verity (she/they) is publishing queer as heck stories with a strong romantic focus, although queer friendships and found families are important too. Chace prefers to write fantasy but dabbles in contemporary and historical fiction as well. An American citizen & Canadian permanent resident, Chace will probably never be able to call a gallon of milk a “four-liter.”