Monday, July 30, 2012

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

My Rating: 1.0 / 5.0

Amazon Rating: 4.30 / 5.00
Goodreads Rating: 4.03 / 5.00

It is 1945 and Claire Randall has been released from her duties as an army nurse and returned to Britain. She has reunited with her husband of eight years, Frank, who has been working as an intelligence officer for the duration of the war. Having been apart for most of the last six years they have decided to take a second honeymoon in the north of Scotland. There they visit an ancient stone circle and secretly observe a druidic ritual. When Claire returns to the circle next day, she falls through one of the stones and travels back in time two hundred years.

In 1743, Claire finds herself in the middle of a skirmish between a group of English soldiers and some Highlanders. She is attacked by the English commander, who happens to be Frank’s famous ancestor, Jonathon Randall, but rescued by the Scots. She is taken to meet the leader of the Mackenzie clan and begins to find a role for herself as the clan healer. However, she also meets the young and attractive Jamie Fraser, and life becomes more complicated.

I was reading this book quite recently as part of a read along, but I gave up about half way through. Why?

Let us start with the research into Britain in 1945. I am British so the glaring errors in the author’s portrayal of the post-war Highlands were very annoying. I will only mention the two most glaring errors. Firstly, Claire and Frank are staying in a Bed and Breakfast with a little old lady, in a tiny village near Inverness, who has a car. At this time in the UK the only people likely to own a car would have been the local doctor, vet, lawyer and perhaps the vicar: in other words, a person of wealth. Secondly, there is the fact that Claire and her husband are both serving in the military, but by the autumn of 1945 they have both been de-mobbed: this is possible, but not likely as Victory in Japan was not declared until August 15th.

Then there are the Scottish accents. I lived in Aberdeenshire for 20 years, so I have heard a lot of Scots speaking, and Ms Gabaldon’s dialogue is very hit and miss to my ear. She does include some nice Scottish words like ‘slaters’ and ‘oxters’ (woodlice and armpits for the non-Scots-speaking), but the accent that she depicts seems to owe far more to Mr Scott from Star Trek than to real Scots speakers. Also, all the Scots have exactly the same accent, which is not at all believable knowing how they are so different from one another even now with modern communication. I cannot really comment on the accuracy on Ms Gabaldon’s other research of the Highlands during the 1740s, because it is not a period that I have studied. I hope it is better than her study of the more modern era.

However, my biggest issue with the book was Claire’s infidelity. She married Frank in 1937/8 and they had been apart for six out of the eight years because of the war. While she is still in 1945, Frank makes a comment to her about how he could forgive her for any indiscretions during their time apart. Many in the Read Along saw this as Frank hinting that he had been unfaithful to Claire, but I am not so sure about that. Later, Claire remembers that she had infatuations with other men during the war, going so far as to kiss some of them. It seems to me that Frank is very perceptive about her ability to be faithful because when Claire is rescued / captured by a group of Highlanders she is immediately drawn to Jamie. For totally contrived and unbelievable reasons she HAS to marry Jamie and it HAS to be consummated, but, although she is still planning to return to Frank, instead of bouncing on the bed and making sex noises she actually does the deed with Jamie. Repeatedly. In fact, so frequently that I was amazed that she could get back on her horse. However, she is only marginally conflicted about this and has few moments of regret and a couple of twinges of guilt.

Most of the Read Along group were more than happy for Claire to forget about Frank and team up with Jamie, but I found it very difficult to stomach. If she had grieved for Frank and decided that she was stuck in the past and then ‘moved on’ emotionally, I could have accepted her decision much more easily, but she didn’t and I couldn’t. She even makes an unwise attempt to run away from the Highlanders and return to the stone circle with the idea of going back to 1945 and Frank. The whole issue of her infidelity was glossed over so that she could enjoy her time with Jamie, which made me wonder why on Earth Ms Gabaldon decided to make her married in the first place.

A second big issue was the portrayal of the bad guys, which eventually led to me putting the book aside. I am going to gloss over the fact that they are both English, and I was not even overly offended by the fact that Captain Randall, the main baddy and Frank’s great- great- ancestor, tries to rape Claire at every opportunity. His casual attitude to rape was shared by the Highlanders and I found it totally offensive at all times, as it made it an acceptable activity for all men, who cannot control themselves, and placed the blame for being raped squarely on ‘careless’ women. No, it was the fact that his interest in rape was extended to include, shock, horror, MEN as well, that finally made me put this book to one side. Both Captain Randall and his patron, the Duke of Sandringham, are homosexuals, renowned for their pursuit of young boys and men. We are told of the Duke’s attempted rape of Jamie and that Randall offered to cancel a beating if Jamie would have sex with him.

You see, the Scots are depicted as ‘good’ rapists: they only rape women who do not have the sense to stay out of their way. But the bad guys are gay, so they will rape anything, and, they are pedophiles as well, because that is all part and parcel of being gay. What? Homosexuals are not pedophiles, nor do they necessarily go around raping other men. I know that rape is often used as a way to assert power and is often seen after military conquests, but this was not what was shown here. The Captain makes his offer to Jamie in private and the Duke is described as soft and having a high-pitched voice, attempting to grope lads at any opportunity. I know that the book was written twenty years ago, but this homophobic attitude is still offensive in the extreme.

It is not often that a book manages to offend me quite so much as this book did. Those of you who have read some of my other reviews will know that I have a real problem reading about infidelity and rape, both of which were dismissed as just part of life in this book. The issue of Claire’s adultery seemed totally unnecessary, as the main story of travelling back in time and adapting to that society could have provided more than enough interest without a previous marriage. If I was supposed to think badly of Frank, and so feel happy that Claire abandoned him at the first opportunity for Jamie, then he needed to be a really awful husband, rather than a nice and considerate man.

I know that this is a wildly popular book, but I obviously bring a very different mind set to it than a lot of the other readers. I tend to be a little wary about Romance novels, especially those that are based in historical British settings but are not written by British authors, because they usually provide such an irritatingly warped view of my home country. Coupled with an apologist attitude towards infidelity and rampant homophobia, this made Outlander a highly unpalatable cocktail to me.  

Other Reviews I Recommend

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Challenge of Ice and Fire: Week 17

A Storm of Swords: Sansa III to the end of Davos IV (p.502)

My previous posts on A Storm of Swords:   week 14   week 15   week 16

28. Sansa III

Poor Sansa, just when she thinks that she is getting a pretty new dress to wow Willas Tyrell, she learns that she is to marry Tyrion. Now, we all know that Tyrion will be a kind and gentle husband, but Sansa cannot see beyond his disability and wounds. He is apologetic about the marriage and understanding of her shock and disappointment, offering to let her chose Lancel if she prefers. In a moment of wonderful common sense she decides to go ahead with the wedding, which is made even more uncomfortable by Joffrey’s behavior: what a surprise. There is nothing quite like giving the bride a good grope half way through the ceremony to show what a decent chap you are!

I really wished that Sansa had knelt down to let Tyrion tie on her cloak, because he did not deserve the extra embarrassment that it caused, but at least he does not hold this against her. He protects her from Joffrey’s mocking and then swears to only consummate the marriage when she wants him to. I really hope that she can come to see the good in him, but I imagine that it could take a long time.

29. Arya V

Arya and her merry band arrive at Stony Sept, the site of one of her father’s many victories during Robert’s Rebellion. Although the town is happy to help the Brotherhood it seems that they do not subscribe to the idea of clean deaths for the guilty, although I have some sympathy for people who have seen their lives destroyed by the war. One of the townsfolk, called The Huntsman, lives to hunt down Lannisters after they raped his wife and sister and destroyed his farm: he is currently out hunting for Jaime Lannister. He has taken charge of the town after the master of the town died and his sons went off to join Robb. Some northmen were taken for raping and murder at a nearby town and The Huntsman has had them placed in crow cages, alive. Arya pities them, although she does not recognize any of them and gives them water. The men of the Brotherhood do not hold with making the guilty suffer and kill them with arrows, despite warnings that The Huntsman will be displeased.

I find it very interesting that Mr Martin has chosen to show us this side of the war. It is always good to see the effects of war on the small folk, because they are so often ignored as authors relate the outcome of battles, but not the horror of the aftermath. Here we are shown how a town struggles to cope without its leader and under siege from every passing group of men. It seems that the townsfolk are doing rather well, but their future is very uncertain, so I can understand why they have an attitude of zero tolerance to any groups that rape and murder. Although we have not met The Huntsman yet, it seems like he may be suffering from a form of madness caused by all the trauma that he has seen and endured, and his reaction can be understood all too easily.

That night they stay in the local brothel, where Arya gets propositioned by a dirty old man. Gendry sends the man off with a flea in his ear, but then gets very defensive with Arya about their difference in status. I get the sneaking suspicion that Gendry is starting to have feelings for Arya that go beyond those of a big brother, and so they have something akin to a lovers’ tiff. Of course, Arya is totally confused by his behavior, so she flies off the handle herself and stomps off to bed. In the morning they are woken by the barking of dogs because The Huntsman has returned with a captive that she recognizes. we know that this is not Jaime, because he is heading towards Harrenhal with the Bloody Mummers, but it certainly someone off Arya’s list.

30. Jon IV

Somehow the Wall seems so much less effective when you can climb over it without a huge amount of difficulty. One of the teams trying to scale it is killed in an icefall and a couple of other men fall off the rope ladders, but other than that the climb is risk free. As Jon notes, a couple of Brothers with a quiver and some rocks could have dealt with them very easily, but there are no patrols in sight.

31. Jaime IV

With such vivid descriptions of Jaime’s infected wrist, I could almost smell the wound whilst reading. I am not sure how he is still alive with such a terrible infection ravaging his body, but he seems to be holding on out of pure spite and stubbornness. However, he still has enough connection to the world to try to protect Brienne from being raped. I am glad that he is developing a connection with Brienne and has decided to protect and honor her.

Roose Bolton is obviously less than happy with the Bloody Mummers’ methods, but he likes the results and so is willing to give them a free hand in most situations. However, he is probably aware that Lord Tywin will not be happy to hear that his favorite son has been maimed and rendered almost useless. He sends Jaime to one of the Bloody Mummers, the disgraced maester, Qyburn, who suggests that he should cut off the entire arm: I am not surprised that Jaime refuses this advice and insists that he try to save the arm. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the change in his status and abilities, and also how he will be viewed by his family now that he is a ‘cripple’.

32. Tyrion IV
It sounds like Symon Silvertongue will not be around for much longer: he is not very bright if he thinks he can threaten Tyrion and get away with it. Looking on the bright side, there will be at least one pot shop selling a meatier bowl of ‘brown’ for the next few days.

Poor Tyrion, he is the laughing stock of the castle because everyone knows that Sansa is still a virgin. Personally, I think that it says a great deal about his character that he is unwilling to force himself onto her, especially in a world where women are mostly viewed as breeding machines. It is ironic that Sansa has married a man that behaves with more nobility than the majority of the knights that she has met, but she cannot see it. His frustration is compounded by Shae’s lack of jealousy over the marriage: though it seems like he is finally coming to see that she has no particular feelings for him.

Lord Tywin is all happy now that he has managed to get a pair of Valyrian steel blades for the family, though I am a little concerned that he has had Ice melted down to make them. One sword is for Joffrey, the other for Jaime, which is very ironic considering the loss of his hand. Hopefully Joffrey will fall over his new sword and chop his legs off with it.

As usual, Tywin is unreasonable and demanding with Tyrion. He is insulting about Sansa, although Tyrion gets him to admit that the Tyrells refused the offer of Cersei marrying Willas. Cersei does not know yet, although I would love to see her face when she hears that she was not good enough for them! In an act of total arrogance, Tywin decides to ignore a raven from Castle Black asking for help. He suggests that Janos Slynt be made up to the new Lord Commander and sends no other help at all. This is a very poor decision: I had previously thought that Tywin was a perceptive man with a long-term view of the politics in the realm, but this shows that his perspective is seriously skewed.

33. Samwell II

What a depressing chapter!

The surviving Brothers have made it to Craster’s Keep, but he has only provided them with a small amount of food and there is a lot of bad feeling. Without a maester, the wounded are not recovering well and the lack of nourishing food is making the situation worse. Eventually, the Old Bear decides that they must ride on to the Wall and Craster decides to throw them a farewell feast, but there is still too little food and a fight breaks out. Both Craster and Lord Commander Mormont are killed, while the fight claims more lives and some of Craster’s daughters / wives are raped.

I was shocked and saddened that the Old Bear met such an end: he was a good man and a good commander, who deserved a much more dignified death. He always tried to do his duty with the meager resources available, and lead the Brothers with a relatively gentle hand. His final wishes are for his son, Jorah, to take the black and to know that he is forgiven.

Poor Sam is overwhelmed by the treachery and is finally provoked into action by Gilly and two of the oldest of Craster’s wives, who tell him that he must leave because Craster’s sons are coming. We are not sure if the sons have become Others, or are wights, but either way they should be avoided at all costs. I am also a little concerned about the men who killed Mormont: will Sam be able to get back to Castle Black without them catching him?

34. Arya VI

We finally meet the famous Beric Dondarrion, who seems to be alive after several reports of his death. However, it seems that all his ‘deaths’ have taken a toll on his body: which is a withered skeleton with only one eye, a bashed-in skull and evidence of terrible wounds on his body. Thoros of Myr claims that R’hllor has woken in him and magic does seem to be in evidence as Dondarrion’s sword bursts into flames when he cuts his palm to cover it with blood.

As well as Arya and Gendry, who are hooded on their approach to the Hollow Hill where Dondarrion is holding court, the third captive is The Hound. It seems that The Huntsman found him dead drunk under a tree, which seems very likely judging by the last time we met him, and was not happy to be unable to place him in one of the crow cages. The people in the Hill accuse The Hound of a series of murders, calling out a huge list of names. He denies knowing who any of them are, so he cannot say if he killed them or not, and rages that he was following orders and doing his duty. Arya accuses him of murdering the butcher’s boy, Mycah, but Beric sentences him to trial by combat and they fight until the Hound’s arm is on fire and Dondarrion is apparently killed.

Arya is highly indignant that the gods have not shown the Hound to be guilty because she knows that he killed Mycah and he even admits to having done the deed, but because he was commanded by the King. Although I understand Arya’s feelings about him, I find Sandor Clegane to be a very interesting character and I hope that he can redeem himself later in the series. We see his genuine terror when his arm catches fire: even Arya feels sorry for him. He is obviously a very complicated person who has been molded by the cruelty of his father and elder brother, but we have seen his more noble side in his treatment of Sansa. It seems that the killing of Mycah marked a changing point for him, because after that incident he began to subtly question Joffrey’s commands and sometimes chose to ignore them. Perhaps this is when he really came to notice Sansa and so start to question the sadism of Joffrey’s demands.

35. Catelyn IV

Edmure Tully just keeps getting weaker and more useless. As they launch Lord Hoster’s funeral boat into the river he fails to shoot a flaming arrow into it on three occasions and his uncle the Blackfish has to take the bow from him. Later he acts like a spoiled child when he hears Walder Frey’s demand that he marry the young Roslin Frey. He is being offered a decent match from a house that he was probably going to marry into anyway, but he wanted to chose the bride himself: good grief, poor man!

Other than Edmure’s petulance we see Robb being further crushed by the news of the defeat at Duskendale, which means that he has lost one third of his infantry. Robb carries bad news himself: that Sansa has married Tyrion. Catelyn is bewildered by Tyrion’s actions, not realizing that he now wields very little power in King’s Landing. She asks Robb to swear fealty to the Iron Throne, but he will not pledge allegiance to those who murdered his father. It is unfortunate that his attitude leaves no place for reconciliation as he seems to be surrounded by enemies with no new allies presenting themselves.

We also learn that Winterfell has been put to the torch and that all the men were killed. This news is relayed via the two Walders, Catelyn’s wards, who are now being ‘cared for’ by Ramsay Bolton at the Dreadfort. I dread to think how he is ‘taking care’ of the women and children that he supposedly rescued. Of course, all the death and mayhem is blamed upon Theon and the Greyjoy’s, though we still do not know what has happened to Theon himself. I imagine that Ramsay is having great fun at Theon’s expense.

36. Davos IV

Life for Davos is always full of surprises. He is summoned to meet with Stannis, but on the way Ser Axell Florent threatens him and demands that he name Axell as the new Hand. At the meeting, Axell has a plan to seize Claw Isle now that Lord Celtigar has sworn fealty to Joffrey. Davos calls it a cowardly plan, and I must admit that I cannot see any good reason to take the island apart from to raid it for valuables: it does not have a strategically important position and no resources of note.

It seems that Stannis feels that it is his duty to bring justice to Westeros for the treachery of the usurpers, although this does sound a lot like personal vengeance and self-justification to me. He plans to scour the court clean, although it seems highly unlikely that he has the strength to defeat the Lannisters. However, Melisandre sees the vanity in the wars in the South and claims that the true battle is against the Great Other in the North. She wants to use Edric Storm’s blood to wake a stone dragon, though Stannis refuses to allow her. However, she does have three leaches filled with blood, presumably Edric’s, that Stannis casts into the fire whilst naming the three usurpers: Joffrey, Balon and Robb.

Now, I am quite happy to see Joffrey and Balon depicted as leeches, but I am not so sure that Robb falls into the same category. This is my main problem with Stannis: he is just so stubborn and self-righteous that he allows himself no space for politics. Yes, Robb has proclaimed himself King in the North, but he would be a valuable ally against the Lannisters and they could come to an arrangement once the fighting was over, but Stannis would never even think of doing this and so he is considerably weakened as a result.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sue's Saturday Suggestions #6

Interesting Books

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, review at Once Upon A Time

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan, review at Fantasy Book Critic

The City’s Son by Tom Pollock, review at The Speculative Scotsman

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, review at Mindful Musings

Every Day by David Levithan, review at Gossamer Obsessions

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge, review at The Book Smugglers

Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson, review at Fantasy Book Critic

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, review at Sarah Says Read

Throne of Glass by Sara J. Maas, review at Gizmo’s Reviews

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, review at By Singing Light

Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente, review at Books Without Any Pictures

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, review at Cuddlebuggery

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, review at Mindful Musings

A New Speculative Fiction Magazine

The Speculative Edge #1, review at Rememorandom

StarShip Sofa

the Little Red Reviewer recommends this podcast, especially episode 245, while SF Signal announces that the guys behind StarShip Sofa have launched their own network for genre fiction called District of Wonders.


The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle at Staffer’s Book Review

Exiled & Shift both by M.R. Merrick at Fiktshun

Frost by Kate Avery Ellison at Kindle Fever

Miserere by Teresa Frohock at Staffer’s Book Review

Skylark by Meagan Spooner at The Booksmugglers

The Author vs Reviewer Debacle Continues

KB/KT Grant at Babbling About Books, and More reports an author accusing bloggers of theft for requesting copies of his book and then not reviewing it (his post has now been deleted). The King of Elfland’s Second Cousin calls for all sides to act responsibly.

Kat Kennedy at Cuddlebuggery offers advice on how to Blog Anonymously.

Friday, July 27, 2012

New To The Coffee Table

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with some of my friends at a local cafe. We chatted about books, laughed about the absurdities of life and had a generally great time. Fortunately for me, one of those friends was Kristen from Fantasy Cafe, who had some ARCs to pass along, so I have a new pile on the old coffee table.

All descriptions are from Goodreads.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

It's been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever.

Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune.

Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan.

Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.

In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

Tabloids sold in the Duchy of Stonehold claim that the High King, Caliph Howl, has been raised from the dead. His consort, Sena Iilool, both blamed and celebrated for this act, finds that a macabre cult has sprung up around her.

As this news spreads, Stonehold—long considered unimportant—comes to the attention of the emperors in the southern countries. They have learned that the seed of Sena’s immense power lies in an occult book, and they are eager to claim it for their own.

Desparate to protect his people from the southern threat, Caliph is drawn into a summit of the world’s leaders despite the knowledge that it is a trap. As Sena’s bizarre actions threaten to unravel the summit, Caliph watches her slip through his fingers into madness.

But is it really madness? Sena is playing a dangerous game of strategy and deceit as she attempts to outwit a force that has spent millennia preparing for this day. Caliph is the only connection left to her former life, but it’s his blood that Sena needs to see her plans through to their explosive finish.

Dark and rich, epic in scope, Anthony Huso has crafted a fantasy like no other, teeming with unthinkable horrors and stylish wonders.

Eyes Like Leaves by Charles de Lint

Taking a delightful departure from his more common urban-fantasy settings, this epic tale from acclaimed author Charles de Lint weaves elements of Celtic and Nordic mythology while bringing sword and sorcery to the forefront.

Summer magic is waning in the Green Isles, and the evil Icelord is encasing the lands in a permanent frost while coastal towns are pillaged by snake ships. Mounting one last defense against the onslaught, a mysterious old wizard instructs his inexperienced apprentice in the art of shape-changing. Mercilessly pursued by the Icelord's army, this newfound mage gathers allies—a seemingly ordinary young woman and her protective adoptive family—and they flee north in a desperate race to awaken the Summerlord.

Time is running short for the Summerborn, especially when a treacherous family betrayal is discovered.

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Eternal Sky #1

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling

Wereworld #1

'You're the last of the werewolves son. Don't fight it...Conquer it'. When the air is clear, sixteen year-old Drew Ferran can pick up the scent of a predator. When the moon breaks through the clouds, a terrifying fever grips him. And when a vicious beast invades his home, his gums begin to tear, his fingers become claws, and Drew transforms ...Forced to flee the family he loves, Drew seeks refuge in the most godforsaken parts of Lyssia. But when he is captured by Lord Bergan's men, Drew must prove he is not the enemy. Can Drew battle the werecreatures determined to destroy him - and master the animal within?

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

The Wild Hunt #1

The Book of Eador, Abjurations 12:14, is very clear: Suffer ye not the life of a witch. For a thousand years, the Church Knights have obeyed that commandment, sending to the stake anyone who can hear the songs of the earth. There are no exceptions, not even for one of their own.

Novice Knight Gair can hear music no one else can, beautiful, terrible music: music with power. In the Holy City, that can mean only one thing: death by fire—until an unlikely intervention gives him a chance to flee the city and escape the flames.

With the Church Knights and their witchfinder hot on his heels, Gair hasn’t time to learn how to use the power growing inside him, but if he doesn’t master it, that power will tear him apart. His only hope is the secretive Guardians of the Veil, though centuries of persecution have almost destroyed their Order, and the few Guardians left have troubles of their own.

For the Veil between worlds is weakening, and behind it, the Hidden Kingdom, ever-hungry for dominion over the daylight realm, is stirring. Though he is far from ready, Gair will find himself fighting for his own life, for everyone within the Order of the Veil, and for the woman he has come to love.

Soulbound by Heather Brewer

Legacy of Tril #1

Tril is a world where Barrons and Healers are Bound to each other: Barrons fight and Healers cure their Barrons' wounds in the ongoing war with the evil Graplar King. Seventeen-year-old Kaya was born a Healer, but she wants to fight. In Tril, and at Shadow Academy, where she is sent to learn to heal, it is against Protocol for Healers to fight. So Kaya must learn in secret. Enter two young men: One charming, rule-following Barron who becomes Bound to Kaya and whose life she must protect at all costs. And one with a mysterious past who seems bent on making Kaya's life as difficult as possible. Kaya asks both to train her, but only one will, and the consequences will change their lives forever.

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