Saturday, November 7, 2020

Eresse - Duty or Desire

Zykriel and Gilmael Calanthe are identical in form and features yet they are as different in nature as day and night. Outgoing Gilmael is not hesitant to use whatever means he has at his disposal to gain what he wants. Small wonder his king and cousin deemed him perfectly suited to head Ylandre’s Intelligence Ministry. Heir apparent of the great northern fief of Losshen, Zykriel is self-effacing and almost indifferent to the attention paid to a high-born blueblood. He does not relish employing either power or influence to achieve his means.
Even in the handling of affairs of the heart, they differ. Romantic and possessed of a more traditionalist view of wedlock, Zykriel would sooner forgo intimacy than indulge in empty liaisons or attempt to circumvent the rules that bind his social class. In contrast, Gilmael’s skepticism toward love and marriage coupled with a general disregard for society’s strictures enable him to partake of casual relationships and one-night-tumbles without any qualms.
Ironically, it is tender-hearted Zykriel who faces disillusionment and loneliness when a political gambit forces him into a potentially loveless future. Whereas cynical Gilmael finds himself examining his beliefs and behavior once his attitude toward a longtime foe undergoes an unexpected sea change.
In the dual-gendered realm of Ylandre, there is no certitude of conjugal bliss even for the wealthy and privileged. And for the twin scions of one of the most powerful Houses in the world of Aisen, it is less so when they do not know if they are loved for themselves. Or desired for what their name and station can bring to the matrimonial table. 

Comment: Along with other fans, I've been waiting for the publication of this installment, after the publisher which housed the author's other books in this Chronicles of Ylandre didn't see to continue with it. That means, the author had to search for a new publisher or self publish, which was what ended up happening. I, for one, felt very happy because this series has been consistent, in my opinion, and I would want to keep up with it.

Therefore, in this 8th installment we have the story of twins Zykriel and Gilmael, two important characters in the extensive royal family which is the key focus of the series. The twins are identical in looks but not in personality or temperament. This, obviously, is seen in how they behave and how they react when something has to be dealt with, which is why Zykriel accepts a marriage proposal to secure a political bargain and Gilamel is angry at his twin's decision to not wait for someone he could love. As the plot advances, both deal with this issue and how Zykriel starts to care for his odd spouse but also with the return of Gilamel's antagonist during their college years, someone he has always fought with but now seeing his role as a father, something in him starts to change. Will this mean that each twin has found a match and that they can find their happiness?

I know it may sound weird how I described the plot and it might sound fluffy but far from it. The element I like the most in these books is precisely how emotionally angsty some situations can be and how the characters deal with that. Let it be said, the world the author created is still as intrinsically complex, with politics and geography and family trees I still struggle to keep in mind, but so emotionally rewarding, indeed. Anyone interested can find the author's page online or in a platform like goodreads, so they can find more information, but this is a world where everyone is a hermaphrodite and that is the key notion that distinguishes this series from other fantasy ones.

This said, I wouldn't advise to start here, although the book has a well structured presentation. However, there are just too many characters that, although not that central to this plot, still make appearances and having read their stories makes them feel more important and the whole setting becomes richer, it feels like keeping up with old friends, although their names being odd also makes it harder for me to remember who is who all the time.

Back to this book, this means fans will be happy to have the twins story but new readers might be intrigued enough to read the other novels. I know I was eager to read it, for all the time it took for the book to be released but mostly because it's always positive to have a story in this series. I've come to appreciate all the world building, the tone the author chose... I wouldn't go as far as to say this was my favorite book but it's definitely one of them. I especially liked that, because the main characters are twins, we get to have two romances in one book and, to me at least, it felt great and both romances were captivating for me to read.

Zykriel and his spouse marry for convenience over plot issues but it was nice to see them try to work things through until they reached common ground. There's a lot of missed opportunities for them to reach consensus earlier and some situations they face felt rather frustrating...then Zykriel is a bit too reserved and his spouse a bit too inconsistent in his behavior... I liked them as a couple but their journey wasn't always the one I liked best.

I really preferred Gilmael and Imri's romance, because they start as foes/antagonists and I really liked how thrilling the evolution of their feelings was. Of course there's also things that happen to them which I disliked, like how at some point they both make decisions that concern them both without telling the other and that only delayed their HEA, but in the end I really appreciated the way their relationship advances and it was especially cute to see energetic and extrovert Gilmael want to be with someone quieter and how great it was to see him realize he was in love.

The twins' relationship doesn't get any special focus, they are simply brothers but at some point their bond is used as a tool to explain Gilmael's behavior when his brother agrees with a loveless union. To be honest, I feel this was not necessary at all. There are also some conflicts until the end, little or bigger things that help the story move along but in some cases, I wasn't too invested in them and I feel they weren't important...but overall, the structure of the plot was engrossing enough.

As one could expect, there's a relatively sugary epilogue, which adds support to the fact the whole cast of characters is a loving and united family and that is certainly sweet and hopeful to imagine. Perhaps the author used a bit too many elements to showcase this, but it didn't ruin the tone of the plot. I wouldn't say this book is perfect but it was a good experience to me to read it.

Grade: 8/10

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