Thursday, September 2, 2021

Megan Derr - The Pirate of Fathoms Deep

High Commander Lesto Arseni is the most feared man in the Harken Empire. None but the High King dares risk his wrath—and a pirate who once punched him in the middle of the imperial pavilion. A pirate who later snuck away with Lesto to an empty room, touched him in ways far more memorable. And then immediately bolted like a man who'd gotten what he wanted.
Shemal just wants to live a normal life, leave his pirating days behind him and prove that he's respectable now. The last thing he needs is the two idiots who show up wanting his help with the noble they've kidnapped—the very man Shemal had been hoping to prove himself to, the man he hasn't forgotten since Shemal punched him a year and a half ago.

Comment: I really liked the first book in this Tales of the High Court series, which I read back in May, and that means it's no wonder I felt like finishing the series. This is the second book and is focused on the best friend of one of the protagonists from book #1.

When this book begins, commander Lesto Arseni is being kidnapped by two apparently incompetent kidnappers and that is how he sees himself at the door of pirate Shemal, someone he had an encounter with months ago but they never saw each other again. Shemal was pardoned for his life as a pirate and now he is doing boring but steady work as a farmer, never expecting to see Lesto again. He still remembers their time together, as short as it was but he knows very well they would never be together, especially because of their different social status. Still, now here they are again, together, and in need to get back to the palace before the reason for why Lesto was mistakenly kidnapped causes a riot in the empire. While they return, can it be possible they will see what they have in common and, perhaps, find a reason to be together and committed?

This was a romantic story to read but, overall, I found it wasn't as intriguing or complex sounding as the first. Maybe one reason why is the fact this was shorter, therefore there were less pages to allow for the development to feel more structured and intricate. I still enjoyed reading this but yes, it wasn't as amazing as the first felt like to me.

I'd say one issue I had is the fact the protagonists had had a previous encounter which, apparently, was so memorable that they both have lived off the emotions of it since then and conveniently, they meet again in a rather dramatic situation. As it happens here, I don't mind authors using this tactic of "previous encounter/relationship" to better support the fact the couple knows one another and they already have something shared, and that makes it easier to accept the fact they do have a connection, but... I kind of expected more anyway.

Lesto is the commander of the army in this fantasy world and he is respected, well liked, all those things but he knows many only see his position and status, not his self. His group of friends is small but he does have his brother and the king, always a close friend. I was happy he found Shemal and a good part of the conflict is caused by others saying perhaps Shemal isn't good enough. This is a classic trope but while it was good enough for me to have enjoyed the plot and romance, I wish something more special had been done... especially since I know the author has done similar work before and well.

Shemal is a more complex character, I think. His personality is more complex simply because he is a man wanting monogamy coming from a family where polygamous relationships are the norm.I think this was a different enough change in a (often fluid) world where sexual and gender identities aren't immediate reasons for dislike. But Shemal is aware his status isn't as well received socially so he fears he might cause Lesto harm, I kind of liked how they progressed and Shemal simply accepted he was loved by who he is, not what he could represent.

The fantasy elements, the plot development, the characters' interactions...all worked out well enough and I was glad to have read the book but there was something extra missing. I hope the next book returns to that almost magical sense I got from the first book.
Grade: 7/10

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