Oak King Holly King

Oak King Holly King
Sebastian Nothwell, 2022

Premise: Shrike is trying to make a name for himself in battle, but it goes too well, and now the traditions of Faerie decree that he shall die within the year. Wren Lofthouse has never heard of fae or actual magic, although Arthurian romances provide some of the only comfort to a man who must hide his attraction to other men. Of course, they're perfect for each other.

It's been a long while since I've taken a chance on a book because of a lovely cover. (Of course, this being an ebook, the cover led to a sample, and only then to the full book, but the point still holds.) Happily, I liked this quite a bit. 

It's longer than a lot of romances, but I liked that, actually. It's a fantasy novel where the A plot is a romance, not a romance set only vaguely in a fantasy world. It had space to dig into the details of the two characters' lives and how they fit (or didn't fit) together. The story wasn't just two people getting together; it took time to have them grow and learn from each other. Sure, the main thing they're learning is just "someone likes me for who I am, and therefore who I am is valuable" but that's not a bad thing. 

It's full of sumptuous descriptions of society, adventure, and action. However, the romance is fairly simple; it's the world that provides the complications. 

My only significant quibble was that the ending was a bit vague (in some ways - REALLY not vague in others). Let's just say that the actions characters take during the climax may have some significant long-term effects on the way the faerie realm functions, and possibly the mortal realm as well. However, the rush to a happy ending for our characters completely skips any information about how that is expected to play out, unless I missed an explanation earlier in the book. 

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

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