Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sorcerous Rivalry by Kayleigh Nicol (fantasy bisexual romance)

I have been a voracious reader ever since I was a child. I love a good book, and I love a book that makes me feel good. Fantasy and I have had a bit of a strained love affair over the last decade, though, as so many authors have opted to wallow in darkness, depression, and hopelessness. For me, the genre has always been about wondrous escapism, and to subvert that is to betray it.

A rather long-winded introduction to Sorcerous Rivalry, for sure, but a necessary one. Kayleigh Nicol has bucked all the trends and written a throwback to the glory days of high fantasy - and by that I mean a story of sorcery, magical races, romance, humor, and hope.

That is not to say Nicol's world does have its darkness. It must, if it is to have light, for one cannot exist without the other, and there must be despair if there is to be hope. Here we have a world where magic is a crime, the King's mistress a criminal, and their seven bastard children a dirty secret to be snuffed out by bands of violent mage hunters.

Our portal into this world is one of those children, a shapeshifter named Reshi. A sweet, gentle, likable young man, he is largely androgynous, almost non-binary in his expression, and far more feminine than you might expect of a fantasy hero. I loved him from the first page, watching as he shifted into a cat in order to feed upon the energy of a sleeping guest. By contrast, the sister he is forced to seek out, Cera, is a woman whose powers allow her to see and speak at great distances . . . and who boasts of having killed more than 40 mage hunters.

With the introduction into the story of a cold, focused, soldier turned mage hunter, you might expect things to get dark, but quite the opposite. There is immediate chemistry between Reshi and Kestral, a relationship marked by uncomfortable tension. It takes a long time - half the book, in fact - for the romance between the two men to be realized, but the anticipation is sweet, and the way in which Nicol allows us to get to know the characters is wonderful.

Having said all that, this is a fantasy first and a romance second. There are fae who can speak with nature; talk of centaurs and griffons; and magical battles involving fireballs, lightning, telepathy, weather magic, and more. It is a fast-paced story, full of as much adventure as romance. While it has its moments of darkness, plenty of tension, and chaotic violence, the overall tone is uplifting and positive. Sorcerous Rivalry was a wonderful story, everything that I was promised, and perhaps even a bit more. Just delightful.

Lifelong nerd and fangirl Kayleigh Nicol earned her Bachelor's of Science in Animal Science at Cal Poly Pomona, California. After years of volunteering at zoos and aquariums in California, Kayleigh now works at a therapeutic horseback riding center in Long Island, NY. When not taking care of her own menagerie of rescued animals, she enjoys watching anime, playing video games and reading as many fantasy books as she can get her hands on.


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