Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Book Review: The Mage and the Monster by Barbara Ann Wright (romance, lesbian)

Title: The Mage and the Monster
Author: Barbara Ann Wright
Publication Date: Oct 11, 2022
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Protagonist Gender: Female
Sexuality: Lesbian

[Check out my reviews of the first and second books!]

With the release of The Mage and the Monster, Barbara Ann Wright brings The Sisters of Sarras trilogy to a bittersweet close. Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful fantasy, a lovely romance, and a fitting end to the saga, but I'm deeply saddened to be saying goodbye to Adella, Zara, and Gisele. I loved these women, I loved the women they loved, and I absolutely adored the gender fluidity of loud-and-proud Serrah Nunez.

Although Gisele was my least favorite of the sisters, Vale was my favorite of the women who love them, so it's no surprise that I found this final installment so engaging. Both the most fantastic and the most romantic of the three books, this is a direct continuation of The Scout and the Scoundrel, and that means danger is on the doorstep, with mages to be rescued and a magical mystery to be solved.

Part of what I've loved about this series is that the sisters are not your typical fantasy protagonists. They're not legendary heroes or chosen ones, they're not perfect, and despite what you might expect of the genre, they're not outsiders either. Gisele deals with chronic pain in much the same way Zara dealt with being neurodivergent, and that's naturally, without pity or sympathy. They're recognized for who they are, but nobody even thinks to call attention to what they are.

As for the fantasy aspect, we get daring escapes, magical battles, secret weapons, and even some political maneuvering. Every character has a part to play, with diverse personalities that bring the story to life. Some of those scenes are large in scale, but the whole story has an intimacy to it, a focus on one-on-one conflicts that keeps the reader centered. The romance, as I mentioned, is absolutely wonderful, with Vale and Gisele opposites in so many ways, and yet alike in so many others. One has never felt worthy of love, and one has never allowed herself to love, but the way they come together is lovely.

For a while I was wondering how Wright could possibly wrap up everything before the end, but somehow she manages to touch on all the important threads, taking the happy-for-now endings of the first two books and giving us a happily-ever-after with The Mage and the Monster. A satisfying conclusion to a series that has delighted and surprised with every turn of the page. 

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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