SERIES: Alaia Chronicles, #1
If you enjoy stories like The King and I, Aladdin, 1001 Arabian Nights, and Anna and the King, you'll adore this romance of a strong woman who won't give up on her ideals and a man whose kingly responsibilities have precluded true love... until now.
In the desert realm of Kad, a deadly epidemic strikes the palace of Sultan Kuramos. Only a magical healer from an enemy land has the skill to save his royal household, but Kuramos never imagined the healer would be a woman.
Healer Varene finds her own surprises in Kad. She expects the sultan's arrogance, but not his courage, his selfless care of the ill, or the possibility the epidemic is the hex of a vengeful goddess.
Kuramos's culture condemns Varene's mystical talents. Her presence triggers an insurrection, yet as he and the healer toil for a cure, he loses his heart to her. She falls for him as well, but how can she relinquish her homeland and her principles? He already has a harem...and his family may be cursed.
This story takes place in a lightly magical world that is similar to our world yet different. The imagery was wonderfully descriptive without overdoing it. It transported me to another place and time. What that time was though I am not sure. It felt like a subtle alternate world fantasy in an Arabian Nights style setting. It had scimitars and sherbet (in the desert?), palm fronds and key-hole doorways, falafels and churidars, harems and hammams. These things are real in our world and so we can relate to them in some way even though they may not all be things we are familiar with, but there are also fydds (horses), jencel-birds (a talking bird character that I loved!), and kyrra (a magical essence within someone). People also seem to live very long as in hundreds of years. These are some things unique to the story that give it an alternate world feel. There were a couple of times a word would sneak into the narrative or dialogue that felt a little too modern and jarred me out of the time and story for a second…but just a second, I got over it. :)
I wasn't sure how much I would like Kuramos as the male lead character in this fantasy romance. He is the Sultan of Kad and has a harem of six wives. He appears a little arrogant when Varene first appears in his palace but you soon see underneath that hard exterior and realize he has many admirable qualities that make him a likable character. He respects his wives and cherishes his children. He is kind to the servants and wants the best for the people of Kad. He is loyal, protective, and willing to make sacrifices, but can be fierce when necessary.
I liked Varene from the start. She is kind, smart, and brave. She stands up to those who would dismiss her worth and healing abilities because she is a woman. She knows what she wants and she soon learns she wants Kuramos. But what of his wives? She isn’t willing to share. How could she ever compromise on that?
Both Kuramos and Varene have painful secrets they are hiding in their past, which are unraveled as the story progresses.
Though I knew this story would have an HEA...a big honking HEA as it turns out...I was still curious how it would play out. How do we go from a harem of six wives to a happily ever after for Kuramos and Varene? At the beginning of the book, Dabir, Kuramos's mentor and father figure, prophesizes that "She will come...Will you bend, or will she? Perhaps neither." and sets up part of the conflict for this romance that stuck in my head for the entire book. Who will bend? Though I sort of guessed how it would be resolved, I wasn't totally right, but I was totally satisfied with the ending.
I have to say a word about Gunjan, the jencel-bird. Jencels are talking birds but not like a parrot. I just loved this character! But then I am a sucker for a talking animal character that doesn’t seem to be channeling a Disney movie.
Rowan has weaved a wonderfully engaging and romantic story set in a magical Arabian Nights style middle-eastern setting that kept me turning the page. The smooth writing style allowed me to easily fall into the story. I was rooting for Kuramos and Varene and was eager to see how it would all be resolved. The Source of Magic, which is the prequel novel, focuses on Alvarr and Jilian, who are the rulers of Teganne, Varene's homeland. We get a brief glimpse of them in this book and I'm already eager to read their story and jump back into this world.
Heat Level: Sensual
Word Count: approx. 116,855 (Novel) includes excerpts of other books
Print length: 258 pgs
ePub length: 365 pgs
Kindle length: 8158 locations
Source: Review request from author