Title: A Knight to Remember
Author: Anne Barwell
Length: 65,490 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Dragons, Royalty, Alternate Reality Historical, Quests, Secrets & Lies, Merlin-fic, Magic, Mages, Shifters, Amnesia
Rating: So So
**This review contains some spoilers**
“The last of your line will be in the embrace of a dragon.”
Aric, Crown Prince of Astria, has been brought up to believe that all dragons are evil. But when he speaks with one, he finds himself questioning those beliefs. The dragon tells him to find a sword in Sherwin Forest to save not only his kingdom but also his sister, Georgia, who must otherwise wed the prince of a neighboring kingdom.
At the start of his quest, Aric dons a disguise and meets Denys, an archer and herbalist who lives alone at the edge of the forest. Denys agrees to guide Aric into the forest, but then Georgia appears, revealing Aric’s true identity.
However, Aric learns he is not the only one keeping secrets. Denys has a few of his own that could change both of their lives forever.
I was immediately drawn to this book for two reasons. First, I’ve wanted to read an Anne Barwell book forever. I’ve bought all of her’s as they’ve come out. They’ve all seemed rather interesting to me but for some reason I’ve never had time to actually read them. So I was really excited that she had written another book, which secondly, seemed rather Merlin-esque. You’ve got a crown prince, a king that has banished magic and is a pretty crappy father, and the fable of dragons which are supposed to be extinct, but really aren’t. How could I refuse, right? It’s like Merlin, but with gay guys!
And my reading went much like I thought it would, at least for the first half of the book, roughly. We meet Aric, the crown prince living under his father’s thumb and doing just about everything he can to make his own way and hold true to his own beliefs under such a stifling reign. His father has banished magic and Aric and his twin sister have grown up with quite a biased education about their history and the history of magic and magical beings in Astria. His beliefs are challenged when he once again sneaks out to visit his aunt, his dead mother’s sister — a forbidden act by his father — and is instead greeted in a forest glade by an ancient dragon. He’s baffled to see it at all (believing them to be extinct) and even more confused when the dragon doesn’t show the signs of aggression he was taught. Instead, the dragon speaks to him, the most surprising thing of all, and tells him that to save his kingdom and his sister, he must set out on a quest to seek the sword hidden in Sherwin Forest.
The Sherwin Forest is legend, a dark place said to once be the home of magic and dragons themselves, a place where no living person returns. But Aric must believe that what the dragon said was true. Their kingdom is in danger from their allies and a marriage treaty that would see his twin sister Georgia married off to the son of the neighboring King. Aric doesn’t trust them, however. It isn’t, as his father thinks, because he won’t let go of his sister, but because of a treacherous conversation he overheard, in which Georgia will become a pawn for their so-called allies to take over Astria. Georgia would just become a pawn and her happiness means more to Aric than anything else, even the kingdom he’ll one day rule.
My experience reading this book was good and disappointing at the same time. The first half of the book had me enthralled. I love a good sword and sorcery story and the first half of this book started well and continued strongly. Soon after Aric sets off to find his way to retrieve the sword from the fabled forest, he meets a handsome man in the woods that seems to have a special magical affinity, no matter how much he denies it. The man, Denys, is keeping his own secrets, but seems to believe what he says, which only makes him more mysterious. He reluctantly decides to help Aric, of whom he also knows very little. But Denys knows what happens to those who venture into the forest and how strange it is — how it can mess with your mind and how changed you are if you can make it back out. His strong and confusing connection to Aric make him want to help.
For me, this story really changed while they were in the forest. While I don’t begrudge an author a choice in their own book simply because it’s a plot device that I’m really not fond of (amnesia), that was the turning point for me in this book because after that the story seemed to collapse in on itself. Before that point, about midway through the book, there seemed to be a clear drive in the plot with their trek through the forest and getting to know each other. Afterwards, the story seemed to explode in different directions and it all became a little confusing for me. I felt like maybe the story wasn’t sure where it wanted to go. And yes, while it did eventually come back around, it felt like it was leaving out quite a bit of the story. I mean, it didn’t feel finished, which brings me to another issue. I wondered if this was the beginning of a sequel. If it is, then I really wish that Dreamspinner would promote it as such. That has happened before with some their books, where they’re the first part of a series but it isn’t written about anywhere. And maybe that decision comes later — it’s possible — but that changes my perspective on how I read the book and it definitely means that I consider the book in a different light. If it isn’t a first book in a series, then this story felt greatly unfinished. I didn’t particularly feel like the romance was finished but the main plot seems like an early part of a much longer story.
I pretty much knew the direction that the story was going to go — the main “surprise” if you will — from reading the blurb and at the very least from the minute that Aric meets Denys just after he speaks to the dragon. It’s not a very big leap to assume that is the case. And I was right. I suppose what disappointed me was the confusion in the way it got there. It seemed a bit messy. I have avoided, so far, reading other reviews for this book, but I would be interested now in taking a look or talking to anyone else who read this to see what they think. It’s possible, of course, that I just didn’t “get” this one and that it wasn’t for me. Maybe it’s the author’s style, as this is the first book of her’s that I’ve read. But part of me thinks not, since I felt such a change between the first half and the second half.
No matter my ultimately feelings, however, I still liked the book okay. I just wanted to like it a lot more.