Arrivals by J.M. Frey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Forsyth is gone, leaving the Shadow Hand's Mask behind for Bevel. The Viceroy has been defeated, leaving a sudden dearth of battles to fight. The Untold Tale is over, leaving behind Kintyre and Bevel to wander around until something new happens, until the Writer Writes something else. It's endings and tying up loose ends and all the mundane little things that need to be done, like returning items from the quest, resting, sleeping, eating, not getting kicked by the horse. Telling everyone that Forsyth is gone and Kintyre is retiring. The hero and his sidekick are going to attempt being domestic at Lysse without killing themselves and everyone around them (killing metaphorically, though overuse of eye-rolling and face-palming, that is) or going insane with boredom.
But it's mostly Bevel Dom finding his place in a world that has changed drastically. Who is he when he's not just a sidekick, not just the bard? (And how can he be a bard when he can't fully express everything he's overwhelmed with to Kin?) Who is he when he feels betrayed by his own nature? (As he says, why is the world so cruel as to make him love and want children he can never naturally have because he is a man in love with another man?) Who is he as Kin's Paired? (What to do with all these grabby noble women?) Who is he as the Lord's Consort? With all these new dynamics of domesticity, pairing, marriage, and the looming Shadow Hand, who is he really to Kin and how will this fragile relationship survive?
Arrivals begins with departures and ends with arrivals. It's an in-between kind of story, the anti-hero kind that tells you about what heroes do when they're not heroing. (They're busy having crises of identity and renegotiating relationships.)
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the author!
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Slight disclaimery thing necessary?
I've reviewed Frey's other books here before (The Untold Tale and The Forgotten Tale). Arrivals take place right in between those two novels, focusing on what happens in Hain after Forsyth and Pip leave. What's not stated explicitly in those reviews is the homosexual relationship between Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom which is pretty much background in those stories but is brought to the forefront here.
As stated in my review, it's mostly a first-person account of a man coming to terms with who he is in light of the people around him, and a very fragile new relationship he is afraid of breaking. The emotions are raw and the fears feel real--not just for a homosexual relationship (I wouldn't know first-hand how that feels) but for any relationship that is on shaky ground through lack of self-esteem & self-worth, unequal social standing, and societal disapproval.
I thought I'd just state that outright because it's a touchy issue for some readers and I *did* say that I wanted to keep this blog and my reviews as "family-friendly" (Christian-wise) as possible.