by L. Penelope
Series: Earthsinger Chronicles #1.5
Also in this series: Song of Blood and Stone, Whispers of Shadow & Flame, Hush of Storm & Sorrow
Publisher: Heartspell Media
Publication Date: January 24, 2019
Genres: Romance, Fantasy
This novella begins after the events of Song of Blood & Stone—it’s both an extended epilogue AND a prequel, so it’s advisable to read that novel first.
For Jasminda ul-Sarifor, the war may be over but her conflict is not. New, overwhelming duties leave her caught between two worlds but belonging to neither. She turns once more to Jack, hoping the bond that got them through the first battle is strong enough to weather a new storm.
For Jack, Jasminda’s struggles hit close to home. To help her find her way, he entrusts her with a tale from his past where, after another war, a young Jack Alliaseen must also adjust to new responsibilities. But his take a lethal turn when prisoners of war start showing up dead on his watch. With the aid of a mysterious young man destined to change his life forever, Jack must save the lives of those under his protection before it's too late.
As his story unfolds, will Jack’s memories help Jasminda conquer her present trials?
As part of my reread of the Earthsinger Chronicles, I’m reading the novellas for the first time. This one is ostenibly set two weeks after the events of the first book. The framing is that Jack is telling a story about when he first became High Commander of the Army to encourage a frustrated Jasminda, now being called “Once Wretched, Now Royal” by the newspapers. She’s is trying to handle her new responsibilities as queen: figuring out what a queen is even supposed to do, smoothing tensions between the newly united Lagrimari and Elsiran populaces, and planning a wedding. It’s not going well, to say the least. Jack’s story is about the first time Jack meets Darvyn, and unlike the previous book, it’s a murder mystery.
“All right. I will investigate with you. Because you seem to view us as human beings, and I have not seen another Elsiran do the same. And also because…”
“Because you’re going to need my help.” Darvyn grinned.
Jack shook his head. This was definitely a bad idea.”
Jack’s obviously very young in this story and, while he seems willing to treat the Lagrimari as people (unlike the rest of the Elsiran population), he’s still somewhat naively confused as to why they’d prefer living in squalor as refugees in Elsira instead of going back to Lagrimar. The story starts with him attempting to ease tensions between the townspeople, the soldiers at the nearby base, and the refugees but soon takes a turn when a refugee is found murdered. Besides the setting – and some temper-induced Earthsinging from Darvyn – there’s really very little magic or fantasy involved in the mystery, though there are some tantalizing worldbuilding hints. Darvyn seems confused that Jack can speak the Lagrimari tongue, explaining that it’s only meant for Singers. It’s also the first time Jack finds out about the Keepers and others working from within Lagrimar against the True Father.
The mystery itself is fine. It’s got all the traditional elements – interviewing the suspects, sorting through red herrings, and even the final “bring all the suspects together” accusation scene. I figured out pretty quickly who the murderer was but still enjoyed the process, mostly because of Darvyn’s hilarious crankiness.
Overall, this was a quick read and a nice setup for the next book, which stars Darvyn.