by J.K. Pendragon
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Publication Date: December 14, 2020
Genres: Romance, Fantasy
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Destined for an arranged marriage she wants nothing to do with, Princess Breanwynne decides her only option for escape is to run away. After announcing this plan to her trusted cat, Fen, she’s shocked when he asks that she take him along.
Following his suggestion to venture into the lair of the Swamp Witch begins a life-altering adventure and reveals shocking information that will lead to more than one happily ever after—if she and Fen survive.
Oh hello, fluffy queer wonderfulness! The cover caught my eye – orange cat + books + purples = you have my attention – and the blurb sounded adorable, and this novella definitely lived up to both.
Princess Brean does not want to marry the Saishen prince, not the least because she’s not interested in men. But when her mother the queen refuses to listen, Brean does the only thing she can: she runs away to the swamp, and in the process finds out that her, Fen, cat can talk and wants to come with her. Eventually Fen explains that he’s looking for a witch who lives in the swamp, and when they arrive, it’s clear that Fen and Mel, the witch, have some history between them.
“She doesn’t want to marry a prince at all,” said Fen from under the table where he’d taken cover from the smoke. “She’s dreaming of a princess.”
“Shut up, Fen!” I snapped. “She doesn’t have to be a princess.”
“Right,” said Fen. “You would have married that serving girl if she hadn’t run off with the duke.”
I scowled at him. “I liked you better when you didn’t talk.”
The book is told solely from Brean’s first-person POV. Brean, Mel and Fen are all keeping secrets of some sort, and watching them come clean with each other was the highlight of the book. Besides their interactions, there were also other amusing tidbits, like the battle in Mel’s garden between the little Forestlings and the Seafolk (who actually live near a stream) and the fact that many of Mel’s potions seem to end in sticky messes. While Brean and Mel start off on the wrong foot, as their secrets are shared they slowly grow together. The romance is sweet and understated, with nothing more than a couple of kisses on-page, but it was satisfying for me.
It’s also delightfully queer. There’s lesbians, gay marriage (though it seems like Brean’s kingdom holds more to cishet ones) and two trans characters. Besides the very minor content warnings, it’s very low angst and fluffy. The pacing is a little uneven, and you’re dropped into the story right in the middle of things, so there was a bit of info dumping at first to figure out what was going on. The only thing that made me uncomfortable was View Spoiler »how Brean married the lost princess. Even though they intended to switch bodies back, I was a bit uncomfortable that she was temporarily married to who I thought of as Fen-in-Mel’s-body. « Hide Spoiler
Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4. It’s quick and fluffy fun and utterly heartwarming.