Publication Date: October 1st 2002
POV: Male - Third-person, Past tense
My Rating: 4 out of 5
A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril, has returned to the noble household he once served as page, and is named, to his great surprise, as the secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule.
It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it will ultimately lead him to the place he fears most, the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies, who once placed him in chains, now occupy lofty positions. In addition to the traitorous intrigues of villains, Cazaril and the Royesse Iselle, are faced with a sinister curse that hangs like a sword over the entire blighted House of Chalion and all who stand in their circle. Only by employing the darkest, most forbidden of magics, can Cazaril hope to protect his royal charge—an act that will mark the loyal, damaged servant as a tool of the miraculous, and trap him, flesh and soul, in a maze of demonic paradox, damnation, and death.
When I asked for recommendations for High Fantasy Romance, this is not exactly what I had in mind. Romance was about 2% of this book. This was a High Fantasy court intrigue through and through, with a touch of magic.
I really liked the main character, Cazaril. He was intelligent, loyal, humble, unusually kind and selfless, determined, and brave when fighting for who and what he believed in. But as a love interest? He was not at all what I look for in a love interest. He was bookish, quiet, and sickly. He was also 16 years older than his love interest.
The romance in this was by no means a focus. There were a few random moments that were enough to make it known that Cazaril had feelings for Betriz, but it was not an epic love. It was a common love. The kind that is good in real life, but not in books. In books its rather disappointing. Its the kind of love that is mostly respect and fondness. The kind that results when a modest girl finds a good husband who will take care of her and provide for her.
The story was somewhat epic though. The story of Cazaril, the most loyal servant anyone could ever ask for, risking life and limb, risking his very soul, facing long avoided enemies, and traveling across mountains and countries to protect his mistress and free her family from the shadow of a curse. And of course, Cazaril is not particularly imposing or physically capable. The fact that he can barely walk and usually vomits after a day on horseback makes it more impressive that he does it at all.
So, if you cannot tell by now, I think that Cazaril carried this book, but even he wasn't enough to make me care about the "romance", if you can even call it that. All in all, it was engaging, if a bit slow. I was very invested in his character, and it had a pleasing ending. But I will not be continuing the series, since it does not continue the story of Cazaril.
“Take heart, sir," Cazaril consoled him. "It is not your destiny today to win a royacy for your son. It is to win an empire for your grandson.”