Aleksandr Voinov is one of my favorite writers and I was very much looking forward to reading this fantasy story of his, filled with characters and locations that would transport me to an entirely different place, yet make it feel so familiar in that I would recognize the sounds and tastes and smells. Mission accomplished.
by Aleksander Voinov
Published by Riptide Publishing
4.5 out of 5 Daggers
From the Publisher:
Never stop fighting.
Kendras is a casualty of war: injured, penniless, and quite possibly the last surviving member of the only family he’s ever had—the elite fighting force known as the Scorpions. When a steel-eyed mercenary offers him medicine and shelter in exchange for submission and a secret task, Kendras has no choice but to accept. He is a Scorpion; he’ll do whatever it takes to survive.
But his true goal is to rebuild the Scorpions. Neither Steel’s possessive nature nor Kendras’s shattered foot can keep him from finding the last of his brothers, or the mysterious leader of the Scorpions, the man who held Kendras’s heart long before Steel tried to take it for himself.
The goal is simple, the situation anything but. To rescue his leader and escape from Steel for good, Kendras must fight through a morass of politics and intrigue where enemies may be allies and even allies have hidden agendas. But Kendras isn’t only fighting for his lost lover and tribe—he soon realizes that nothing less than the birth of an Empire is at stake.
(Note: This is a revised edition of Scorpion, originally released in May, 2011.)
Intrigue, Oaths, Humor and Swords…
A mix of historical, fantasy, and very olde world – as in this could be Persia two thousand years ago. Sandy and dirty, simple and yet full of machinations on the parts of the humans populating this world. The grunt work and the trekking and the sword fighting and the surviving are the meat of the story, with Kendras and the other Scorpions, along with other characters, are the soul supporting it all. This isn’t a romance in what most would probably call the classical sense, just be aware. The adventure and fantasy aspects bring the sexual connections along with it, and it all works.
Kendras, Steel, Widow and Adrastes are all incredibly different characters but are treated fully, showing all of their dangerous, quiet, capable and sexy qualities. Yes, even Widow is sexy… very. If you’re looking for a spate of alpha characters, you’ll be gorging here. Beyond that, even with all of their alpha-ness, each has bits of them that point to the ability to allow someone else to be in control in those precise moments. In other words, it – they – can go both ways. They’re unique while being relatable and seem to fit into the nooks and crannies of the story, which always makes things much more interesting. In other words, not always the obvious. A hallmark of Voinov’s writing for me
Another one of the bazillion reasons I enjoy AV’s writing: his ability to blend humor, reality and hotness in a single sentence, all while telling you something about a character. Ex: “Kendras grinned wryly. He’d been like that more than once. Nothing like sharing a bed and puking into the same bucket in the morning.”
Selvan is an interesting character, there is something ‘there’ with him. It feels like there is an entire backstory that I hope we get in a future volume to this series. Kendras remembers something he was told: Don’t forget that weakness for Selvan is a choice. Yeah. And this choice is displayed with such complexity and truth that I found myself looking forward to the next page on which he would appear the very moment he’d just left one. He’s probably one of my favorite supporting characters in a story. Now there’s a category for you.
Traveling, battling, scheming – they’re all in here. When the settings incorporate several kingdoms, literally, as well as what stood as a dingy pub in those days (see? It feels like it takes place in a real location!), and simple tents pitched to snag some badly needed sleep and care for the wounded, those are difficult transitions to make if you want them all to feel right. Guess what? They all feel right. Things did get slow for me in a couple of places but that’s on me, not the writing: sometimes I’m totally in the mood for detailed descriptions while reading a story and sometimes I’m not as patient. AV is not one who wastes page space with unnecessary stuff, so have no worries about long passages that lead nowhere. They don’t really exist here.
Feel: it’s a word I can’t really avoid using whenever I try to describe this or any other of AV’s stories. I feel the mute desperation. I feel the cold when it rides out on an exhale. I feel the packed earth beneath the screaking cot, whether from use as unfolded or from the person lying upon it, like Kendras. I feel the needful hesitation and the inability to ignore it. I feel the basso reverberations from swords clashing and dragging, and the groans grabbing between tangled lips and tongues. Even as still as I may sit while I read, my entire body is in motion from these feelings. I just want to chomp down on a raw piece of meat (no pun, I mean it) and do it with subtlety and purpose. I can see the drops of blood from every spray and spurt as they land with muted thumps, ignored, on the compacted, darkened sand.
One of the greatest things a writer can do is create a world in which everything that happens makes sense. When you realize you’ve been sitting still for so long because every word feels like the next foothold in the cliff, it makes sense. Will he hold on? When your mouth drops open because he just told a secret that changes everything, it makes sense. Or is it a lie? When you pump your fist in shared victory because he’s just outsmarted the bastard king, it makes sense. Wait, I thought – He… – What just – I mean, what the fuck?
Also, on a completely shallow tip: Kendras is beautifully hot. I rarely mention covers, but the cover for this book is perfect. This is an incredibly sexy, capable, dangerous and intelligent man – it’s all in those eyes. I guess I really shouldn’t say shallow because the cover is so well done and definitely evokes a reaction and speaks to the character without a doubt.
There are a few surprises as conflicts are partially resolved, only to crack open the cans to some others. I have to say, by the end of this book, it left me with no idea as to where things were going. Who will survive beyond this? To whom will Kendras find himself unavoidably connected? Who will love? Who will hate? Save? Kill?
This is one of those stories that a lot of the detail could really be considered spoilers, which may have made this all seem sort of vague or general as I attempted to offer nary a one. If you’re looking for adventure in a rough place with strong characters that you won’t soon forget, with unapologetic sex and motivations amidst the grim locations and twisty ways, this is the story for you. I know it was for me. Lying With Scorpions (Memory of Scorpions 2), next up in the series, looks ready to offer more of this fantastic fantasy… I’m off to find out. 😉
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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