The Courting of Life and Death
- Traumatising content
Clandestina is a realm of secrets, fairies, and dark magics. Among the nobles there is talk of a goddess of death, and a forbidden magic she grants to those that follow her-- cræft that can heal injuries that should be fatal or even bring back the dead. But she asks for much in return; blood and sometimes even life itself.
Larkspur, or A Necromancer's Romance: Pierre Salvador has just returned to court after finishing his studies and becoming a surgeon. But as he flirts with his childhood friend Elizabeth Anne, Mora, The Lady of Death, waits for him.
Delphinium, or A Necromancer's Home: Lady Elizabeth Anne does not know about the dark magic her beloved practices, and he has no intent to tell her. As they travel to his childhood home for the summer, Pierre Salvador attempts to balance his newfound love with his murderous cræft and his duties as duc.
Aconitella, or A Necromancer's Wife: Coming Soon
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Cladestina is a realm of secrets, fairies, and dark magic, the synopsis says. And that is definitely true. This setting, I can only describe as baroque, is a giant puzzle that invites you to solve them. It is dark, macabre, and dangerous, yet as one learns more about Cladestina, one can't help but feel a sense of romanticism. Of special note is the necrocreaft. It is at times revolting, dangerous and revolting, but also so fascinating. You want to learn more about it and the mythology.
The lead Pierre is charming and interesting enough that you want to follow his story. He is a conflicted character who is walking a dangerous path. As he tries to improve his necrocreaft, one wonders what led him to chose that path, and where it will lead him. Elizabeth is much less explored so far, but she makes for a good foil with her earnestness and innocence. The other characters, we still start to get to know, but one can feel that there are depths and secrets inside them, like Ophion, Wolfram, or Aimee. Though half the time it feels that the necrocreaft is the true protagonist and Pierre the sidekick.
There are several grammar mistakes, like half-sentences mingled together or wrong conjugation. The first chapter is especially guilty of that. But as the story moves on, it becomes much better and nothing a second read-through can't fix.
But what holds the story back is clarity. Way too often have I wondered just what is happening, how or when something happened. A second or third reread had to make things clear. Like the grammar, it improves past the first chapter, which is the worst offender, but it continues to be an issue. Something that doesn't help is the amount of terminology thrown in your face. While, as long as one has a basic grasp of French, one can figure it out just fine, but at times it feels like own is drowning in terms. A guide or notes - ala Terry Pratchet - could help to orientate, and solve that.
A courting of life and death is a great story with a lot of potential and a macabre atmosphere that draws you in. The characters are likable, the setting fascinating, and the plot keeps up the interest. That being said, the first chapters need a thorough edit, and the rest a second read-through.
This story is an absolute instant classic, its narrative style and flow is far above the quality of most novels, the atmosphere that is conveyed through the pages is a dark twisted one that draws you in and keeps you there. The romance aspects also manage to enhance the work and helped hook in a none romance reader like myself.
VMJ has created a unique period fantasy x romance novel that is quite different from most RRL novels. The closest novel on this site that I can think of (that I've read) is probably A Journey of Red and Black, and only because both it and this novel (aka Larkspur) take place in a realistic western historical context. This speaks to the uniqueness of VMJ's novel on a website dominated by litrpg, progression fantasy, battle junkie fics, etc. (I do love those genres, but it's refreshing to read something completely different!)
The novel follows Pierre, a practitioner of necrocraeft, as he steps into his role as a duke after graduating from medical school. Necrocraeft is taboo, and Pierre must balance his practice with his lordly duties.
The above is simply the backdrop for our MC. Enter Lizzy (Elizabeth), the MC's love interest, who appears from chapter 1 and has an interesting story and talents of her own.
The book's romance is direct and not frustrating, in the sense that the two love interests are genuinely in love and it doesn't seem like some awkward love triangle is going to arise out of thin air to ruin everything.
This being said, while the set up is there for this to happen eventually, there still has not been a real conflict/disagreement between Pierre and Lizzy. I feel like it'll happen eventually (if it hasn't happened already in the latter chapters of book 2, which I still haven't finished) but perhaps stronger foreshadowing/hinting of it happening earlier on could be good.
Side characters are interesting and well-developed with their own motivations and goals.
The worldbuilding is excellent, bringing in some familiar fantasy species like fay/fee, while also weaving in novel magic such as necrocraeft/blancraeft. The world itself (geographically) is interesting in that there are different planes and odd/inconsistent/mystical connections between them, all of which is consistent with the caprice of faeries.
The characters and world both feel very-well thought out/planned, and the author clearly has a vision for where the story is going.
Even so, I docked half a star in the story category. Book one was short and sweet, and definitely felt like a coherent episode, however it mostly just felt like setup for book two. This is fine, but means that book one doesn't stand as well on its own (in a way, it's almost like a prologue).
I'm a good way through book two as of writing this review and it definitely feels like there are more plots and stakes afoot, though they are still continuing to build momentum. I look forward to where the plot progresses.
There are very few grammatical errors, and what few I've seen the author has fixed once they've been pointed out.
The prose could use more colons/semicolons. I don't recall them being used very much at all, with commas being used instead (I believe the comma usage is grammatically correct, but that colons/semicolons would sometimes divide longer phrases better).
The fact that ^ this is my main criticism of the grammar/style of the book should emphasize that the writing is a cut above the norm.
One thing to note is that the style of the prose might not be for everyone. It doesn't feel like I'm reading a novel from a hundred years ago by any means, but VMJ definitely evokes a period fantasy vibe. It's an intentional choice and done very well/consistently so I'd be remiss for subtracting any stars, but it's personally not my favorite narrative style (sorry folks I'm an Austen hater).
In short, this novel is unique and probably not for everyone, but absolutely worth checking out! :)
I wouldn't consider myself a constituent of the target audience for romance but this was a very interesting and insightful read. The world and characters are definitely the biggest draw for me and they come across beautifully in the first bunch of chapters.
For me, the world and mystique the author has woven around it and the magic systems that it's inhabitants adhere to are the biggest draw. We are slowly and carefully introduced to the world, we're given the chance to feel some wonder as we learn about Clandestina and its surrounding nations. The magic system actually feels like magic. It's wonderful and mystical and makes me think of the first time I read Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And I appreciate that the author doesn't just dump everything on us, instead we get to learn it in a very organic feeling way.
While I'm not the biggest fan of the "slightly aloof, learned noble" character trope, Pierre comes across as believable and 'human.' His motives are muddy and mysterious, at least as far as I've read, and this makes me want to learn more about him. He is an excellent vehicle for the reader to learn of the wider word that the author has made. I won't be too harsh on the rest of the characters but so far Elizabeth seems naive and sheltered, which is believable when we consider her upbringing as a nobles daughter. She is very smart and observant and I think, and hope, she'll end up being a very strong character in her own right and not just a love interest that acts as a foil to keep Pierre grounded.
I'm rolling style and grammar into one as they are both well-handled and ensure that the reader stays involved and immersed in the story. The prose is wonderful and balanced, being descriptive while also being able to keep a good, even pace throughout the chapters. The only time I felt like it was a bit of a slog was right at the beginning of the first chapter and that was really only due to my misgivings at seeing the "romance" tag.
Overall, I enjoyed what I've read so far and will eventually find my way back to learn more about the world the author has built and to see how Pierre and Elizabeth develop. And I wanna see more Mora. Definitely.
The story did not disappoint. It was a bit difficult to grasp where everything was and what was happening at first but there's enough information given to readers that allows them to make sense of the important things. This creates a lot of
First of all, I'm a bit jealous. It flows well and keeps the story moving at all times. The way things are described and how characters talk sets a strong mood and atmosphere. It's fun to read while not being difficult. The narration also is very intertwined with the characters, showing their inner wants and the like while always slipping in more information.
Things are quite dark, not grimdark, but dark. Mora is a Lady of Death and with her, she brings death (self explaintory, I know, but I had to say it). Illness and death is just a part of life and this novel makes sure not to shy away from it.
There is a sweet romance that blooms rather quickly but there's a lot of monkey wrenches that seem to threaten it. At the time I'm reviewing this, there's not an obvious direction for the story to go but I appreciate its slower burn.
Yes, I know I spelled it wrong. The grammar is good. There are a few small mistakes here and there and a few awkward sentences, mostly because of their length, but it doesn't detract from the story.
The characters are good. I would rate this section higher but it's been a bit dominated by the male lead, Pierre, so far. A little bit more focus on the female lead, Liz, or Mora, would easily fix any problems I might have.
TL;DR: It's different from a lot of the other things on this site and its pretty good. If you're looking for an interesting romance with a well done world, then this is for you.
I have followed this author across multiple platforms and can say with confidence that this is someone to look into.
Her mastery of English and storytelling allows for remarkable tales!
The style is easy to follow and powerful!
The grammar is perfect, and if you have any complaints, you seriously must be pickier than chimps at an auction for lice!
Characters are published quality; no complaints there.
Check it out on Amazon! It's even better!
I personally don't like the noble setting, and all their flowery languages custums etc.., so I'll detract half a star on the style for that, though i admit it's a purely subjective thing.
If it wasn't for that i may have really liked this story: characters are well made, the grammar is good, the story looks interesting up until where i read, the world looks very interesting and I can grudgingly admit that the stile is just right for the setting.
So I can honestly recommend this one.
... damn nobles.
The style chosen was in third person and executed very well, and there's not much to critique about it either.
The story and characters were interesting and really glued my butt to the sofa as I was reading. The characters are dynamic and feel very much alive. The author explained a few concepts rather well, I love it when the author is able to relate fantasy elements to the real world, connecting magic with science, and giving magical spells a basis in things we know.
There's not much to say about grammar, nothing really affected my reading experience, but I could spot a few things that looked weird (but English isn't my first language so my grammar might be a bit wonky in some areas).
You can tell within a few paragraphs this is very much a different world, with its own rules and established setting. Leaving such a strong first impression is really impressive! I especially like the usage of fan and flower languages, I thought they brought a nice touch.
The language of the story (specifically, how the author writes) particularly suits the high fantasy aristocratic setting. A little formal, at times a bit stiff and almost pompous, but engaging and enjoyable all the same. Aside from a tendency toward longer sentences, which isn't necessarily a flaw anyway, I haven't found anything about the grammar to comment on.
The story flows organically, and the characterization is lovely. I went in knowing nothing about the story, and by the end of the first chapter I... Still had no idea what was going on, but it didn't feel overwhelming or uncomfortable. The character's personalities shine through in dialogue, and the deep world-building combined with an interesting plot premise have me impatient to read the next chapters.
I really like what I've read so far and I'm very interested to see where the story is going.
The TL;DR version. This story is beautiful and well written. You would expect to find this writing on the shelf at a bookstore, and buying the first book, Larkspur, on Amazon was worth every penny of the 0.99 in my opinion. To have the opportunity to read it for free here on Royal Road is something that you should absolutely take (and consider supporting the author regardless).
The long version.
I wish I was good enough with words to do justice to how well this novel reads. It is like the smooth smell of plants and earth in a mid-spring garden after all the sharpness of winter has blown away. This starkly contrasts with its grisly and dark content, which makes it lovely to read. Perhaps it is less like a garden, and more like a well-planted graveyard of words. A beautiful place to look at or roam through, but a disturbing place none the less.
Therefore, I have given style full points. It is distinct and a pleasure to read. If I could give it more I would.
I am not a grammar critic since my personal grammar skills are not great, but I never had a problem with any of the grammar in the book. To the best of my poor knowledge, it was all perfect, so I give that 5 stars as well.
As far as Larkspur is concerned, the story is not extremely well defined, but that does not mean it is not there. It is subtle and spread over the two sides of the main character's life, as the description says. Nevertheless, it is captivating, and I found myself asking what would happen next all the time, expecting either a terrible or a lovely thing to occur around Pierre. I give it 4.5 stars because I didn't find it "perfect", but I never felt at all bored while reading either. Its good, and its what is on the tin.
The characters are done well. I have no particular complaints about any of them, but I also can't find myself praising them either. I do not think that Larkspur in and of itself is enough to give them a great deal of depth or to get me emotionally invested in them. Do not get me wrong, they do not disappoint at all. The characters have multiple facets and they are interesting, but I do not feel very attached to them yet - which is something I look for in characters. (I have the feeling this will change as I read into Delphinium further).
Overall, a wonderful novel and well worth the read, and I am going to continue into the rest of the author's works. It is a story of fairies, romance, fantasy, and dark magic that has the spirit of many classic novels as well as more modern work.