The Courting of Life and Death

The Courting of Life and Death

by VMJaskiernia

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Traumatising content

Buy the books, or cross-post your RR review, please and thank you! ❤

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.

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.

I do not take my books down from Royal Road. I do edit, polish, and rewrite things for the published release. (Vol 1 is just short.)

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Macabre Fantasy Romance

2nd Anniversary
115 Reviews
600 Review Upvotes
Word Count (10)
Top List #50
Premium Member
Table of Contents
61 Chapters
Chapter Name Release Date
Characters, Maps, and Lore ago
Books ago
1.1 ~ Gala ago
1.2 ~ Illness ago
1.3 ~ Lord of Death ago
1.4 ~ Fairies and Daimons ago
1.5 ~ Murder ago
1.6 ~ Poison ago
2.1 ~ Spirits of Death ago
2.2 ~ Cræft ago
2.3 ~ Fée Funeral ago
2.4 ~ Her Fate ago
2.5 ~ Witch ago
2.6 ~ Flirting ago
2.7 ~ A Favor ago
2.8 ~ Château ago
2.9 ~ Death and Dreams ago
2.10 ~ Council Meeting ago
2.11 ~ Dancing Lessons ago
2.12 ~ Going Into Town ago
2.13 ~ Sabine ago
2.14 ~ Letters ago
2.15 ~ The Ladies ago
2.16 ~ Secrets ago
2.17 ~ Foundling ago
2.18 ~ Surgery ago
2.19 ~ Authority ago
2.20 ~ More Letters ago
2.21 ~ Fairy Boots ago
2.22 ~ Fortune Telling ago
2.23 ~ Dead ago
2.24 ~ Dinner ago
2.25 ~ Blancræft ago
2.26 ~ Necrocræft ago
2.27 ~ Presence of Death ago
2.28 ~ Meetings ago
2.29 ~ Magic of Death ago
2.30 ~ Familiar ago
2.31 ~ Midspring and Summerfinding ago
2.32 ~ Church ago
2.33 ~ Mora ago
2.34 ~ Feuilles ago
2.35 ~ The Prince and the Duc ago
2.36 ~ Cold Iron ago
2.37 ~ Cursed ago
2.38 ~ Fay ago
2.39 ~ Loyalties ago
2.40 ~ Ghosts ago
2.41 ~ Clinic ago
2.42 ~ Hospital ago
2.43 ~ Blood ago
2.44 ~ Summer ago
2.45 ~ Jourdain ago
2.46 ~ Caught ago
2.47 ~ Death ago
2.48 ~ Requiem ago
2.49 ~ Engagement ago
2.50 ~ Truth ago
2.51 ~ Revenge ago
3.1 ~ Wedding ago
3.2 ~ Tête-à-tête ago

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One of the tightest reads on RR

Reviewed at: 2.30 ~ Familiar

Stylistically, this story is brimming with a certain flamboyance and fliar that you really expect from a story that you'd pick up off of a shelf at a strange bookshop you found when wandering dark alleyways. It positively bleeds with intricacy and a clear craftsmanship that is, frankly, envy inducing. 

The story itself is winding and somewhat obscure, but int he good way. Much of the story is hidden between the lines and in small statements the characters say and think, ready to pop open the lid of a box you missed, suprising you with a new situation or problem to solve.

Grammar is nigh flawless, no doubt due to the lengthy feedvack the author recieves in the comments of their chapters, as well as a skillfull attention to detail that most on RR don't care to develop, or just don't use.

The characters, in my opinion, sometimes feel a little vague, which I think is the intention, with our understanding of them being constantly challenged by new problems for them to overcome. Any demerit that this vagueness might acrue is severely decreased by just how tightly written the story is, making each story beat feel compact and punchy rather than wishy-washy and excessive.

In conclusion, The Courting of Life and Death stands, in my mind, as one of the closest stories to being genuinely out of place on Royal Road in just how well it is written and constructed, feeling far more like something you'd find on a bookstore's shelves.


This is a sort of gothic fantasy story that people with a love for the macabre and a court setting will absolutely love. Pierre, on the day of his graduation, takes a final step to achieve power over death itself. This book has an imaginative world, with a feeling of pre-revolution France with a variety of paranormal elements. The world feels real, with a culture all its own. It's clearly very well thought out. You can feel the love for the setting in the writing.

Style- It has the feel of a classic novel. There is a good command of the sort of dialogue and dialect of refined nobility, and little elements of worldbuilding are well woven into the dialogue. 

Story- My one critique is that it may go into the plot of Pierre harnessing the dark powers a little too quickly. He is out to achieve mastery of the power of death, but I'm left curious (at the start) why he needs this power, given his privilege. It gets expounded on later, but I would have liked some more to start. 

Grammar Score- I saw no issues with the grammar in this story. Well done!

Character Score- Each character feels true and consistent, and fits their role well.



Read the first chapter, for real.

Reviewed at: 1.5 ~ Murder

Sub-title: It will directly hook you if you like this kind of stories.


- Style:

The style used is built around character actions and interaction, supporting them and giving them life in a very masterful manner. Unsurprising, as this is a professional book after all, but impressive nonetheless.


- Grammar:

Nothing to say.


- Story:

The story is woven as a punch in the guts and, once you’ve bitten the meat of it, it’s really romantic, in a very special way. The duality between life and death is very well used for the plot and the romance.


- Characters:

The way characters speak is very refined, giving an authentic touch to the noble status of the main character and the people around him.

This, coupled with impactful and powerful yet simple actions, produce characters that are interesting, fascinating even, and very human. In particular, the MC is very well written.


- Overall:

An extraordinary work of dark and gothic romance, The Courting of Life and Death is written with a mastery of contrast and duality rarely seen even in the professional realm, a powerful strength for the themes it’s based on.


- Stray thoughts :

The story is fast into the action, it’s very nice as it grabs you directly.

The first part of the first chapter are so sweet, it contains nearly as much sugar as my own work XD (which is a lot)

Wow. This first chapter.

I feel like my reading list keeps growing since I started doing swaps last week. I read so many good stories already, and this one is not an exception to this statement.

Note: I give 5 out of 5 to novels that are of a professional level. This story is at that level.

B. A. Baker (Thedude3445)

The Courting of Life and Death - Weekly Review

Reviewed at: ~ Hanging ~

It’s Gothic Romance plus a more traditional fantasy world—with a male protagonist. None of this is in my wheelhouse whatsoever and I didn’t go in expecting to enjoy it that much except in a professional sense of, “Oh that’s some interesting stuff.” And it’s even further away from the typical Royal Road wheelhouse as well, with no action and a heavy focus on the subtler parts of storytelling.

However, there’s a reason this story has such a high ranking on Royal Road and why it has vastly more views than you would ever expect going in—because the story itself is extremely good, so good that it somehow converts even the most ardent anti-fan into a true believer.

The writing hews close to that Gothic fiction style but with more modern syntax. The language is as memorable and vivid as in whatever 19th century books you may have read and loved. It’s grim and dark but never anything less than courteous and pretty. After reading my share of this story I had changed to another story to progress in it, and found immediately that I was disappointed that the nice writing had gone away. It’s rare that that happens on this site.

The characters are wonderful, too, following romance novel tropes closely but having really nice voices for each of the characters (and that’s despite an omniscient narrator). I am not far enough in the story as of this writing to accurately judge just how well the characters develop or how the plot goes, but it is all established well.

I’m sure other stories do it, but I was surprised to find that this story takes place in a fantasy world rather than the real one in a historical period. There’s a cool map, plus a fairy-like race and a bunch of minor lore that adds nice details (my favorite being a currency conversion chart in the first chapter).

I was surprised at the story’s success when I first started reading. Now I’m not surprised at all. I’ll definitely continue the rest of The Courting of Life and Death when I have the time and I hope you read it too.


Excellent Writing in a Lovingly-Crafted World

Reviewed at: ~ First Kiss ~

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.


This is an excellent story and there is no denying the author has put a lot of love and time into it's construction. 

There are classic elements in the structure of the world that the author builds but they are blended with a unique touch and mystique that pulls the reader in. The details outlined with things such as necromancy show that the author has put a great deal of thought into how everything will work and what makes it truely unique to this world that we read of. It gave a whole additional layer for me as a reader to be interested about, for as the story progressed so to did my understanding of the world and my intrigue in the craft they describe. 

The story is one of romance, but to call it just that would be an injustice. Our protaganist has returned to his homestead and the company of a childhood friend to whom he appears smitten. But the spirit of death seems to have already claimed our main character and this mysterious ghostly spectre of a woman comes to him and holds sway over his actions. As far as a premise goes this is pretty damn good. Our main character is a necromancer of sorts though he is still going through the trails which that entails.

The story is linear and each chapter progresses with the different days for the most part. With so much going on in the first few chapters this works to keep things coherent and the consistency is nice to see as a reader. 

In the first few chapters we meet with only a few characters but everyone is well rounded and likeable. They all fit the setting well and have a clearly strong line for their development as the story progresses. Thus far my personal favorite is Ophion, who for the most part seems to understand the main character the most. The pair share a history in the same craft and while reading this gives him a lot of depth. Should his backstory be delved into further later in the book I would be delighted and if not then I very much would like to know more of this character. 

All in all this is a very well writen story, with some amazing detail and great characters. I highly recomend anyone curious to give it a read. 


An interesting, if dark, take on an old genre

Reviewed at: 6 ~ Larkspur ~ Poison

So I gave this story a try.

I've never been the sort to dive into romances, so I was initially a little worried that I'd have to slog through some overdone Twilight-esque teen cringefest. And... that never happened. Instead, what you have is the story of a young man coming to grips with his own powers; someone that puts on the appearance of being a kind protagonist, but through his actions proves that he truly isn’t. 

It’s a little strange, but right from the start there’s this feeling that the world is a whole lot bigger and more complicated than initially shown. 



Slow initially. I think the start is mostly setting up dominos for later, but there’s enough motion and action to keep things moving even as the initial world building and exposition is laid out.



Third Omniscient. Not my favourite, but pulled off well enough that I can’t find fault with it. It does give the narration a good deal of flexibility when introducing the world. Speaking of...



Developed as heck. I still have lots of questions about the world, but most of these might be answered later. We see things through the eyes of the nobility, so it’s perhaps natural that some little things are ignored. 



On the fence with this one. The characters seem damned well developed, and their voices and personalities shine through, yet I’d like to know a little more about their motivations. The main love interest is plain enough, but the main character wants to... do... something? It’s not clear yet. Still, there’s an obvious build towards something. 

Anywho. A decent read, a fresh take on not!vampires and a cool world with just a pinch of romance for the people that are into that. Give it a try!


A menage á trois with additional mysteries in a mysterious land.

If you enjoy romance and mystery or just one of them, pick this up. If you don't, give it a try anyways, you will likely be pleasantly surprised.

Normally this is not the kind of novel I'd choose to pick up, but it was recommended to me by several sources. I can still say this is not the type of novel I'd choose to read, but I have no regrets. 

The story is compelling and fascinating, with hints and bits about what might happen, is going to maybe happen or has happened. The pace is slow and the writing has a stately feel to it. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the stilted and elaborate etiquette in court functions - and the ways people find to circumvent such.

Due to the slow pace and the writing style, the writing itself sometimes felt a bit heavy to me, I'm not sure if that's a completely subjective experience, so you'll have to see for yourself.

There are some phrases I personally would have done differently and the occasional rapidly repeating word and that is the worst I could find. In other words, excellent grammar, spelling and vocabulary. 

Due to the slow build-up of the story, the characters take a lot of time to present themselves. While they are rich in flavor, each with their own particularities and details to make them distinct from one another, the characters are slow at going deeper than surface reflection. However, there are plenty of hints of deeper things happening.

As an example, the familiar who supposedly shares his life and his secrets for quite some time already, feels less real than the new assistant and could do with some attention.