The Courting of Life and Death
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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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This one is going to be a bit different.
For the purpose of preventing my reviews from being formualiac and because the story itself warrants it, this review will be written in a slightly different format and the story taken a look at from an angle different to most of my reviews.
This is not your standard RoyalRoad story, by a lengthy shot, and deserves to be treated as such. Keep in mind that I may gloss over and even leave out some elements I usually include in my reviews for this purpose.
With that, onto the first subject.
The Courting is not a story well-suited for RR, and in a good way. It's blatantly published-quality work, and part of a genre that is niche on RR. That said, it is a very readable and fascinating experience, if a bit hard to get into in the first few chapters. Stick with it, however. The first twist will make it well worth it.
It is unashamedly a romance story, but not consumed by that or unreadable to those who come for the dark fantasy instead.
Will the average RoyalRoad reader enjoy it or have the patience to take part of this patiently burning story? Somewhat doubtful. It requires investment and the willingness to wait for your payoffs, not instant gratification.
The dark fantasy element is, again, non-standard to this site. Whereas most stories labeled Dark Fantasy on RR border on grimdark and are often grim and depressing clusterfuqs of hopelessness and horrible places where no one gets to have anything good, The Courting is far more subtle and elegant about it, yet suitably macabre and dark.
This is shown through the character, lore and minimal exposition. The necrocraft is a delightful turn away from standard dark magicks, with its own unique twists and rules, and one of the few magic systems I actually became interested in and meshed well with the setting of Clandestina.
Mora is perhaps one of the most involved deity-like (not the correct label but close enough) characters I've come across, appearing and staying relevant to the plot early on.
The characters are wholly well-done, which fits the theme of this being a polished fiction made to be published. Pierre seems like a white-knightish protagonist in the first few chapters, albeit with some hints at darker things, but the reveal and scene that cemented him as a very morally grey character was perfect.
I wont say more regarding characters as I believe there is very little to critique, and other than praise regarding the cast and how well they mesh with the theme and setting of the story, I believe I can safely move on.
It's more than worth noting that while the influence of the nobility and court politics are prevalent and only grow heavier as the story moves on, with Pierre occupying high positions in current chapters, it as well takes a step in a different direction. I applaud the step out of the usual English coury setting and modeling the nobility of Clandestina to have a very pervasive French influence instead, with all the nuance and freshness that accompanies that.
The grammar is nothing less than perfect, and prose is what one would expect from a polished, published fiction.
The style is uniquely rare in that it almost seems made specifically for the theme and setting of the story, giving it a depth and flow that further enhances the reader experience if you truly dedicate yourself to reading this. VMJ has a talent for setting up later payoffs and revelations that seem obvious in hindsight but hidden early on. As something who only occasionally manages this, this is what talent and hard work can amount to.
Chapter length does vary, but instead of working towards and word count, the author goes for content instead, not throwing in useless fluff and filler simply to pad her word count and page numbers. Commendable.
If you enjoy romance stories that aren't just about the romance and offers smooth dialogue, true polish and top-quality editing, many-faceted characters, give this a try. If you like dark fantasy and would like to see a title on RR sway from the template while offering what you came for, and don't mind a well-constructed romance, by all means go ahead.
I read. I enjoyed. And now I have reviewed. Short, but I would rather you actually go read the story than listen to me prattle on and on and grow bored.
...You're receiving an essentially polished and ready to publish book for free. Read it.
Different than other novels on RR, it's so wholesome it could be published physical book instead. And I bet it would be bestseller.
When I read it, the victorian atmosphere just hit me in the brain and pulled me right inside. Beautifull, exquisitively crafted descriptions that will force you to imagine you being here but still gives you enough space to imagine your own things. It reads as Jane Austin books a little bit. (and that's a big, BIG bow from me).
The story is dark and mysterious that you will just impatiently await more chapters.
All characters are having personalities, ambitions and motivations. You will dive into life of nobles in the victorian era, where intrigues and rules of conduct are important. But there is a scale of characters, each of them important. You feel them live their lives even when they leave the scene.
Magic is very tasteful and not too much or too little. Incredible how can you write magic system without overblowing it.
For what I can say, that grammar is perfect.
What can I say? Read it! Definitely! R.E.A.D I.T!
Brilliant work by the author in creating this piece of dark fantasy. Follow the exploits of Pierre as he dabbles in dark magic and pursues romance but all with ever-present spectre of Mora, the Lady of Death. The book opens with blossoming romance but takes a sharp turn into the nighttime world of the supernatural with blood rites and ritual as Pierre traverses the realms between the living and the dead. Familiars, faries and other fey creatures form part of this dark but enchanting realm. The script is written in a flowing style with language typical of the English Victorian / Elizabethean courtship era. This adds a sense of history which pairs well with the sense of lost archaic forbidden magics and creatures of old. Am definitely going to continue reading this one!
This story a highly organized and well-written work of art. The amount of planning put into every aspect is incredible.
The characters are well developed. The interactions are fluid and believable. The world is captivating; the prose is engaging.
Go and read it!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm taking my own advice to read the rest of this polished gem.
To start, this is novel novel is positively dripping with lore and aesthetic. This means that the writing is dense to the point where it might turn off some readers, but that doesn't mean it is bad. The novel is a true Gothic Romance and very very good at what it does. It's filled with clever wordplay and medieval dating/courtship rituals all with an undercurrent of magic and folklore that is both feral and dangerous.
The style is where this shines. The dialogue is stilted in a charming way, mimicking the overwrought langauge of the court. That said, the wording, wordplay, nonverbal cues, descriptions, all of it is very well done without going over the top. It very much feels like something written in the 18th century about a man of science harboring a dark secret. If you enjoy any of the old school proto-horror novels such as Dracula or Frankenstein (where half of the purpose was the aesthetic of the era) this book is VERY much worth a read for the style alone.
I didn't notice any errors, that's a good thing.
The story is ultimately a love story with some elements of jealousy mixed in. At times it can run a little slow, a bit overburdened by the lore and the world it dwells in, but I am very much engaged in it nonetheless.
There are limited characters, all of whom are interesting and have their own role and voice. There isn't much to say other than 'they're well done' and 'more Wolfram.'
Dark Magic, Death, Blood, and the Fea are wonderfully twisted into the rules of the forbidden magic of necrocreaft. Mora, the Lady of Death, is both chilling and intriguing. Her courtship with the MC Perrie grants him both power and puts his life at peril. I do sometimes wonder at the risks he takes for such magic. To heal is a wonderful thing, but if it means the person you heal may die a more gruesome death, or you yourself are guaranteed a painful death—not to mention the whole art of necrocreaft is forbidden. It’s a lot of risk not to be taken lightly, though, I can see how it would feel pretty powerful being able to literally bring someone back from the dead.
The writing is detailed and beautifully crafted. The dark twist of the magic, the costs, and its status in the world are wonderfully thrilling. Elizabeth, Pierre’s love interest, while seemingly innocent is also curious about magic and knows just enough about necrocreaft to uncover Pierre’s secret if she gets too close.
This is an easy 5 stars for me. There were minor bumps of confusion that I left in my comments but overall this was a pleasure to read and I am definitely looking forward to more.
Reviewed at chapter 2.3
Pierre Salvador is a nobleman with a plan. A plan to advance his magical power in a world containing an enormous hidden depths and subterfuge.
But what happens to his magical plans when he comes across his childhood love? What decisions will he make when one risks the other?
Style score: The stories style is very subtle and sneaky. I am not a fan of romance novels, and every time I went to turn away from reading it in order to seek something put that was a little more action-y, I found myself not actually putting this story down. There were some choices the author made, such as using duc instead of duke or cræft instead of craft that I rolled my eyes at. The word choices meant to provide uniqueness I found distracting instead. Those things are, of course, intentional by the author, and is more of a nitpick of mine than anything else. But because it caused me to lose immersion, I feel like I can't give it full 5 stars in this field. That it warrants 4.5/5 from a reader not enthusiastic about the romance genre should tell you something, though.
Story Score: I found no issues with pacing. Plot moved forward well. I feel like this is an excellent example of what a romance story should be.
Grammar score: I found a single typo in all that I've read so far. Well above the rr average. Much better than my own story.
Character Score: Characters were well thought out and displayed their own unique voice. I never was confused who was who. I did think there were several opportunities missed that more characterization could have made the story really shine further, and that is why I felt it didn’t warrant a full 5 stars in this category.
In summary, I think that if you are a fan of romance stories, this is a must read. If that isn't a genre you like, then I would recommend reading with caution that it just might not be for you.
Review - The Courting of Life and Death ~
To begin, I have to give the author props for a very well written story. It is very well put together in all important aspects.
First - Style - The style holds the attention of the reader and keeps them hooked until the last chapter. The author runs a fine line of foreshadowing, mystery, and clarity without any mistakes as of yet. The only thing that irks me, but maybe not others, is the long sentences that can almost span a paragraph. While they are very uncommon, they still detract just a tiny bit from the style.
Grammar - Spotless. I may not be a Grammar Nazi, but i try to keep up with all things grammar. Yet, I found almost no mistakes in my view. Well, done.
Stroy - I was hooked from the beginning till the end. Its the Authors strongest point in my opinion. Great Job.
Characters - The characters are quite varied and each represent who they are and could possibly be. They arent flat with no prospect of grownth any time soon.
In conclusion, this is a must read on RR.
This novel is extremely well written and will keep you entertained. I'll admit that this isn't really my genre but because it's so well done it kept me engaged.
You can tell the author took their time to proofread their content because I couldn't find any grammar mistakes(although people might have already pointed them out to him by the time I started reading). The characters are interesting and I want to see where they'll end up as the story progresses.
Overall this is something every new writer should read if they want to learn how to get better at their craft.
Not a combination you'd normally expect. The power over Death in fantasy often goes hand in hand with rotting corpses and necromancy, but this is a little different. Sure, we've got the MC who dies and comes back to something like un-life, but there are none of the familiar zombie tropes here. Instead, we're presented with a richly-built universe replete with a complex system of magic whose workings are dropped via hints and allusions. And the best part? Everything is original, which makes this a very compelling read.
The author has flair, telling the story with rich and colorful(purple being the only one missing) prose, narrating what is obviously a very complex and well-thought-out universe through a Victorian-esque style. There's a bit of a learning curve, but the unique terms and and style really give the story a sense of depth that is so lacking with most on this site.
Still pretty early days, so it's hard to tell where this will go. We've seen setup for some potentially very interesting events down the line, but the romance is also only just budding between the protagonist Pierre and the heroine Elizabeth. Still, given the richness of the universe and the machinations behind the world's magic, I'm sure we'll see some juicy plot here before long.
Flawless. Published-quality, honestly, and the author has a knack for beautiful prose. Sentences and paragraphs flow like a river, and there are pretty much zero spelling and grammatical errors to be found. Easy 5/5
The meat and blood of a romance story. Luckily, the characters in this one are strong. Pierre comes across as an educated, feeling individual, and Mora has such a sense of depth to her that I somehow found myself rooting for a Pierre x Mora romance. Mora is a truly mysterious, seductive character. Elizabeth, in contrast, feels a bit less well-fleshed out to me, but I get the sense that we'll see more development in that department soon. The author seems to have some genuinely interesting plans for her!
In summary, though we've yet to see a whole lot of romance, the worldbuilding, the style, and the grammar all work together to create a truly novel universe in which this surprising romance is set. Once we see the romance build, I'll bet you will be fully engaged, and perhaps a bit horrified, in this romance between a dead man and a living girl.