Seeking Solace by Anna Steffl
Published by evenSO Press
The first book in the Solace trilogy follows Arvana, the only Solacian capable of seeing the Blue Eye's revelations, as she reluctantly leaves her cloistered refuge to seek a champion to wield a relic against the resurrected draeden. The obvious champion is the charismatic Prince Chane Lerouge, who possesses the one remaining sword the ancestors used to end the Reckoning. But the unknown warrior, Captain Degarius, unrelentingly pursues a rumored lake monster with a blade whispered to be blessed. Will Arvana's mission earn her the elusive solace she seeks or spiral her heart—and the world—into a second Reckoning if she chooses the wrong man? Downplaying magic in favor of romance and fantasy, Arvana's adventure boasts strong characters in an immersive, realistic new realm.
I decided to be adventurous and knowingly take on a Romantic Epic fantasy as I’ve always been curious as to how much different novels in a particular genre are when the word ROMANCE is plopped down in front of it. I said knowingly earlier because I find it nearly impossible to believe I have not unknowingly read Romantic Fantasies garnered during my pre e-book years of haunting used book stores.
So what was the difference? I can’t be sure since using the scientific method with a grand total of one test case is frowned upon by those who care for their scientific experiments to have a modicum of accuracy. That said, I can say the portion of the novel involving the likable main character, Solacian priestess Arvana, which was clearly intended to be Romantic turned out to be the part that dragged a little for me. Then again, maybe I only thought it dragged because romance isn’t my thing. However, I will say bringing to bear technical analysis, while Arvana struggles throughout out the novel with her “major” conflict--is Prince Chane worthy of the Blue Eye?—there were rarely any other “smaller” external conflicts in her storyline. Her POV sections were all about her “religious self” denying her obvious attraction to the Prince, and hers to him, and fearing that attraction is clouding her judgment of his worthiness to wield the Blue Eye. Then again, if you are a fan of chaste Romance, those sections may very well be riveting. Though I never sighed when it was Arvana’s POV, I was never sorry to see it go.
I really liked the other main POV character, Captain Degarius. (Sidenote: the blurb refers to him as “unknown” for some reason when he is actually quite well known.) Of course, that could be because he was sword-swinging fellow, without being a stereotype, with a very interesting backstory that generates a lot of conflict. Revealing it would be a spoiler. He is saddled with a Prince in disguise out to get some military experience during what should be routine border patrols with perhaps just a few skirmishes with outmatched bandits. Successfully getting the Prince that experience and returning him unharmed would make Degarius’s career. Needless to say, having the headstrong young Royal killed on his watch would be a catastrophe. So naturally Degarius runs across the direst situation of his career, not the least of which is coming across a mythical monster of yesteryear which harkens the return of an ancient enemy. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard that maybe a few times, but the return of ancient enemies is pretty much the bedrock of Epic fantasy; it’s just a matter of how well and freshly it’s handled.
Speaking of enemies, they can make or break a fantasy novel for me. Give me an I-do-evil-cause-I’m-evil or an EVIL BEING and I’m outta there. Too cut and dried. But here Steffl gave the villains three dimensions and I actually found myself liking them in a way, though they had very little “screen” time.
Seeking Solace had a strong ending that appeared to be pushing the series in an interesting way and made Arvana as dynamic as Degarius. That’s what will propel me on to the already released sequel Solace Shattered: Solace Book II (Solace Trilogy)
Review by Carlyle Clark for Heroines of Fantasy