Author: Astrid Amara
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Weightless Books
Type: Standalone Novel
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Captain Elliott Parrish of Her Majesty’s 17th Lancers cavalry division finds most of his assignment in the Crimea insufferable.
Rampant cholera, missing supplies, and inept planning quickly mire the promise of a decisive summer victory for the British. Facing a harrowing winter campaign, Elliott must rally disheartened men through sickness, battle and starvation.
But when he is assigned the additional task of spying on a fellow officer, the inscrutable Cornet Ilyas Kovakin, he finds himself disconcerted and fascinated by both the work and the man.
The half-Russian officer reports to none in his division. Rumors of demonic power and black magic surround him, but the truth turns out to be worse than the suspicions.
For Ilyas, his return to the Crimea is marred by the terrible mistake that cursed him with a horrifying power nearly beyond his control. His grip on his humanity is slipping away daily. Torn between a master he cannot trust and the family he must not return to, his only hope for salvation lies hidden in the long-forgotten symbols of centuries-old relics. But their meanings remain a mystery until the cheerful Captain Parrish offers assistance.
Although Ilyas fears trusting the young captain, Elliott’s company is almost irresistible.
Surrounded by deprivation, cruelty and war, both men know the closer they are drawn together, the greater the stakes. But with the balance of European power on the line, retreat is not an option
Review: I’ve known for a few years Astrid Amara was writing a book about the Crimean War. My first thoughts upon hearing that were, “I’ll be skipping that one,” and, “But I want another Hanukkah book.” Yes, I’m a greedy reader. I only have the consolation I didn’t say those things out loud. As we got closer and closer to release of the book my interest increased. By the time I had it in my hot little hands I was really hoping no one else would want to review it, yet I was still wary. I’m not really a fan of military fiction, nor am I a fan of historicals. So, after years of waiting and having run the emotional gamut of disinterest to excitement, I can now concretely say I have reached the point of being stunned with how fantastic this book was.
Captain Elliot Parrish finds he really doesn’t understand the logic behind the actions of a lot of the commanding officers’ orders. They don’t necessarily seem to be in the best interests of the men, the horses, or the war effort itself. And everyone pretty much agrees Cornet Ilyas Kovakin is a little creepy. Well, Elliot thinks he’s a little sexy, too. Elliot finds himself interested in Cornet Kovakin, not only for his looks, but he wants to know what a Russian man is doing fighting for the British and why he seems to be under the direct command of the spymaster. Ilyas Kovakin is a mystery. Elliot really likes mysteries. Ilyas has a bit more on his plate than he can really handle. He’s charged with finding ancient artifacts that house daemons. He’s doing so on behalf of the British government. He’s also desperately trying to maintain control of his own body as he’s been possessed by one of the very daemons the British are trying to collect. Of course, it would be far too easy if he were the only one looking to collect the artifacts, which are small boxes. A band of men, who are also possessed by daemons, are also trying to find them all. The big complication is the band of men are his friends being led by his brother, Alisher.
Elliot knows languages and puzzles. It makes command happy to have Elliot working with Ilyas to solve the mystery of the boxes as he can also oversee Ilyas’ actions and report back to him anything that could be amiss. Elliot doesn’t particularly like spying on the spy. His fascination for both the boxes and Ilyas quickly make working with Ilyas easier. Eventually, Elliot learns just how far the British government is going to control Ilyas. Coupled with the disasters in tactics he’s been seeing throughout the war, Elliot finds it pretty easy to begin the process of shifting his allegiances to Ilyas. The men continue to work together as well as fight in the Crimean War. Ultimately, Elliot does the right thing.
As I was reading this I found I really cared about the Crimean War. I actively hated Lords Cardigan, Raglan, and Lucan. I began to refer to them by derogatory nicknames. Lord Cardigan was “The Sweater Guy” and Lord Raglan was “The Sleeve Dude.” I can see that America played no part in the Crimean War and it was completely over, but I cared about what was happening to these men and animals. Whereas the story was about two men coming together under extraordinary circumstances and against all odds, it was told fantastically against the backdrop of a very real and very horrible situation. In many ways, Elliot had it easy. He was British amongst the British and only had to fight the war while watching his men and horses die all around him from exposure, disease, and starvation. Ilyas was a stranger, fighting a daemon, fighting his brother, and literally going to war against his own homeland and people, all while being cruelly manipulated by the British government.
The paranormal aspect of this book was well balanced with the romance and military aspects. Elliot and Ilyas very much had to deal with the daemons just as they very much found themselves falling in love and fighting a war. They also had to figure out what the Greater Good really was. Lives were at stake. Either civilians or servicemen were going to die, and possibly very many of them, if Elliot and Ilyas made the wrong choices. Amidst a backdrop of a continual stream of wrong choices from the commanding officers, Elliot and Ilyas found themselves in pivotal situations that would drastically change the outcome not only of the Crimean War, but future wars as well. Their choices and sacrifices make for very good reading.
This is an excellent book. It’s not merely an excellent book for historical, or paranormal, or military fiction. Hands down this book is excellent. I would absolutely recommend this to any reader despite their reservations about the subject matter. Yes, old battles can be told in interesting ways. History can be exciting. Running out of your bedroom and yelling, “Chapter 12 just started and the Light Brigade is about to charge!” kind of exciting.