Reviewed by Dan
This is a Series Review of The Chronicles of Arden (Books 1 & 2)
AUTHOR: Shiriluna Nott & Saja H
PUBLISHER: Sun and Shadow Publishing
I stumbled on this series on Amazon and decided to give it a try. I’m really happy I did. It is listed under the LGBT tabs on Amazon, and is a fantasy set in an alternate world in the Kingdom of Arden. I would say the series would be appropriate for the Young Adult crowd, but it is also an enjoyable read for an adult. There is no sex in the series, but there are young gay men, just discovering their sexuality. At the same time, there are sinister bad guys, an evil Emperor, and lots of twisting subplots, especially in book two, which is a little more dark than book one. I personally can’t wait for book three, which is coming in the fall. Take my advice, if you like to read fantasy from authors like Mercedes Lackey, this series would be good for you. I must mention though that at the end of book two I was left with a lot of questions…so the next book can’t come too soon!
TITLE: A Call to Arms
LENGTH: 261 Pages
Gibben Nemesio is in trouble.
His parents are dead, his sister is missing, and he’s been left the sole provider for his two younger brothers. With a war brewing in the east and no guarantee of surviving another brutal winter, Gib’s life is plagued by uncertainty. To make matters worse, he suddenly finds himself uprooted from his home and drafted into the army.
Forced to leave his siblings behind, Gib reports to Silver City, where he enrolls in the legendary Academy of Arden. An outsider and misfit, Gib struggles to blend in among the highborn city folk. His charming candor eventually wins him a handful of friends—an enigmatic mage trainee with a secret, a young girl who has defied tradition by joining the military, and a prince looking to escape his stifling life. But his new-found comrades may not be able to help when Gib alone overhears a traitorous plot—a scheme so horrible that if seen to fruition, all of Arden will suffer for it. It’s up to Gib to convince the High Council of Arden to act, to stop the terrible danger, before it’s too late.
Gibben Nemesio has seen better times. His older sister is off serving in the military, and both of his parents are dead. His mother died years before, and then his father was killed by a thief and Gibben (Gib) was left to raise his two brothers. The only problem? Gibben was eleven years old at the time! Now he is thirteen, the age that his society considers you to be an adult. The three boys are really struggling to get by on their farm. The weather has been awful and if they don’t get the current wheat crop in before a hard frost, they will not have enough money to buy food to make it through the coming winter.
Everything changes for Gib when his older sister arrives from the capitol with a conscription notice for Gib. He has been drafted into the army and must leave in three days, leaving his two younger brothers to fend for themselves on the farm. If he doesn’t go voluntarily, he will be arrested and thrown in jail, so either way he has to leave his brothers. After making sure they should be ok through the coming winter, he travels to Silver City and the Academy of Arden.
Gib has always been a little short for his age, and when he gets to the school, he finds himself surrounded with bigger and more muscular boys, and a few girls. Over time Gib surrounds himself with a group of boys and one girl, all of whom have something that makes them slightly different from the norm.
Something else is going on though. Gib has a new roommate as well. Joel is the son of the King’s Seneschal and he brought great shame on his family when he professed his love for another boy the year before. When the other boy denied it and cut off all contact with Joel, Joel was crushed and withdrew from all social contact. When the Dean of the school decides to place Gib as his roommate it seems odd. But the Dean thinks that Gib can help pull Joel out of his despondency. But as time goes on, Gib is realizing he wants to be more than just friends with Joel. Is that possible in their society? One is the son of a lord, and the other a common farmer, and male/male relationships are frowned upon in Arden.
What will happen when Gib overhears a plot to kill the King? Will anyone believe him? After all, as I mentioned above, he is just a farmer, a common born boy. Who amongst the highborn will listen to him?
I really enjoyed this book, and can’t wait to start the continuing story in Book Two! I really enjoyed the blooming relationship between Gib and Joel and also the richness with which the authors detailed the kingdom and the characters in the story. Excellent job.
LENGTH: 330 Pages
Gibben Nemesio thought his life was over the day he received a conscription notice demanding he train to be a soldier. When he left his home for Silver City, he never expected he’d thwart a terrible plot to murder the King and become an overnight hero—and he definitely hadn’t expected to find love in the form of a handsome mage trainee named Joel.
Three years later, Gib has fought his way from lowborn farmer to hold the coveted position as understudy to the seneschal. Despite heightening tensions between the King and High Council and the rumors of impending war still terrorizing the people of Arden, Gib finds solace in the company of his wise mentor, loyal friends, and beloved companion.
But with the arrival of an ominous message from a powerful enemy in the north, Gib quickly realizes peace is fleeting in a world where chaos lurks in every shadow, and treacherous forces—from both outside the country and within—threaten to destroy everything he holds dear.
We’ve jumped ahead three years since the end of book one. I’ll be honest, I was little put off by that. It seemed we totally skipped the relationship building between Gib and Joel, and now they are companions of three years.
Gib is now the understudy to the King’s Seneschal, who you will remember is Joel’s father. Joel is now the understudy to Arden’s top Ambassador and has been away for six months on a peaceful mission to another land.
Things aren’t going all that well between the two though, and when Joel returns and decides he wants to become an actual Envoy, he breaks off his relationship with Gib, so that he won’t hurt him down the line. What we have here is a typical failure to communicate. Neither he, nor Gib, really want the relationship to end. It isn’t long though before someone else is sniffing around Gib. Is he available?
Then a summons arrives from the evil empire to the north. The King of Arden originally came from that empire, and he is viewed as a traitor by the Emperor. The Seneschal, the top Ambassador, Joel, his brother Liro and some others are chosen to go to the empire to answer the summons. There are nefarious back stories going on though. Nothing is as it seems. Can even the people on the mission be trusted? Joel’s brother Liro, in my opinion, is a total snake. Why can’t they see it!
When the mission goes disastrously wrong, can the team escape from the empire alive? What is happening back in Arden? There are evil shenanigans going on with Joel’s uncle, the brother of the Seneschal, who is the Head Councilor. When all these machinations come together, can Arden survive?
I really liked this story. I didn’t like that it ends as a cliffhanger, with little resolution on some continuing issues. The next book is coming in the fall though, so I will just have to wait for my answers!