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The Cross and the Black-Episode One Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
I awarded it three stars but I did not do that to imply it is readable and forgettable like some M/M romances I have read in the past and shall not read again. This story is good but has some issues I should like to see solved before rating it higher.
Rating aside, this first instalment in a serial is challenging in the extreme and will prevent many readers from getting the easy fun they can expect from other M/M titles.
Despite not being a native speaker of English, it is not often I have to make such an extensive use of my dictionary. The number of literary, archaic, old fashioned, old use (I am using Oxford Dictionaries' labels here) vocabulary items employed by this author is staggering. I had to reread whole sentences twice or thrice to make sure I understood them well. Syntax is comparatively easier and does not offer further difficulties.
In front of such a stylistical choice my question usually is a very down-to-earth "Is it worth it?". My answer, as of now, is "Not entirely".
An author deciding to use a particularly elevated style walks a perilous path.
He must make sure the intricacies of his language have an intrinsic aesthetic value. While it is always a pleasure for me to read finely crafted prose I will admit that in this case writing was at times more convoluted than beautiful. That, coupled with an undeniable tendency to overdescribe and a sometimes inconsistent use of loanwords from Occitan*, gave me as much pleasure as pain.
Setting and characterization can be considered the assets of this story. Having always been quite a slouch in medieval history I have no idea how accurate Ms Wande's research has been, but the Toulouse she depicts rings undeniably real. It is a rich and sombre setting, the bigotry of the times pervading and offending the spirit of the reader as much as it probably offended that of the free souls that must have lived at the time.
Claude is a great character. He is weak, a good-for-nothing, but he is not an idiot. Ms Wande gives him a depth and an understanding for the working of his own feeble mind that make a tragic figure out of him.
I suppose he will grow in the next instalments, shedding part of his weakness and I am eager to see how the author will manage to do that.
The characters of Serge and Guy are quite interesting as well. Serge is already full-fledged and may disappear from the serial entirely after this first episode while Guy is currently obnoxious and his reasons are utterly unclear. I suppose this will also change in time.
While homosexuality is explicitly mentioned, sex scenes are short and plot related if quite crude.
As long as you are up for some effort this story is well worth a read. I am looking forward to next episodes.
*As a native speaker of Italian with an extensive knowledge of my own regional language, Genoese, which is somewhat similar to Occitan, of French and of Spanish I had no trouble in understanding those words. Speakers of English who might have had -or not- some French in school will probably need footnotes.
I like the sexuality and the mystery surrounding Guy. Worth 99 cents :-)
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