Edit: something I just noticed. One of the reviews here is from the author, and they gave their own book a five star rating. What. The. Fuck. That screws up the rating system here! I don't mind authors making comments about their own book, but they shouldn't give their books any stars because of how the star ratings are averaged! The authors has removed their rating. Thank you very much!
With all the hype this book has gotten I was expecting to read something that was actually good. Instead I got some sort of strange peon to abusive relationships, ugg.
It starts off okay. Emmet is immediately likable with his protectiveness toward his ward. At times he's too protective, but perhaps he has reason to be. I like heroes who care about children without being sappy about it, and Emmet hits it almost pitch perfect. I loved Emmet right away. He's very fierce when it comes to protecting Aeony, and it's so sweet.
And then we meet Andrewe, and the entire novel starts reading like a handbook for abusive relationships. Let me explain.
Andrewe decides, without asking Emmet, to have Emmet brought to his household as his First Gentleman. This is decided behind Emmet's back. Emmet goes along with it because, welp, when the crown prince decides such a thing what are you supposed to do? He's able to bring his ward over, however, so my suspension of disbelief isn't completely shot. Still, that was a bit of a sour note. Too bad that the least of what Andrewe does.
Things go along swimmingly for a bit, and then someone tries to assasinate Andrewe, and the book goes to hell. Emmet saves Andrewe's life, and as a reward gets 40 lashes, ordered by the king. This is bad enough, but Andrewe DOES NOTHING to stop it, and LEAVES EMMET ALONE to recover. He doesn't even try to comfort him. But that's okay! Because Andrewe and the king feel bad about it and cry crocodile tears. They feel bad so it's perfectly fine that they treated Emmet that way. I would have slit their fucking throats, but nope, Emmet forgives them.
By the way, to emphasize the stupidity of both the prince and the king, Emmet keeps trying to tell them that he knows something and NEEDS to talk to the king in private. He does indeed know something, an old family friend had hinted that he was going to Do Something about those parasites on the throne. The king ignores Emmet and has him whipped, at which point Emmet decides he isn't going to give him shit. Good for you Emmet. Now take your kid and run to France! Run away! Find a chef in France to teach your ward and then go find a nice fellow who isn't a controlling bastard and settle down! But no, to my disappointment this does not happen.
After this Andrewe gets more controlling. He cuts Emmet off from his father, and gets insanely jealous when he sees Emmet with another man. He even cuts Emmet off from his ward, putting him in chains for the night after Emmet freaks out over it. Cutting off the victim from friends an family is a classic abuser move, and that seals it for me. I was really unhappy with the way the whipping happened, but I was somewhat willing to forgive it. But this? No. This is when I started hoping for Andrewe's bloody, painful death.
They finally talk about their relationship a bit. Emmet tells Andrewe that you don't hurt people you love. If you love someone, you should try to keep them from being hurt. Andrewe, on the other hand, tells Emmet that he did that stuff BECAUSE HE WAS AFRAID EMMET WOULD LEAVE. This is another classic abuser line. ("I only hurt you because I love you baby") But its okay because he feels sorry about it. Abusers frequently feel sorry about their abuse, so I am unsympathetic. He even tells Emmet that he would KILL EMMET TO KEEP HIM if he thought it would work. Seriously. At that point Andrewe moved from abusive asshole to psycho. I began praying that Emmet would kill Andrewe before Andrewe killed him. No such luck.
Hell, when the bad guy is spelling out clearly what is wrong with the main characters relationship it might be time to rethink the entire damn thing. The author CLEARLY knew how terrible Andrewe was. Thomas, the villain, spells it out several times to Emmet. I just don't get it.
The icing on the cake on the cake was when Andrewe tells Emmet that the only thing keeping him from committing suicide was Emmet. That is another classic abuser line. Emmet falls for it, of course. Ooooh poor Andrewe, living in the lap of luxery. Oh dear, he's going to have to marry a woman and produce kids. Oh poor baby he's going to be king one day. Give me a fucking break. Everyone has to do stuff they don't like to do, and that's his fucking job as crown prince. Its not like kings are never ever unfaithful to their wives. We're supposed to feel sorry for him though, Emmet certainly does. In fact, Emmet starts acting completely braindead at this point. Yep, go trust the guy who's been trying to kill the prince with helping him capture the prince and escape this terrible life of having everything he could possibly need handed to him. That's a brilliant idea. I'm suuuure he won't betray you! ("Cure you sudden but inevitable betrayal!")
By the end of the story I stopped caring about Emmet's fate. He was such a doormate by the end, all Andrewe had to do was look a bit sorry after he did something terrible to Emmet, and Emmet would forgive him. We were supposed to actually feel sorry for Andrewe, amazingly enough. Emotionally and physically abusive assholes don't deserve sympathy.
One final note: this novel is supposed to occur in England during the Age of Sail, I assume, but there's nothing really English about it other than the weather. Parliament isn't mentioned once, and you'd think the Prime Minister would heavily involved with investigating the assassination attempts, but we don't even hear about him. Moreover, it seems very much as if what the king says, goes. England is a constitutional monarchy, everyone is bound by the law of the land, even the king and his family. ESPECIALLY the king and his family. And yet, where is the justice system, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, or even the Church of England? Not anywhere to be seen. For awhile I thought it was supposed to take place before the Magna Carta, but that can't be. Ships travel to India and back, there are barrels of gunpowder. Both of these things don't appear until after the Magna Carta. It feels like the author is just using England as a sort of Generic Kingdom without any thought to historical accuracy. I'm not a huge stickler for historical accuracy, but those things bothered me.