"Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward." ~ Henry Ford
Octavian, of 'Cairn and Covenant' by August Li, gives up his privileged life to seek personal glory. Young Octavian is idealistic enough to think he can accomplish great things without sacrificing his honor. Although it's what sets him apart from other men of his time; Octavian soon finds always taking the 'high road' is not as clear-cut as it may seem.
Octavian is brave, determined, fearless, and absolutely sure he's right; he is also very young and small of stature. Octavian knows he has to prove his worth and earn the respect of the men around him; he does so by demonstrating his genius at strategic planning and solid understanding of men and their motives. Octavian shows everyone that his theories can and do work. His lofty ideals of fairness and honesty shed new light on mercenary behavior and result in choosing their assignments not simply for the money and glory. With his innovative philosophy of gaining respect through respecting others, Octavian's empire grows stronger each year, gaining the respect of allies and enemies alike. Even with all he has achieved and should have no doubts about his abilities, with each new venture, Octavian's mind never stops until he has calculated, measured, and weighed every probability.
One thing Octavian is constantly aware of is his need to be in control, not letting others see him as anything other than the strong capable warrior he is. It's difficult to maintain this attitude all the time. Octavian yearns for someone with whom he can be himself, someone with whom he can show his doubts and fears without being thought of as less than positive. Octavian finds this in Myrddin, his confidant, friend, and lover, who has great faith in Octavian's abilities and judgement. Octavian has others he counts as good friends and lovers whom he confides in as well, but no one has the special place in his heart that Myrddin does. During his leadership, Octavian has his ups and downs but, as much as possible, has to stay out of political conflicts. So far, he's been able to remain neutral; but when he's summoned to King Garith's court, Octavian knows the time has come when remaining impartial has come to an end.
Epic is a perfect description for this magical fantasy because that's precisely what it is - epic. Gus's style of writing fits the fantasy format like a glove. His characters are wonderfully flawed, yet they still invoke sympathy and a yearning to understand and support them. Since I know the characters and their personalities so well, I can almost predict what they will do or say. I've even become accustomed to Gus's penchant for realistic battle scenes, with all the horror and gore expected therein. The ongoing connections being made between characters fascinate me, as they provide an even clearer insight into the characters and their actions. It was especially good to see Yarrow, Sasha, and Duncan again and to see that some things never change; tying Octavian's story to the rest of the series. I often say that I felt like I was not just reading about but felt like I was actually 'in' the story. In this case, I was.
Gus surprised me by including a character named Lena in this book. The similarities between Gus's Lena and myself are undeniable, although I don't feel I'm nearly as brave as the character is. I am more grateful and honored by this gesture than I can say.
Fans of this story will adore this addition which, even with all the darkness, is incredibly uplifting. For those who aren't familiar with the series, you are missing an amazing literary adventure and I advise you to start with the first book in the series 'Ash and Echoes’ and read the series sequentially. Thanks, Gus, for another awesome book. I am honored beyond words at being “included”.
Free Short - A Lesson and A Favor
The assassin in ' A Lesson Learned' by August Li is never named, but anyone familiar with the story will immediately recognize him as Sasha. He's been in training for a while and has just been given his first assignment. The assassin goes to the designated location and begins to systematically eliminate the ten men there, but, since he wasn't part of the contract, lets the youth they are holding live. The young man introduces himself as Octavian Rose and, instead of being terrified of the assassin, especially after the slaughter he's just witnessed, Octavian is impressed and thankful. Octavian asks the assassin to help him fake his death so he can be free of his father which he does. Octavian is also aroused, giving the assassin an opportunity to share another facet of his training. In parting, the assassin leaves one of his daggers with Octavian for protection, all the while acting like none of their interactions affect him in any way.
This short tale is a wonderful introduction for Sasha and Octavian True to his Black Scythe training, Sasha performs with deadly proficiency. It highlights Octavian's bravery and determination as well as defining his sexuality. It also provides both young men with a life lesson which serves them well in the future. Thanks, Gus, for this short, but sensual story about how Octavian and Sasha got their start.
Free Short - Archer's Regret
Sylvain, of Archer's Regret by August Li, has been looking for love in all the wrong places, trying everything possible to help him forget the “one who got away”. Determined to forget him, he has tried to run from himself, but Sylvain keeps being drawn back to the one he still loves. Sylvain is no longer the impulsive young man he was ten years ago. He would be willing to beg, if necessary, for another chance if he can find the courage. Sylvain finds himself in Selindria and seeks out his former lover Aeris. He is away so Sylvain is allowed to wait for him in his bedroom. After a time, Aeris, comes back. He is absolutely furious to find Sylvain there. No matter what Sylvain tries to say, Aeris doesn't believe him, telling Sylvain he is the one who left saying he would never return. Aeris had taken Sylvain at his word and had moved on.
In this short story, I saw a completely different side of Sylvain, the confident, thrill-seeking man who helped Octavian build his empire. As much of a rogue as he was, I still hoped his ex-lover would forgive him and take Sylvain back. Since Sylvain is introduced in 'Cairn and Covenant', I recommend reading that story before this one. Thanks, Gus, for letting me know what happened to Sylvain after Rosecairn.