Title: Strike the Bell
Author: J. Tullos Hennig
Length: 39 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Escape. That’s what drives Taran to join the Riverdrivers aboard Geillidh: escape from the farming and fishing village of his kin; the lure of adventure and, most of all, the presence of Merimac—Wyr-chieftain of Geillidh and Taran’s first lover. Though he might be Merimac’s cousin and lovemate, Taran gets no preferential treatment. He will have to earn his passage as full crew member the hard way—scrubbing decks and greasing blocks and pulleys—and surviving his first trip through the Strait is a rite of passage that brings its own reward in Merimac’s cabin.
I’ve a fondness for fantasy stories and this one, set in a fictional high fantasy world seemed interesting. There was much to like about the setting which managed to place key information in a way which wasn’t obtrusive, so that the reader is fed bits and pieces about the world in which Taran lives. Most of the story is set aboard ship, and whilst I got a little lost with all the sailing/ship terms, it wasn’t really necessary for me to understand them – only that I found it hard to picture some elements of the story in my head.
The hierarchy of the people on board the ship and how this relates to Taran was also a plus point. He’s only be with the crew a couple of weeks, and his position of cousin and lover to the captain doesn’t mean he can shirk his tasks. I liked the mixed feelings about this and the general kindness of the crew in their welcome of him. It gave the pleasant image of a group of disparate people, brought together into a sort of family.
So whilst I enjoyed the story, it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. Not because of the writing, which was strong and interesting with a vivid use of setting, or the characters, who were well rounded, but rather because I finished the story thinking – well that was nice, but what was the point? The story read like a slice of life/follow-on story from a couple in a previous book, rather than there being any personal growth in the characters during this story. Here we have Taran experience the first time going over a dangerous stretch of river, followed by a party, followed by a sex scene between Taran and Merimac. All very well and good, but whilst there was action, there was no growth mainly because the romance was already established. I looked to see whether this story is a sequel, but other than a possible other book set in the same world, there doesn’t seem to be anything linked with this.
So whilst I liked this story, especially the fantasy setting, it was missing that spark for me. However, I fully intend to check out the other book set in this world once it has been released.