Title: Dear Rival
Author: Robin White
Length: 10,500 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Valtiel cannot stand humans. Humans are crude, blunt, unnecessarily violent, and they smell bad. As a frost elf, he has better things to do with his time than suffer one of them. But if it will get his friends to leave him alone about making nice with their allies, he’ll at least talk to one.
That doesn’t mean he has to like the human—even if Kero is beautiful, and smells good, and doesn’t really act the way Valtiel expects. One conversation, and then Valtiel can go back to ignoring him.
The blurb to this story sounded very Megan Derresque, and so even though I’d not heard of this author before, I thought I’d give it a go. Unfortunately this author hasn’t the skill of Derr, and whilst this was an interesting story, the execution and want of better editing let it down.
The story begins with Valtiel who is a frost elf. The frost elves have joined forces with the part human dragon knights to repel a joint enemy and Valtiel resents their presence. His friends conspire to get Valtiel to befriend Kero, one of the dragon knights and Valtiel discovers that their part dragon status means they are not like other humans.
I think I might have likes this more of the humour of the story had worked for me. I got the impression that the story was supposed to be lighthearted, and amusing spin on the whole idea of not judging a person. However, I didn’t really like Valtiel. He considered himself superior, not only to all the dragon knights, but also to his friends. He also seemed without humour, acting coldly towards his friends, even when it clear that they were joking with him. We don’t get enough of Kero to really understand why he’s attracted to Valtiel, and Valtiel spends nearly all the story trying to deny his attraction for Kero, so again it wasn’t easy to see what attracts Valtiel to Kero. This meant that any potential humour fell a bit flat and I couldn’t feel the spark between the romantic leads.
I did like the world-building, although this was delivered in a large page of info-dump. I would have been nice to have had that world-building given through dialogue, rather than Valtiel telling it to the reader all in one go. The idea of the dragon knights was interesting, and I especially liked the odd snippets we get of Kero’s uneasy relationship with his dragon spirit.
As the book progressed I began to like it more, especially when Valtiel, faces up to his feelings and I finished the book feeling like I wished I’d had a longer story in this setting to really get to grips with the characters and the history created by the author.
Overall, if you like fantasy shorts then you may well enjoy this one. The author shows promise in her ideas and imagination and I’ll be sure to look out for further books from her.