The Commander and Den Asaan Rautu (Vol 1. Book 1 in the Haanta Series) by Michelle Franklin
Well, the title says it all and the story is very simple. There is the Commander, a very brave woman called Boudicca MacDaede (her first name is telling like hell, isn’t it?), perhaps not the most beautiful or the slenderest specimen of female beauty around but she’s got some sword skills, a character to match and she is mouthy. During a siege she happens to free a giant from Haanta, called Den Asaan Rautu (quite a mouthful) and after that they never part. How could they – he enjoys her figure and her country’s food immensely, she can’t stop admiring his muscles and other parts of his body as well. With predicable results – they fall in love with each other and they kind of marry. And go to bed. Meanwhile they manage to win a war here and there. End of the story.
What I liked:
The world building was a huge asset of this novel – although the names of people and places were a bit difficult to pronounce and remember, they were original. The author really went to great lengths to make the Haanta people differ from their neighbours, describing their customs and religion.
Introducing Ghelbhi, a little female Haanta mage who can defeat the whole fleet, was a good move. I don’t know whether I would finish the book without her.
I like funny, mouthy heroines so I found Boudicca definitely more appealing than an average romantic squeeze. I even liked the fact that she was…er… well endowed and with sturdy thighs. Very life-like description of a female soldier.
What I didn’t like:
As the whole novel revolves so tightly around romance it the chain of events becomes predictable very soon indeed. We know straight from the beginning that Boudicca fancies her giant and he fancies her back, they are created for each other. A hot bedroom scene becomes only a matter of time and opportunity and the author peppers our way to it with huge breadcrumbs (say: groping and kisses). I would groan if only I didn’t sing one of Cher’s songs so loudly…;) Seriously speaking I would have enjoyed definitely more background and more twists and turns of the plot.
Den Asaan is very strong and very skilled. He can defeat single-handedly a small army without breaking a sweat. Still, our cunning Boudicca manages to best him during a duel without any problems. If only it was a duel of wits, a game of chess, ok, even a round of hare and hounds, I would be more pleased. Where is logic? Where is probability? Where is fun? Major meh.
One more remark: perhaps a change of the title, which reveals too much and is too obvious, would be a good thing?
The book wasn’t very bad but there’s room for improvement; I suggest giving our pair of lovebirds some breathers now and then. Let them quarrel, let some pirates kidnap Boudicca or maybe even her beloved Den Asaan for a change. Let them fight, suffer and cry. I am being so cruel, I know.
Overall you can say that these short stories are domestic life scenes led by several Haanta giants and their spouses/mates in the country of Frewyn. They are mainly about food and sex, sometimes both of these mixed together. Food prevails. Not any kind of food, mind you – chocolate and cakes figure prominently here and occupy most of the space. Our giants, apart from being freakishly strong do have a sweet tooth. As every chapter is another story and there are many of them it would be difficult to summarize them one by one. Let me only say – they complement the novel The Commander and Den Asaan in a splendid way. I really wonder why the author didn’t decide to merge those two books, making the first less sketchy and the second – more palatable, at least to me.
What I liked:
Your chocolate craving might increase significantly while reading these stories. I love chocolate but if you are on a diet you might find it difficult to keep your dietary restrictions imagining these cakes and cookies and pancakes...so suggestively described I am already hungry.
The main characters are…sweet. There is simply no better way to describe them. Even the king is sweet up to a point. They live in peace and harmony. It was kind of endearing.
What I didn’t like:
I am not fond of short stories and this book would work way better for me if it was merged with the first one (The Commander and Den Asaan).
I was a bit confused about the target audience for these short stories. Sex scenes, quite explicit, cry adults (read the story entitled Chocolate Cake and you will know what I mean; one short excerpt to whet your interest or put you off: “The scent of the chocolate melded with the aroma of her pleasing flesh and the heat of her body melted it along her pastel skin.”); the rest could have been even YA.
These short stories were sometimes charming but sometimes I simply didn’t see a point of starting something which finishes so quickly…perhaps it is only me, though. It would be also nice if the author defined her target audience with more precision.
Ebooks received by the author for review and no compensation was given.