– by Eliza Andrews
At last! We have our very own lesbian–Game of Thrones in lesfic!! YES! Eliza Andrews‘ recently released “Princess of Dorsa,” Book 1 of the Chronicles of Dorsa, delivered just as Andrews promised when she announced that she’d be giving us lesfic readers our very own Game of Thrones (GoT)!! I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to beta-read an advance copy (Ta, Eliza!) and re-read the final version when it was out on Amazon….will be re-reading this, tbh! Anyway, Andrews, with her usual knack for weaving compelling stories with her brilliant writing style, gives Mr. Martin a run for his money. I was reeling after devouring it literally in one bated breath. I wanted MORE!!!
There was so much going on in this Book 1, I was beside meself with utter amazement and awe because I couldn’t believe I was actually reading about this whole universe that Andrews so richly created, inspired by GoT‘s, complete with the fabulous Empire consisting of the Four Realms (with the West being the largest most populated, and the East being the desert, strange and exotic, rich with myths and superstitions that the West and other Realms steered clear of), conquered by an Emperor from a Noble House, with Wise Men (like the Maesters in GoT) as the Empire’s influential advisers besides the military commanders. The Empire, as in GoT, obviously was always under threats of rebellion or attacks either from within the walls of the Realms or beyond its territories. So, Andrews’ Empire was ruled by the noble house, House of Dorsa. Princess Natasia aka Tasia was the daughter of its king, Emperor Andreth, future Empress-in-waiting. The Wise Men from the House of Wisdom, just like the Maesters from the Citadel in GoT, were an order of scholars, healers, messengers and scientists. I was utterly enthralled by Andrews’ vivid descriptions of the surroundings, the designs, the colours, the outfits of the different characters. They were visually stunning in me mind!
I was immediately intrigued by Tasia the moment she appeared on the first page of the book. Although Andrews portrayed her as the typical young and spoiled royal princess, future heiress, Empress of the Throne, who cared for nothing but herself, Tasia was also head strong, fiercely independent, smart and intelligent, with a streak of wild, cunning, mischievous and reckless behavioural traits, if only to escape the inevitability of her being married off to a worthy nobleman who’d take over her father’s position as the Emperor (as we know, even in historical fiction, men still held all the power whilst women were men’s properties), and her hatred for being imprisoned behind the royal walls because of the responsibilities that were expected of her instead of being allowed to be free to do whatever she desired. So obviously, she tried her utmost to rebel against her father and all the sodded rules. But the best thing I loved about the saga’s main protagonist, Tasia, thanks to Andrews, was that she was a LESBIAN (bloody yeh!)…even though being gay was not allowed and she had to hide it (take in male lovers, for e.g.) and be vigilant about her sexual trysts with women. But a near-success assassination attempt on her life put her constant recklessness and rule-breaking days to a screeching halt! And yes, that was when the story began.
But me favourite moment came when Josyln of Terinto, the best swordswoman in the Imperial Army, made her first appearance! She was charged as Tasia’s bodyguard, much to Tasia’s dismay because she saw Joslyn as an obstacle to her freedom to engage in rule-breaking activities. Joslyn was also expected to teach Tasia, the future ruler of the Empire, self-defence, which angered Tasia even more! Oh…I absolutely LOVED Josyln who was also a…LESBIAN!! YES! I had no words to describe just how excited I felt, really (imagining GoT but with lesbians kept playing in me mind because I was still coming to terms with the fact that me wish actually came true, thanks to Andrews!)! A strong, exotic woman hailed from the desert wasteland called Terinto in the mysterious East, with a quiet nature, intimidatingly observant, with utterly intelligent and deeply soulful eyes that held many secrets, and took her role as Tasia’s bodyguard very seriously. Andrews skilfully depicted Tasia and Josyln’s first encounter with richly described expressions of Tasia’s utter dislike for her designated “shadow” against Josyln’s seemingly unconcerned, apathetic and indifferent behavioural response, which irked Tasia even more! But their chemistry was effing palpable, bouncing off the pages like balls of smouldering flames! I was immediately enthralled. Andrews spared no effort in developing their initially fractured protector-protectee, teacher-student relationship, with grounded authenticity and wit. Oh, just wait until you read about how Josyln tried very hard to train Tasia in the art of self-defence, from the ground up! All the “harsh work” that Tasia felt was thrust upon her spoiled, taking-liberties-for-granted, utterly sheltered life, with Josyln not taking any shite from her was HILARIOUS! The progression of their relationship from enemies to friends was utterly captivating because everything was happening in the midst of all the political, power play with Tasia, her father, and his advisers, the apparently neverending war in the West, threats from the East, not to mention rumours that the banned religious sect, The Cult of Culo (something like GoT’s Lord of Light), was gaining strength and power, supernatural or otherwise! As if that wasn’t enough, Tasia was also plagued by the wretched “marriage of strategic alliance” which was expected of her. Although, ruling the Empire herself without a man beside her, wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility!
As Tasia spent more time with Josyln, observing her behaviour, her perception about her bodyguard changed little by little, from the preconceived ideas she had based on negative stereotypes instilled upon her and the rest of the so-called “civilised” West regarding people from the deserts in the East who were perceived as tribal barbarians, uncultured, uncivilised, laced with mad beliefs about the supernatural, myths and dark magic, to being enlightened by her exposure to the person and character that Joslyn was. I love how Andrews always writes about class, race, social politics in her stories, how they affect human behaviour, interactions and relationships between people from different political, social and economic status. No exception in the story about Joslyn and Tasia’s journey, as Andrews masterfully weaved the threads of their differences, slowly untangling and bonding them through all the adventures, encounters, communication that these two shared along the way.
The best thing about Andrews’ storytelling of this epic fantasy was how she merged the action-filled, thrilling adventures with the relationship between Tasia and Joslyn ever so seamlessly. This story is not focussed on romance alone, not by a long shot, but much more on the friendship these two struck with deeply felt emotions as it developed in progressive stages and the camaraderie that Tasia formed with a few of the vital characters as the story progressed into her inevitable political position of power. Joslyn became not only her protector but her close, protective friend and trusted adviser. I was gratified by the fact that Andrews spent the time to develop their relationship before it gradually turned into something more intimate. It was glorious to uncover their growing affection for each other because the pacing was utterly organic and perfectly timed in conjunction with the wretched journey they had to tread on as the political turmoil within the Realms became more dangerous and threatening to the future of the House Dorsa. In other words, the slow-burn type crafted between Tasia and Joslyn was ideally perfect! It was intoxicating to read their slow but utterly affective development.
Just like GoT, amidst all the political manoeuvring amongst the cast of characters plotting against each other in order to gain power for control of the Empire, there were some absolutely mindfucking twists and turns! The dangerous game of chess reached its peak when Tasia, Joslyn and her guards were confronted by faceless enemies and strange mythical creatures just when they thought they were in safe waters. Andrews’ brilliant depiction of the non-stop, violent, gruesome action sequences was nothing short of EPIC! I was literally gasping for breath by the time the big explosive scene came crashing, involving Joslyn’s mad, heroic stance and Tasia’s courageous move as a desperate measure, as they encountered the entity! Phew! This insidious, dark, supernatural entity that Andrews crafted into this series was phenomenal. I was entranced. I know it will play a vital role as the saga continues in future installments of this epic fantasy series! Nevermind that there weren’t any dragons because this malevolent entity (god knows how long its rein stretches as I’m sure subsequent installments of the Series will reveal!) consumed me sense of intrigue and curiosity completely! It was simply magnificent how Andrews wrote it so vividly I could visually see the entire scene unfold before me mind’s eye! Truly monumental!
As Tasia and Joslyn journeyed deeper into the pit of political turmoil, not surprisingly, nothing was what it seemed. Let’s just say that shit hit the fan as the power play became more deadly than Tasia and Joslyn would have wanted. Needless to say, the final action sequence was a pulse-racing, bile-inducing, heart-pounding event! What a 3rd and final act, indeed! Bravo, Andrews! As we know how the political game is played, unexpected cast of characters emerged showing their true colours as Tasia and Co. fought to survive. And so was Joslyn who was mercilessly separated from Tasia! Ohhh…just wait until you read how Tasia was handling the dilemma, the deeply held emotions and the depth of her feelings for her loyal and trusted friend and confidant, adviser, protector who came to hold the most important place in her heart! Andrews’ superbly written depiction of Tasia’s inner psyche, her emotional state about Josyln, especially upon uncovering just how Josyln felt about her which was left unspoken, was heartrendingly affective. On the other hand, Joslyn’s fierce and steadfast love, loyalty and protectiveness of Tasia reverberated powerfully as Andrews’ poetically resonating words and expressions seeped through the recesses of me mind ever so effectively. Phew!
Oh, when you read this book and come to the turning point at the end of the final act, you’ll grasp at all signs of hope and will for Joslyn and Tasia to triumph! How they were gonna go about it, I was left reeling because Andrews has this knack for throwing breadcrumbs that would leave you wanting more, yearning for more! Needless to say, the cliffhanger left me clutching the edge of me seat, screaming, demanding for the next installment to be available so I could learn Joslyn’s plan to reunite with Tasia, who’s become one of me favourite fictional characters! What’s more, Joslyn’s character throughout this installment remained hugely a mystery. She was an enigma, really. And because Andrews portrayed her with such deep-seated resonance, I was desperate to know more about her, to discover what her back story was, what made her who she was! Alas, Andrews only revealed bits of her heartbreaking history, which already had me wanting to just shield this brave tortured soul from further misfortune, misery and sorrow, who deserves nothing but happiness and joy in her life from here on out! I want to see Tasia love and protect her at all costs throughout the Series! Ohhhhh….!!!!
Anyway, the saga continues in the next installment, roughly entitled, “Soldier of Dorsa,” which hopefully will be available mid-2019!! Andrews promised the 2nd installment will reveal a whole lot more about Joslyn!! Bloody hell YES! Gaaaaahhh!!! The wait is KILLING me!!! And yes, besides that, I’m utterly psyched to also find out more about the other corners of the Realms, other groups and regions, especially the magical, mystical part of the universe, how it’s gonna play a role in Tasia and Joslyn’s continued journey.
All in all, as if you haven’t realised already from me aforementioned commentary, “Princess of Dorsa” is a RESOUNDING MUST-READ for everyone! In particular, if you’re a fan of epic fantasy fiction and/or simply the TV adaptation of GoT, if not the original “A Song of Ice and Fire” by the one and only George R.R. Martin, you’ll find this book a heart-pounding, breathtaking, utterly suspenseful, fantastic read!! It’s defo reread material for me! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND everyone take this INCREDIBLE RIDE of an EPIC saga that is the best fantasy series I’ve read besides Martin’s “A Song Of Ice and Fire” series! More imperatively, Andrews’ Chronicles of Dorsa, starting with this Book 1 is SO MUCH MORE and BETTER because…LESBIANS!!!!! Bloody hell YES! This book has become one of me favourites not only in 2018 but in the world of fiction and I know, just like I know about Jody Klaire’s Above and Beyond series, the entire Chronicles of Dorsa series, regardless of how many installments there will be, also makes me list of all-time favourites in general and lesbian fiction!
ONE-CLICK it. READ it. RIDE it. EXPERIENCE it. FEEL it. REVEL in it. REPEAT.
Obligatory mention: I received an advanced (beta) copy in exchange for an honest review (commentary, really!)
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