Scarlett & the White Wolf
Kirby Crow
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Scarlet of Lysia is an honest peddler, a young merchant traveling the wild, undefended roads to support his aging parents. Liall, called the Wolf of Omara, is the handsome, world-weary chieftain of a tribe of bandits blocking a mountain road that Scarlet needs to cross. When Liall jokingly demands a carnal toll for the privilege, Scarlet refuses and an inventive battle of wills ensues, with disastrous results.

Scarlet is convinced that Liall is a worthless, immoral rogue, but when the hostile countryside explodes into violence and Liall unexpectedly fights to save the lives of Scarlet’s family, Scarlet is forced to admit that the Wolf is not the worst ally he could have, but what price will proud Scarlet ultimately have to pay for Liall’s friendship?

Mariner’s Luck
Kirby Crow
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In this second book of the Scarlet and the White Wolf trilogy, Scarlet the pedlar and Liall the bandit find themselves among hostile company aboard a Rshani brigantine headed north through icy waters. Liall has been summoned home to Rshan na Ostre by way of a cryptic message.

Scarlet, after a near-fatal encounter with bounty-hunters seeking Liall’s head, recklessly follows Liall into danger. Now the unlikely pair -a slight, honorable Hilurin and a giant northern rogue- are relentlessly pursued over rough seas on a perilous journey for Liall to reclaim his past, but what new dangers will await them in the fabled Land of Night?

The Land of Night
Kirby Crow
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Struggling to come to terms with his new life in Rshan na Ostre, young Scarlet is trying to find his place in a decadent, foreign society that bears an ancient hatred for all Hilurin. As Liall is pulled away from Scarlet and into the jaded intrigues of a royal court, the young pedlar wonders if they’ve made a terrible mistake in journeying to Rshan.

Each passing day, Liall seems more like a stranger, more like one of the haughty Rshani nobility and less like the bandit leader Scarlet knew in Byzantur. As Liall contends with the aristocracy to uphold his fourteen-year-old brother’s claim to the throne, an infinitely more dangerous enemy draws nearer, determined to part the lovers forever.

Holy cow!

To say that I enjoyed Scarlet and the White Wolf would be an understatement. I was sucked in immediately; I stayed up all night reading until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, then woke up the next morning to continue reading in every spare moment. The main characters were gorgeous, the setting was lush with detail, the romance was sweet and the story surrounding the romance was thrilling. I was practically humming with happiness as I read it. This trilogy (and the quality of this author) is precisely what I was hoping to find when I entered the world of M/M.

I wouldn’t call this a romance, per se; Scarlet is sheer fantasy, where both of the main characters happen to be male, and they happen to fall in love. I actually don’t mind having foreign words and weird names scattered through the narrative; it serves to remind me that the people I’m reading about are not the English-speaking people of my own universe, and sinks me deeper into the universe of the author’s creation. This is precisely what Kirby Crow does, picks up her readers and immediately drops us into the middle of her universe, one that is completely fresh and unique. Little by little, the context of that universe is unfurled until the reader is absorbed into these foreign cultures.

Had the trilogy been stitched together into one ultra-long novel, the pieces would fit almost seamlessly. What marks them as being three books is mainly the settings. Scarlet and the White Wolf is set in Scarlet’s homeland, where everything is familiar to Scarlet while Liall is obviously the exile. Mariner’s Luck takes us to the ocean and foreign ports, where both Scarlet and Liall find themselves in hostile surroundings and neither of them are at home. The Land of Night brings the exiled Liall back home, and now it is Scarlet who is the foreigner.

There is a lot I could discuss about these books, and that is entirely due to how much is happening in the story. I am blown away by how much intrigue and plot twists, humor, angst, excitement, and action that Crow was able to pack into this story. Every single character, no matter how brief their appearance in the story, is fully-formed and recognizable as a human being (even the non-human-beings). There are several moments where the reader’s mouth will drop, where the events or concepts described are sheer fantasy, but Crow never crosses the line between “fantastic” and “ridiculous.” There is no smut, and little erotica; every bit of the erotica serves to either further the plot or is a welcome moment of quiet and tenderness in the story. The ending was a little abrupt, a little bewildering, but that just allowed me to continue savoring the excitement.

Kirby Crow started out with an ambitious story, and carried it through with stunning success. Do I recommend this trilogy? Oh, hell yeah! Without any hesitation whatsoever!

P.S. Torquere Press is a pain in the ass to navigate, is difficult to casually browse, and caused me no end of frustration when trying to find and purchase these books. I actually had to contact their customer service in order to figure out where to get my downloads. Nevertheless, the customer service was helpful, and I can’t recall ever reading a book through this publisher that was low-quality. I’d have to say that Torquere is definitely one of the publishers that T&B readers should frequent. Let us know if you find something we overlooked.

This book was recommended by one of our long-time readers. She has recommended other books to me that I had already read and enjoyed, so when she mentioned this series, I wasted no time in reading it.

I have to admit, as I began reading I was disappointed. I could see the characters’ and story’s potential, I just couldn’t seem to get to it through all the excessive information. Histories on why a certain race of people wore a particular color is interesting if it has some bearing on the story. Explaining that a well is called Second Well because there is another well down the road in the center of town in the main courtyard called First Well is only important if we need to later get to one of these wells. A character just stopping to get a drink does not warrant the history/geography lesson. It just slows things down and throws me, the reader, into confusion as I try to figure out if that was something I’d need to know later on. It wasn’t.

The first thirty pages of the first book should have been trimmed considerably. It was stuffed with information that should have just stayed in the author’s notebook for her own reference. Giving me pages of histories of peoples and places I have never heard of is boring. I am not emotionally connected yet to want to bother knowing this stuff. And in addition, giving me pages of dry information is pretty much guaranteed to have me forget all the carefully crafted references.

On top of the excess information, the author also peppered the text with foreign words. I know this is a fantasy story and I expect made up words. They can be really cool. But these words just seemed to be made up words for English words that really didn’t need to be changed. And coupled with the unnecessary information, it became boring and had me huffing and rolling my eyes.

With all that being said, I really enjoyed these books!

The world in which the story is set is very solid and interesting. The different races of people, and the politics between them, were crafted very well. It didn’t need all the cultural and historical info that was given to make it so, the author just did a great job in rendering it very realistically.

The characters were fantastic. From Scaja, Scarlet’s stolid father, to Cestimir the Crown Prince. They all sprang to life and really fleshed out the story.

Scarlet was the kind of character I truly enjoy. He was strong-willed and willing to fight for what he wanted. He had fears and weakness, but he also had loyalty and determination. Scarlet is truly who moves this story. I rooted for him and was impressed with him and laughed with him and grieved with him.

Liall was an impressive man, as well. As the leader of a gang of bandits, he really rocked. There is depth in him that makes you want to know more and more about him. There is more to him than just being a big hunk of blond hotness. As his story develops, we are given glimpses into what shaped him and what haunts him. Crow never quite reveals his secrets until it is absolutely necessary, which is always the perfect time.

The setting for these epics is great. Crow’s time and care shows in how well each place is crafted. From busy towns to ships to the icy shores of Liall’s home, it is all drawn well and believably. Never did I catch Crow missing a detail that would have yanked me out of the story saying, “Wait a minute! What about…!” Crow definitely had a handle on her world and it was magnificent.

I would also like to point out the lovely cover art by Analisa. Truly stunning. The art is absolutely perfect. Scarlet is clearly a man, which I really enjoy seeing! (Thank you, Elisa, for giving me the artist’s name!)

I recommend these books to anyone who enjoys fantasy stories. The adventure is there, the magic is there, the prophetic dreams and fortune telling are there. For the romance lover, this is right up your alley too. Scarlet and Liall are slowly and dramatically pulled together, demonstrating their love and care for each other over and over, even while they, as Scarlet would say, keep misunderstanding each other. Once you get past the first thirty pages, the rest of the story won’t let you go.