Jenre's Reviews > Test of Faith

Test of Faith by Aleksandr Voinov
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's review
May 24, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: historicals, m-m, erotica
Read on May 24, 2010

Set in Palestine during the crusades, Test of Faith follows two men who on the surface seem very different. Thierry is a French Templar knight who has been captured on the battlefield and sent to the tent of a man who has paid silver for him. That man is Abdul, a Muslim convert who has bought Thierry in order to rape and humiliate him. Things are not as they seem between the men though, as Abdul gains respect for the knight who refuses to cower in terror before him, and Thierry learns that even brutal infidels can be honourable and tender.

There was much to like and admire about this short story. The story is very intense as most of it takes place over a few hours in one location - that of Abdul's tent. During that time a whole wealth of emotion is unleashed between these characters. They begin by hating one another and everything that they stand for. Abdul may be a convert to Islam, but he has his own reasons as to why he despises Christians so much. Thierry has a typical ignorance of what he sees as a race of barbarians. He's only been in that part of the world for three months and believes only the propaganda fed to him by the knights who trained him for war. As the men interact their hatred changes to grudging respect, even admiration, before other emotions such as lust come into play. The way that the emotions of men ebb and flow, change and develop was one of the more fascinating aspects of this story.

Another thing I liked about the story was the way in which it took the theme of captive/captor and twisted it. At the beginning Thierry is bound and helpless, completely at the mercy of Abdul. However, even then Thierry doesn't allow his almost overwhelming fear to show, nor does he let go of the one thing which makes him strong - his faith. Despite being captive, Thierry is actually the stronger of the pair as Abdul doubts his actions throughout the first part of the book and questions himself continually. Thus the men are almost on an equal footing even with Thierry bound. They are well matched, both utilising words to great effect, whether it is to solicit anger, a questioning of faith, or lust in the other man. Even though Thierry is the youngest and least experienced of the pair, mentally he is just as strong as Abdul. Their arguments and counter-arguments, which bled slowly into agreements and genuine respect; the logic of their arguments, the way that neither man was willing to back down or give in, was absorbing to read. I found it fascinating to read such overwhelmingly masculine characters, full of pride, honour and self-assurance, who could also be warm, tender, attentive lovers.

Alas the pride and strength of mind in both men also lead to what turned out to be a very definite non-HEA. It's not even anywhere near a HFN. I can see that many readers will not like the ending, especially those who insist that any book which deals with a relationship ends well for the heroes. Normally, in a book which ends as this one does, I would give it a label of erotica, rather than romance. However, Test of Faith was a romantic book. My emotions were engaged and this story is far, far more than just a sex scene to titillate the senses. I finished the book feeling genuinely sad, but also resigned to the fact that the story is as historically accurate as it should be. My heart ached for what could have been for these two men, had not pride and circumstance interfered.

Other than the ending, there was one other slight niggle which affected my enjoyment of this book. The story is constructed so that the viewpoint shifts backwards and forwards between the men and I found some of these shifts quite abrupt, so abrupt that it pulled me out of the story whilst I read back to work out whose head I was now in. This wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment too much but it was a small annoyance from time to time.

Despite the niggle, this was a pretty terrific story. Historically it seems well researched; the characters are engaging; and the writing poetic and beautiful. If you like historical stories and are prepared for the lack of HEA, then I highly recommend this story to you. I've been very impressed with this collaboration so far, and I look forward to reading more of their stories.
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Great review!

message 2: by Brenda (b) (new)

Brenda (b) Wonderful review Jenre.

message 3: by orannia (new)

orannia Jen - you review so well! Based on your review, I'm really intrigued...and tempted. Aware of the lack of an HEA (thank you for the heads up BTW) but drawn to the character development. Out of interest, does the ending allow for a sequel or is it very obviously a stand-alone book (or it that a spoiler question)?

Jenre Thanks, Eyre and Brenda :).

Orannia: That's a difficult one to answer. There isn't a possibility of a sequel with Abdul and Thierry, but there's a definite possibility that the authors could write one about Abdul because there were a few things about his past that were only hinted at, but not given space to explore in this short story - possibly because of the length restrictions. Whether they will or not is another matter entirely :).

message 5: by Aleksandr (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov Thank you for the review, Jenre. You seem to be more into my more heavy-going stuff. :)

Raev Grayis the person to ask regarding a sequel - Abdul's hers. :)

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks so much for the review!

Oh, you can count on another one with Abdul. I'm planning one soon--tentatively before the year's end.

Jenre Hi Aleks
Yes, it's strange that your heavier stuff seems to hit all my 'like' buttons.

Hi Raev
Hooray about the sequel! I must say, I'm very curious about Abdul.

message 8: by Aleksandr (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov Jenre - you'll like the stuff best that I'm struggling to sell. Give it a year or two. :)

Jenre Aleks: I shall look forward to those than. Hope you find a pub for them soon :).

message 10: by Aleksandr (last edited May 25, 2010 02:09PM) (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov A couple small pubs found those too dark/mature. I keep looking. In the meantime, I'll sell the lighter books that publishers seem to want. The stuff you liked so far is all self-published. :)

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Hell, I like the stuff best that you and we struggle to sell. :)

message 12: by Aleksandr (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov Several pubs wanted "Test of Faith" if we re-write the ending. We could have sold that three times! :) Stupid integrity...

Jenre Well I'm glad that you stuck with your integrity. The end was hard, but it was also accurate and fitted with the rest of the story.

message 14: by Aleksandr (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov And thanks for reviewing it regardless. :-) I'll be happy to send you the more serious stuff when we get to it. At the moment, the GORGON stuff is so much fun, but I'm pushing the other stuff in the background. I'm too versatile and playful for my own good.

And no doubt Raev and me are going to finish up a few more serious things...

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