The Lord Alchemist must be immune to hostile potions. But in all the country, there are only two known immunes: Iathor Kymus, the Lord Alchemist, and his feckless brother, Iasen.
Kessa is a half-barbarian herb-witch, arrested for crimes she didn't quite intend. But when Iathor discovers her immunity to truth potions, he'll do whatever he must to court her -- guilty or not, she's his only hope of banishing his nightmare: a son enslaved to him by the loyalty potion that each Lord Alchemist's heir must drink, and defeat.
But Kessa doesn't trust him, Iasen despises her tainted blood, and there's still the mystery of who complicated Kessa's little crime into the bigger one she didn't intend. They don't even have the benefit of lust at first sight. All they have in common is the alchemist's immunity, and an ability to get on each other's nerves. Will it be enough?
Very rarely do I come across a fantasy romance that reminds me of the coming of age stories of Andre Norton or early Mercedes Lackey and reminds me of how satisfying a well wrought fantasy can be. This book and the one that follows Herb-Wife, are both well worth the time.
I very rarely recommend books that aren't stand alone. I get very tired of having to slog through 200 pages of unnecessary angst and drama to get to the heart of a story line. In this instance Ms. McCoy needed every page and two books to tell this story the way it deserved to be told and she does a fine job of it.
The world of this story is a world where alchemy and herbalism are well accepted practices and both carry the "magical abilities" that form the foundation for this society's commerce, independence and power structures. There is significant class conflicts, bigotry and prejudice along with a social structure that is almost medieval but boosted by the powers of the Alchemist/Herbsman guild, who are able to brew potions that allow people to remain young and healthy no matter how old they are, cure almost any disease, kill/injure at the touch of a hand and most importantly the guild can brew a potion that makes another person a willing thrall to the giver - even against their will.
It is shown very early on that this "dramsman draught" is used as both a binding tool and a punishment. Important noblemen and guild lords use the draught to force their new brides into submission of their will so the wife is unable to plot or otherwise harm her husband as she is unable to disobey his wishes. This draught is also used to bind an offender to the person he offended in eternal servitude if the issue is serious enough.
The draught has been used to force loyal subjects to betray their leaders in the past and has also been used to corrupt targets by competing political interests. For this reason the Lord Alchemist, head of the Alchemist/Herbsman guild must be immune to the effects of the draught and if at all possible he must produce an heir that is immune to the effects also. In order for such an heir to be produced, his wife must be immune as well but unfortunately for Iathor (the current Lord Alchemist) there are no immune women to be found. His own mother was not immune, merely highly tolerant, but her being forced to drink the draught created tension and conflict in his parent's marriage that Iathor doesn't want in his own marriage, plus a wife who is only highly tolerant runs the risk of producing children that may eventually wind up to be Iathor's virtual slaves and he really doesn't want that.
Enter our h, Kessa who is considered lower than low due to her half barbarian parent who gifted her with eyes that are brown and yellow speckled, (kinda like a cat's) and mark her out to both the citizens and barbarian tribes as less than human. To the barbarians her eyes resemble those of predatory beasts and so she doesn't have a soul. To the citizens where she lives her coloring and eyes mark as being of an inferior race and thus subject to bigotry and discrimination. When the local deviant moneylender is found foaming at the mouth and out of his mind, Kessa is arrested and put in a prison cell for having poisoned him.
Kessa was abandoned at birth and then bound to a Mafia type shady herbwitch/alchemist who brewed up drugs and poisons for the local gang. Kessa was allowed to stay with the woman up until the woman's poisoning because she is immune to the effects of alchemy - essentially she can tolerate really high doses of poisons and throw off the effects of most potions without it causing serious harm to her body. If she gets the antidote quickly enough, even instantaneous poisons won't effect her beside making her ill for a bit.
Kessa is the only woman Iathor has found that can overcome the dram's draught and so when he goes as her guild leader to get her out of prison and find out what happened with the money-lender, he proposes marriage right after he tests her with a truth serum and she lies anyway. He isn't in love and he is very uncomfortable with her eyes, but he needs an immune child, so he is willing to put his duty above all else and for political purposes, he wants to do so in a full high-court wedding ceremony instead of keeping Kessa as his consort or mistress and having his heir be legitimized by one of the country's leaders. If he marries her, there is no question of his child's legitimacy as his heir and no opportunity for others to try and disrupt the political climate. To marry Kessa, he needs her consent and Kessa, after receiving such a shocking proposal in the midst of being accused of criminal conduct, thinks Iathor is deranged.
Kessa is stunned by his proposal and refuses flat out. The only loyalty she has is to her foster brothers and a courtesan sister who were raised in the same thieves creche she was. Ms. Mccoy makes it clear with repeated references to Kessa's dung colored or dog vomit eyes that this is a serious handicap for her, so much so that Kessa uses her hair to hide behind and never looks at anyone, it unnerves them and scares them to the point that they might attack her.
I thought the repeated references were kinda annoying at first but considering this is such a huge burden for Kessa and really, really affects how she is treated by other characters in the story, the repeats made me very aware as a reader just how ignorantly hated Kessa is and how many obstacles she has had to overcome all her life just to achieve what little independence and self security she had. Even with all her struggles for education and independence, Kessa is very poor, one of the ways Iathor tries to woo her into marrying him is he starts providing baskets of food for her everyday and a blanket as she can't really afford basic heating for her home.
The basic premise to this story is consent and the consequences of removing a person's will to consent. Not only losing the ability to consent through the administration of a potion, but also how circumstances and societal concerns can limit choices and force someone who only wants a peaceful, secure life into extreme actions merely to save themselves. Iathor wants Kessa to freely marry him and hopes to have a loving, happy marriage. As he learns more about Kessa, through offering to teach her alchemy and during his investigation as to what really happened to the money lender, he starts to really like her and how she strives hard to overcome the obstacles of her eyes and social status. His attempts to woo and win her are charming, mainly because Iathor doesn't see himself as a romantic hero and in this book the romance is very subtle and low key. Kessa thinks Iathor is using her and his courting attempts to ensure himself an heir and therefore doesn't believe Iathor even sees her as a person and not a breeding machine.
Kessa doesn't want to be bothered, she wants to continue with her herbshop, learn alchemical healing potions to help her creche sister who is frequently ill and just be left to live her humble life in peace. Because her immunity makes her a valuable commodity to the upper echelons of her society, she finds herself trapped between choosing Iathor or forcibly sterilized and assassinated by Iathor's brother who is the only other immune man in the country and hates her because of her heritage. There is also the suggestion that other politically minded individuals would want to use her as a baby machine in order to have an immune child that would allow them to take over the Lord Alchemist position. Kessa even speculates that had she known of her immunity sooner, she might have attached herself to Iathor earlier in the hopes of gaining a better life for her and her creche family.
Because of continued abuse and poor treatment in the past, Kessa is very wary of anyone outside her immediate family and thus doesn't really see Iathor as he is. She has no trust in him and as the book progresses, she is partially right to feel that way. Because of Iathor's own personal blind spots, Kessa is endangered and consents to marry Iathor as the best of a bad set of choices.
All of this is just the first book, it is world building and character building excellence and because of Ms. Mccoy's switches between character POV, I was able to fully realize and understand just what both main characters where going through and where their choices and duties and desires where leading them. The writing gave me a good understanding of what their world was like and more importantly, I felt enough empathy with both Kessa and Iathor that I really wanted them to find a happy life together. The background potential romance and the main focus of immunity, political alliance and the mystery of the moneylender's mental meltdown all combine to create a solid read with empathetic and likable characters.
I really recommend getting both books if you like low fantasy with romance. The situations are believable and the struggles both characters endure make reaching the conclusion a satisfying and enjoyable read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This book- if I had two words to describe it- oh hell two phrases: interesting concept with huge doses of frustrating frustrating!
So, Kessa and Iathor. Yeah.
Kessa is a low class gutter raised "herb witch". She has a chip on her shoulder approximately the size of the universe. She's ugly and has vomit spit dog shit eyes I tell you! I probably shouldn't tell you that though because you will be reading that phrase and variations of about a billion times to describe her eyes and also everyone's reactions to her barbarian eyes. That's- frustrating to me. I GET IT. She has ugly eyes and she's ugly. So a half breed urchin raised to run petty crimes for her guardians is targeted by the esteemed and noble blooded Lord Alchemist himself- because she's immune to alchemy.
Iachor- its hard to get a sense of him even since he's just wincing and reacting to Kessa the entire book. He's a kind enough man although according to Kessa's thoughts he's high handed, irritating, arrogant etc. I didn't find him to really be that way at all which just gives you another hint to how completely maladjusted Kessa is. Iathor is at least likable if practical in his approach to Kessa. His hugest flaw is totally coddling his clearly good for nothing brother, Iasen.
There is little reason to like Kessa. Sympathize a bit, yes! But all she does is gripe about the fact that Iathor wants to marry her..to own her she feels. She worries about being a brood mare etc. Understandable, yes, but as I say often enough that doesn't make it enjoyable to read about. I guess my frustration stems from the repetition.
Redeeming factors: Some of the character interactions are charming. Her writing is very good- its just that the story frustrates. The cover- yeah I like the cover! So sue me- anyway it looks like watercolor work and it's pretty.
I'm already reading the second book. I have reasons for sure- while I didn't LOVE this book- I needed some answers. Who the hell are the Shadowmasters and Guild? And it is very obvious who the criminal really is in book one and I for one would at least like to see them get the justice they deserve. Also - since the book ended the way it did, well I want to see the development of that thing. I in fact do not understand why this was broken up into two books- but fair enough.
This by the way ISN'T romantic. It's more fantasy- and heavily laced with very earthy and repugnant ideas of alchemy and herb witchery. For those that are easily disgusted I'd say stay away.
I really loved this book, and bought the second one from my Kindle the second I clicked the last page. Then I spent the next three weeks telling people about it in person and trying to decide how to write the reviews.
So here's what I told people: It's got an interesting and well-realized world, with the feeling like we are only seeing a very small part of a much bigger map. The character motivations are not baffling or arbitrary, which one might be more tolerant of if it were being sold as a romance. And it certainly has every element of a forced-marriage romance. But both main characters are also independent and self-sufficient and have their own wants and needs which do not center around short-term desires. Sometimes they are stupid, but only because they don't have all the information to make a better decision.
It's self-published. I wonder if it is that lack of "saleability editing" that makes the flavor just a little unusual. This book (and the one following) are full of sexuality. Not sexiness, or explicit sex, but the different functions of men's and women's bodies. Perhaps the best illustration is this glossary entry:
"dry tea: a contraceptive preparation for women. "Dry" refers to "infertile fields," parched from drought; the tea is brewed and drunk normally. An integral ingredient is maiden's blood; the definition of "maiden" is very strict, for this purpose."
There is a male equivalent, also. Fertility, and the prevention thereof, figure heavily in the storylines. Also Kessa is one of those women with apocalyptically bad periods, and it's just... a thing. No one avoids talking about it, it's not taboo or secret, it's just an impediment she has. The whole culture is set up so that women are as capable of almost everything as men are. Kessa is not exceptional because she owns a business, nor because she knows how to defend herself. She is exceptional because she is imaginative and stoic and flexible. And the stubborn doesn't hurt, either.
She also has extremely striking eyes, and unlike any romance novel I've ever read, they are not a point of beauty, but a disfigurement. I thought it was interesting that she uses her ugliness as a weapon, and even the man falling in love with her has trouble making eye contact with her.
Kessa is a herb-witch, working with naturally occurring ingredients to make simple potions and mixes to help people stay or become healthy. Iathor is an alchemist, and works with chemicals or "metal-salts" to create more powerful medicines and potions. One of the ways he woos Kessa is to offer to teach her more alchemy to enhance her existing knowledge. And he needs all the lures he can get -- it turns out that proposing to people when you first meet them in a dungeon and you are in a position of power makes it hard for them to trust you. Who knew, right?
Of course, the other reason she can't trust him is she has a second life, and doesn't think he would approve of it, not in the least, but her second, secret life involves her family, and she's not about to give them up or endanger them by exposure.
Like I said at the top, I really liked this book. I was blown away by the worldbuilding and structure, the seamless genre-bending, and the interesting investigations on the nature of consent, love, dynastic marriages, and birth control.
Read if: You're looking for something living comfortably between fantasy and romance. You like thinking about the problems of consent and forced marriages. You love a heroine who has a bit of sneak thief in her. You're my sister.
Skip if: You are really going to be ooked out by female biology. Romance only clutters up your poisoning mysteries. You are allergic to the Magical Dark Skinned People trope.
Not sure what I want to say about this one. I kind of like it, but at the same time there's a lot I'm ambivalent about and it has a fair share of problems. I think I shall link to this 3 star review which pretty much sums up a lot of my thoughts without having to repeat them.
I kept saying "I'M SO CONFUSED" through most of it - even as it was so engaging. I even found myself reading it, waiting at (very long, very familiar) red lights.
I loved Kessa - she's SO DAMN SNARLY. And anyone - ANYONE would be blessed to have her as a friend/someone she considers family. How Kessa describes her eyes breaks my heart though. I also can't picture them at all - but also like, I don't want to?
[Also the imagery in this book ... specifically the color ~schemes :X they sound >.< truly hideous like how can people walk around with that?!]
Iathor ... oh he was adorable, constantly trying to feed Kessa and just STUPID MAN "that was a proposal" ... you IDIOT.
I kind of don't like ~the ending ...
I don't have a good feel for Iathor either. IS he truly evil? Is he "just" feckless? Is he normally "just" feckless but SERIOUSLY BIGOTED?
And Laita ... it's all so fascinating and I have so many questions!
I thoroughly enjoyed myself though and have already started on book 2. :) Much gratitude to Pamela/[FUPammySue?] for telling me about these books AND generously lending them to me <3
This was pretty good. I like that the main characters aren't some over tan, super buff surfer dudes and siren sex kittens. You know? Like actual people. Normal, real messed up people. What? Original character development? Say it ain't so. Length was good. Editing was good. The flow of the novel didn't feel rushed or too long. The plot was well developed and played out without feeling like you were being led through the scenes or manipulated. This one was a little much for the younger Tweens- and the second book is totally not tween friendly. Yikes. Didn't see that coming. So know going into it that the second book has the adult rating. Not YA. This one was fine.
I went into this story on the recommendation of another author that I read. I found this world rich and vibrant and thoughtful. There is the temptation in fantasy to handwave the difficulty of painkillers, sanitation, FOOD, and this book delivers stunning worldbuilding in this regard. I have a high opinion of the protagonist and her circle, her struggles are interesting and engaging to the reader. the other characters are nicely drawn and I enjoyed reading it. Working on the second one at a sedate pace. These stories need to be savored for details.
All things considered, I very much enjoyed this book. Our MCs are very likeable: Kessa is prickly but fiercely loyal and loving, and Iathor is Trying His Best and also wants to make sure you're eating enough? Very Hufflepuffy all around.
What did not sit well with me were a couple things that had to with female sexuality: the idea of "virgin blood" and these sterilized elite female soldiers from another country that are "wom[e]n in birth only," like??? I guess I'm willing chalk these things up to the Patriarchy doing what it does (the former...and I guess the latter too), and Iathor being an absolute dingus (the latter). I would very much like to ESCAPE from patriarchal bullshit in my escapist media consumption tho.
That being said, this book was largely sex- and sex worker-positive, which is great! And it treats menstruation as a very normal -if inconvenient and physically uncomfortable*- thing**, which is also great! tl;dr: it's a mixed bag vis a vis feminism ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And maybe my gripes will be addressed in the next book? (NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: the only change is a small questioning of institutionalized racism, that's it, fam. But I've come to the conclusion that the bad takes are to give it that Historical Flavor so I guess it's just Like That. Like no one knows SHIT about premature babies in the next one. Idek.) Very much looking forward to that one. Hoping for lots of smooching and murder...(NOTE FROM THRE FUTURE: sufficient smooching, not enough murder)
* Pour one out for Kessa, who can't use painkillers :/ **In this, at least, Iathor is *not* a dingus, so he's got that going for him.
Frankly, I loved it. I read it rather quickly- much quicker than I usually read books. The characters were memorable and sympathetic. The plot was fast-paced and kept me wanting to find out what happens next. The worldbuilding is fantastic, as well; as a fantasy world, there was the potential for a lot of confusion and "world mechanics" that were poorly explained. That did not happen; the explanations of "magic" and alchemy were well-covered, and in a way that felt natural to the plot, as well. I hadn't planned on buying and reading the second book immediately when I finished this one, but that was exactly what I did. I HIGHLY recommend this book (and indeed, the second as well)!
There is a good story here, and many parts of it are quite interesting. I enjoy books like this one that start out with a major event already unfolding. Unfortunately, the author seems to be obsessed with menstruation to a degree that distracted from the story. Maybe this was intended to be an original take on alchemy? If I could edit out 90% of the bleeding, I would rate this 4 stars. I was also a bit annoyed that the title of the second book didn't leave much doubt as to whether or not the Lord Alchemist would get the immune wife he sought.
Proposing to the inmate of a dungeon upon first acquaintance is a little peculiar to the proposee, who happens to be an herb-witch. The rest of the story is solidly based in world-building, character development, a dash of mystery, a sprinkle of fantasy/alchemy/magic, and a dab of romance. I totally enjoyed it.
TL;DR review: Wow this book was amazing, but also a bit niche. Try the half book sample from smashwords to decide if it's your niche or not. (Also, it's a duology so if you do like it, you'll need both books for the full story)
Full review: Herb-Witch has really enjoyable world-building. The book isn't rapidly paced, which I felt fit well with the medieval setting and enjoyed, but I know others found the pace too slow. It takes place in a world where alchemy and herb witchery (like alchemy, but without expensive metal salts) exist and things need to be boiled at noon, steeped in moonlight, or chopped with a tarnished silver knife for the potions to work. Two very important factors in this world are the dramsman's draught and Alchemist's immunity. The dramsman's draught is an alchemical potion that causes complete loyalty and complete obedience to whomever the potion drinker first sees after drinking it. It is mostly used on servants to ensure that no one else can give them the draught and force them to turn on their noble masters. And Alchemist's immunity, as you might guess from the name, is an immunity to (nearly) all poisons and mind affecting alchemical potions, including the draught.
Iathor and his younger brother Iasen both have Alchemist's immunity, and their high positions (Lord Alchemist and his Heir) mean that a non-immune wife would have to take the dramsman's draught so that she couldn't be turned against her husband. This is where the brothers' personalities differ. Iasen wants to marry for love. If she loves him, and he loves her, then the potion won't change much from his perspective. She already loves him, so the potion won't change much in her affections, and he's very persuasive so people doing what he wants seems natural to him. On the other hand, Iathor saw what their mother, with very high tolerances but not full immunity, went through: never knowing if she came to love her husband on her own or if the potion forced her love; never able to really disagree with her husband (any argument could end at his order after all). The thought of taking a dramswife makes him feel sick. He'd rather risk an immune wife never growing to love him than having a potion assured love match. The problem is he and his brother are the only immune people in the entire country. Until a half-barbarian herb-witch with blighted eyes is arrested for disminding a moneylender.
I like that all the novels in the Lord Alchemist world are strongly in the world building/fantasy category. But the romance side of the novels is fascinating too. Because they're fantasy romance, and not just "Romance Novels" they don't follow the normal romance formula. People aren't gazing into each other's eyes and declaring their never-ending love for one another (I don't think I've actually seen the words "I love you" used by anyone except family members in any of these books so far. You can tell people care more by how they act than what they say to one another, which I consider a plus. "Show, don't tell" is pretty important to good story telling). Most romance novels tend to stick with the same type of relationship from book to book. Either the romance is sweet, or funny, or hot-and-heavy, but it's usually the same from one book to the next (which isn't necessarily a bad thing either. If the romance is the selling point, then if it ain't broke don't fix it). The world building/fantasy is the constant here, and the romances are what varies. Sometimes people get to know one another before anything sexual happens, others get a bit hot and heavy right away, and in one of the books the relationship seemed a bit more casual (maybe FWB)? Some of the relationships were serious and some playful, and I really liked the variety.
Elizabeth McCoy is very straight forward about bodily functions, and I do think that's a good attitude to take (people's bodies do very disgusting things at time, and trying to avoid that truth too often is just setting yourself up for a harder time). But I understand that there are limits to what people are willing/able to handle, and if menstruation freaks you out then you might want to skip this book (or at least skim over those lines), because "moon flows" come up a few times and are even used in contraception teas (blood is mixed with other ingredients, dried, and then used to smoke tea leaves. So, no more than trace amounts would actually be ingested. It's still a bit gross of course, even with "only" trace amounts, but a lot of historical contraceptives and remedies were absolutely disgusting, so I see this as fitting in with the medieval theme).
The story is told in 3rd-person and the POV swings between Kessa Herbman, an ugly-eyed "half-barbarian" girl who is a herb-witch journeyman in the Alchemist Guild system and Iathor Kymus the Lord Alchemist, head of the, you guessed it, Alchemist Guild.
Through a series of (un)fortunate events, it comes to Iathor's attention that Kessa is the only woman immune to the witchy/alchemical potions in this world. As all Lord Alchemists have to be immune and he wants his future son to be as immune as he is, he needs her to become his wife.
Kessa is not interested as she has several "Artful-Dodger" style criminal friends/adoptive family members she has to protect and a herb-witch shop to run. In addition to that, she is under investigation for poisoning her moneylender.
Things progress from there.
This is a fantasy series with great world-building. The magical and religious systems in this book are some of the best I've ever read. The characters are fairly well fleshed-out. Their personalities remained consistent, if at some points very, very frustrating. I believed in their motivations and psychologies, except the antagonist who is a little one-note and whose actions are never explained well enough for my taste.
The prose is...unique. Contradictions and parenthesis are used in ways I've never seen in fiction before. I'm not saying the style is wrong per-se, but it is very different. How much this bothers you will depend on your tolerance for written dialects and Shakespeare-style asides.
My only serious critique-and for me, this is serious-is the plot of this story. It takes place in a country that has been colonized by a fair-skinned/haired population who actively discriminate against the "copper-skinned/dark-haired" indigenous population that they call "barbarians" and "savages."
Okay, so this a tired trope, but it is made worse by the characterization of Kessa. As a"half-barbarian" she is considered ugly by herself and basically everyone else. There are potions in this world that can lighten or change skin, eyes, and hair, but she can't use them because she is immune.
While I applaud having a non-conventional protagonist, the story takes every opportunity to say dark=ugly and bad. Kessa has internalized this message so strongly that she consistently compares her skin tone to everything, up to and including the furniture. And it is never addressed, never contradicted. Every good thing about her is despite her coloring. Each "nice" character halfheartedly says something like 'it's not your fault you're dark...' or 'she's only half-barbarian...'
The other "barbarian" characters are either villains or servants who have bleached themselves. As for the "tribes," they are only discussed in third-hand academic terms by "fair" characters. They have no redeeming characteristics and never deviate from the obvious stereotypes.
As a person raised exclusively around the colonists, I can understand this as a characterization for Kessa, but the author alienated and annoyed me as a reader and as a person of mixed ancestry.
There were many things she could have done to improve this tired trope and she chose not to. It is the most unoriginal part of her story and, I know with a little thought, and perhaps discussing her characters with other POC, she could have produced a superior novel.
I honestly rarely have good expectations of works that are not published through major publishers. They're usually poorly edited, oddly plotted, and generally either not ready for market or plain bad. However, this book was *excellent*. It was well edited, nicely plotted, thoroughly interesting, and just a darn good read. I wouldn't advertise it as a mystery, or a love story, precisely, though it's technically both of those things. It's a good tale, with a nicely detailed fantasy world. I would stack it up against any of the popular fantasy works right now, and I'm definitely going to recommend it to my friends.
I think 70 percent is far enough for me. This book has an enjoyable world and magic system, but I got irritated with the main female character's constant distrust of people. I even found the main male character, while not outwardly annoying in anyway, kind of bland and hard to get a grasp on who he was as a person. This book is more fantasy-romance than straight up fantasy and definitely a slow-burn romance too. Those are both categories of books that I love, but this book wasn't the one for me. Good potential but didn't pull through.
Kan inte komma över åldersskillnaden och beroendestälningen de har till varandra. Meh, språket var sisådär och ibland blev det rörigt och svårt att följa med. Kessas känslor och försiktighet med hennes hemligheter var dock trovärdig och välskriven.
Fans of Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study will enjoy this book. I did. The world building leaves many different possibilities to explore in future stories. The break point between Book 1 and 2 was more abrupt than I expected, but the combination wraps up the immediate tale, setting the stage for more Kymus family adventures.
I really enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. Bought Herb-Wife as soon as I'd finished it, knowing I wanted to read the rest of the story.
Iathor Kymus, the Lord Alchemist, has been searching for a woman who is immune to alchemy so that his sons will have a high chance of also being immune and thus eligible to inherit his position. His current heir, his brother Iasen, has shown no interest as yet in the role.
Kessa is part barbarian, with dark skin and hair, and ugly eyes, to the extent that people flinch when she looks at them. [Note: this was one of my issues with this story. I can't imagine any sort of eyes that would do that more than once or twice. However, Iathor has issues if Kessa looks at him directly long into this story.] She is a herb-witch, selling simple potions. She comes to Iathor's attention when she is arrested and his tryth potion does not work on her. Much to her shock and dismay, he immediately proposes to her. The rest of the story deals with the development of their relationship along with investigation of how her small crime was complicated by someone else.
I really liked the way that Kessa's alter-ego Kellisen was included on the watch patrols. Also how Iathor treats her as intelligent and takes her on as an apprentice alchemist.
Another niggle is that it isn't made completely clear why Kessa distrusts Iathor so much. Protection of her foster-family, sure, but with the way that he accepted and treated her, I find it hard to believe he'd reject them. Oh well.
Good read, but be warned, if you like it, you are going to want to get Herb-Wife.
The while story, I kept waiting for the next stage of the story, or the next stage of their relationship, or for the action and treats to turn into something more intense, but.........nothing! It ended up as a long, drawn out, almost interesting, road to nowhere. I was disappointed! I actually started liking the characters and wanted to keep reading because I wanted to see what happened. Problem was, nothing ever did.....and the it ended! So disappointing, and definitely not worth buying.
Herb-Witch and Herb-Wife (the two novels in the Lord Alchemist duology) are the kinds of novels I like but have a hard time finding - fantasy with a strong romantic storyline. A gripping storyline - Who is after Kessa? Will she ever be able to reconcile the life she knows with what Iathor offers her? - with strong characters, who are sympathetic if not perfect or always likable, in a unique and interesting world with a unique and interesting magic system.
The Goodreads link to B&N isn't working because the ISBN isn't showing up at B&N for some reason, and the link searches on ISBN, not title/author. (I'm working on poking people about the lack of ISBN.)
I thought this was just going to be a frivolous romance in a charming setting, but it turned out to be much more interesting than that. Well-constructed "world", interesting characters, fascinating plot.