Born of wood, cloth, and a substantial dose of magic, Velsa is a Fanarlem, a beautiful artificial girl. Raised to be a concubine, she has seen her friends at the House of Perfumed Ribbons sold off to be the pets of wealthy men. Now her own dreaded day has come. Grau Thanneau is a kind and handsome sorcerer who expects to own a spectacular piece of spellwork–he doesn’t realize that everything he has been told about Fanarlem is a lie. Velsa is not a dull-witted doll, but an intelligent and luminous soul who captivates his heart. Neither of them expected to fall in love, in a land where the law will never recognize her as his equal…
When Grau brings Velsa with him as he serves in the border patrol, they encounter odd magic sent from the High Sorcerer’s palace–or is it magic at all? War is brewing, and with it, the winds of opportunity. Velsa has powers of her own, powers no Fanarlem girl should have, but when the enemy attacks, she might be the only one who can stand against them.
An unfamiliar wave passed over her for just a moment─ that someone was taking care of her, protecting her, delighting in her delight. It was not without uneasiness. For all his promises, she was still a possession, and he had complete control of her destiny.
The Sorcerer’s Concubine is such an interesting story. I loved the concept behind it, there was some LGBT representation, and there were some really interesting characters. But, all praise aside I did have some problems with the world-building, the plot, and the romance felt very instalove-y.
The concept behind this story hooked me instantly. Magically forged puppets inhabited by the souls of sinners forced into servitude as their atonement? It reminded me of The Jewel where magically gifted girls are sold into serving the nobility as their surrogates. With TSC’s emphasis on Velsa as a concubine, there were also very clear feminist undertones. But as interesting as the concept is, it is not being done justice if the pacing of the plot isn’t completely put together. From the synopsis it sounds like the setting is the military camp and border patrol but in reality, most of the book was spent travelling to the military camp. Because of that it felt more like a romance story than fantasy.
A lack of world-building didn’t help the situation. This book is a prime example of why fantasy stories have appendices. Reference was made other races like the Miralem and I was thoroughly confused for most of the book. I only learned that this is a spin-off of another series when I was near done with the book so I’m unsure if the other series does most of the world-building. Nonetheless, the book should be able to provide adequate enough information on the world that the reader isn’t confused.
Pacing and world-building aside, we did get to know our protagonist, Velsa, and her love interest, Grau, quite well through their journey. Some other really likeable characters made their debuts as well. For example, I loved Grau’s sister Preya and I wish she had a bigger part in the story. There’s still the opportunity for her to return in the sequels. Velsa herself was, by far, the most interesting character. Grau, on the other hand, was very lackluster to me. For a sorcerer in the army he was rather passive and reactionary. Preya made far more of an impression than he did.
All things considered I did really enjoy The Sorcerer’s Concubine. Some things could have been improved upon but nothing is perfect. However, I wouldn’t recommend this to readers looking for an action packed fantasy story. This is more suited to readers who want a romance with adventure, magic, and self-discovery.