book reviews by Althea

An Apprentice to Elves – Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear ****

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An Apprentice to Elves
An Apprentice to Elves by Sarah Monette
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a big fan of Sarah Monette, but I have to admit that I wasn’t hugely in love with the first two books in this series, co-written with Elizabeth Bear. However, I’m ENORMOUSLY glad that I stuck with the story and picked up “An Apprentice to Elves.” I loved this book. However, I have to say that I would recommend it far more vigorously to fans of Monette’s excellent The Goblin Emperor (…) (written as Katherine Addison) than fans for the first two books in the series.

In style and tone, this entry into the Iskryne World is a bit of a departure from the first two. While those books very much concentrated on the love between Viking-like men, and their bonded wolves, this story dispenses with the explicit erotic content, and has a far more feminine tone. It also (as I hoped it would, after reading the last one!) finally gives us more than a glimpse into the lives and societies of the enigmatic elves. (Which, while different in the details, did remind me of the goblins in ‘The Goblin Emperor.’)

The primary character here is Alfgyfa, a daughter of a leader of the wolfthreat, who has been fostered out to the elves in an introductory attempt to build peace and understanding between the two societies. Her efforts to get along in a situation which is foreign to her, and the difficulties – but also the ambitions, the loyalties and loves – that she develops, are all beautifully done.

A prominent secondary character is Fargrimr – a sworn-son: born female, but living in the role of a man in order to inherit. In this position he has risen to a position of leadership, and has won the respect of his brothers. However, the invading Rheans (Romans) have a different cultural perspective on the matter.

Fargrimr must attempt to negotiate with the Rheans (who themselves are split by traitors), and meanwhile Alfgyfa finds herself in a unique position with the possibility of forming a bridge of peace between her father’s people and the two groups of elves, who have been split by a bitter feud for centuries.

My only complaint is that the big ‘showdown’ at the end felt rushed, with some issues that could easily have filled another full book being wrapped up – I thought – prematurely. I still hope that the authors will consider more stories set in this world.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Tor for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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