Cover Image: The Wolf and the Sparrow

The Wolf and the Sparrow

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Member Reviews

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel.

DNF @ 35%

This book has been "on hold" for the last 7 months and I just don't see myself finishing it anytime soon. It started out so well, super fast-paced and I was loving the characters, but then my interest waned. I definitely understand why people love this one, unfortunately, it just wasn't for me!
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I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did I found the plot confusing at times and did not like most of the characters
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This was supposed to be similar to the Captive Prince series but I found it seriously lacking. The relationship was rushed and instalove. The overall plot was also pretty boring and short. Not my favorite. There was potential in the magic system but that was explained and developed too little. 

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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As a thank you to Netgalley and the publisher (Nine Star Press) for a copy of “The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler. The novel was unabashedly queer as it featured pansexual characters and radical acceptance of one’s identity. The notion of identity in this world was fluid and featured its characters in an understated and realistic way. The novel held my interest as it follows two men (Derek and Callan) who have been arranged to marry one another. As battles are on the horizon their union is needed more than ever to build their countries alliance for their present and importantly their future. Its story filled with second chances at love, and loyalty within primary relationships and family. I highly recommend this to fans of the Captive Prince trilogy as it features key elements from its stories. On GoodReads, I gave this four out of five stars.
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I DNF this book at 54%. I just couldn’t get into the story as much as I’d hoped!
I liked the idea behind the storyline that two people were having to marry to form an alliance but then they actually developed feelings.. but it just didn’t flow right for me
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3.5 stars 

What a delightful little book! Mourning the death of his father and forced into an arranged marriage in order to save his people, Derek must contend with his new country's politics and marauding bands of pirates, all while secretly falling in love with Callan, his new husband - the very man rumored to have killed his previous spouse. An emotional roller coaster from start to finish, with vivid world building and complex characters, this novel is a must read for fans of authors like C.S. Pacat!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.
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This is a darling MM romance, set on a backdrop of political intrigue and light magic.

Derek and Callan are joined together in a political marriage that neither man wants or understands; in fact Derek's father was just killed in a war against Callan's realm. They expect this to be a marriage in name only, but they're drawn closer and closer together.

I loved how sexuality and gender were treated in the book (or how they weren't). There is no to-do about gay vs straight marriage; both are treated as common arrangements, both for love and for political alliance. Sexual orientation does exist in this story, insofar as one of the men comments that he's lucky that his arranged marriage is in line with his attraction; essentially men are his "type." Though it's not stated explicitly, there's both bi and gay rep in the story. I also appreciated the non-binary gender rep, with a side-character casually pronouned as They.

While there are strong women in the story, it is a Bechdel-Wallace fail, both on and off the page. Often female characters are treated as collateral damage, and overall they are too few and far between to show agency as a community. Likewise, I didn't get a strong sense of racial representation; I'd love to hear if other readers mentally cast the characters with more diversity.

I've never been all that into political machinations, and can't tell a duke from a countess. So some of the the matters of kingdoms and conflicts breezed right past me. The book also contains elements of magic and witchcraft, explored so lightly as to be perhaps a D plot. From a world-building standpoint, this is a light, accessible book, and could make a great read to folks who aren't acclimated to detailed historicals or high fantasy.

I would have loved to see a little more development of side-characters, as well as the magic and witch-craft. But even without more in these areas, this is a strong, sweet book that manages to queer genre fiction in a way that normalizes all love stories.

There is some explicit on-page sex, but the author has a very poetic approach to these scenes, and manages to write metaphors through their physicality, which I hope can be beautiful even to readers who are typically less comfortable with sex scenes.

The standout element in this book is how loving and supportive Derek and Callan are, and how quietly kind their relationship becomes. They have each other's backs at all times, and I adored this.

Because this is a small press book, it may struggle to find a large audience, and to me that's a shame. It's well written, crisply edited, and I adored the romantic arc.
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I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did I found the plot confusing at times and did not like most of the characters
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I kept hearing wonderful things about this book.

The wonderful things weren't wrong.

I really loved this story. It had a bit of everything and the characters totally won me over.
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Diese Fantasy - Gay Romance wird abwechselnd aus den Perspektiven von Derek und Callan erzählt. Es handelt sich um einen Einzelband. Das Buch spielt in einer fiktiven Welt, in der die Leitung der verschiedenen Reiche innerhalb der Familien weiter vererbt wird. Die Geschichte setzt kurz nach dem Ende eines Krieges ein, mit Derek auf der Verlierer- und Callan auf der Gewinnerseite.

Mit Derek sympathisiert man schon auf der ersten Seite. Durch den Tod seines Vaters findet er sich unerwartet in der Rolle des Anführers wieder und muss dem Friedensangebot des anderen Reiches, welches Dereks Heirat mit Callan beinhaltet, nachgeben, um sein Volk und seine Familie zu retten. Aufgrund der Gerüchte um Callans verstorbener Frau ist Derek in Alarmbereitschaft, denn würde er nach der Hochzeit sterben, würde Callan sein Reich erben. Recht schnell wird deutlich, dass Derek selbst sehr unter seinem verstorbenen Vater gelitten hat und diesen Krieg, dessen Konsequenzen er jetzt tragen muss, niemals wollte. Trotz seiner schwierigen Situation ist Derek sehr tapfer und stellt sich seinem Schicksal - auch wenn einer seiner Brüder ihm davon abrät und er so dessen Zorn auf sich zieht - um die zu beschützen, die ihm wichtig sind.
Callan ist ebenfalls ein Charakter, mit dem man sehr schnell warm wird. Er gehört in das Klischee "raue Schale, weicher Kern", wobei er diese weiche Seite gegenüber seinen Freunden durchaus zulässt. Auch wenn er genauso wenig begeistert von dieser Heirat ist wie Derek und nicht viel von diesem hält, hat mir sehr gefallen, dass er immer wieder auf Dereks Wohlbefinden geachtet und ihn mit Respekt behandelt hat.

Mir hat die Welt, in der die Geschichte spielt, sehr gefallen. Gerne hätte ich noch mehr über die anderen Reiche und Völker erfahren, denn ich hatte das Gefühl, dass da noch einige weitere Geschichten möglich wären.
Das erste Drittel des Buches entwickelt sich sehr langsam und lässt Callan die Vorurteile, die er gegenüber Derek hat, langsam abbauen. Mir hat sehr gefallen, dass die beiden die Chance bekommen, sich nach und nach besser kennenzulernen und ihr Interesse aneinander zu erforschen. Ich hätte mir gewünscht, dass die Beziehung der beiden sich im gleichen Maß weiterentwickelt. Als das Buch jedoch plötzlich an Fahrt aufnimmt und es sehr actionreich und dramatisch zugeht, schießen auch die Gefühle der beiden füreinander plötzlich in unermessliche Höhen. Da hätte für meinen Geschmack ein bisschen weniger auch genügt. Dennoch war es für mich auch nachvollziehbar, dass die gemeinsam erlebten bedrohlichen Situationen sie enger zusammenschweißen.
So wirklich konnte ich mich darauf aber gar nicht konzentrieren, da ich so von der fesselnden Story gebannt war. Auch in den ruhigeren Momenten konnte ich das Buch kaum zur Seite legen. Die Autorin schafft einen wunderbaren Ausgleich zwischen hektischen, aufregenden Szenen und intimen, gefühlvollen Momenten, und beide Elemente sind wahnsinnig spannend geschrieben, sodass man kaum aufhören kann zu lesen.
Ein wenig schade fand ich, dass Dereks Volk und insbesondere die Konflikte mit seinem Bruder nicht mehr näher beleuchtet wurden. Diese Thematik, die sowohl Derek als auch mich als Leser zu Beginn des Buches sehr beschäftigt und mitgenommen hat, wurde am Ende einfach offen stehen gelassen.

Fazit:
Diese Geschichte konnte mich über den gesamten Zeitraum hinweg fesseln und begeistern und hat eine sehr schöne Mischung aus Action und Gefühl. Trotz kleinerer Kritikpunkte kann ich das Buch sehr empfehlen und werde noch mehr von der Autorin lesen. Gute 4 Sterne.


In English:

This fantasy gay romance is alternately told from the perspectives of Derek and Callan. It is a single book. The book takes place in a fictional world in which the leadership of the various realms is passed on within the families. The story begins shortly after the end of a war, with Derek on the losing side and Callan on the winning side.

You already sympathize with Derek on the first page. With the death of his father, he unexpectedly finds himself in the role of the leader and has to give in to the peace offer of the other empire, which includes Derek's marriage to Callan, in order to save his people and his family. Due to rumors of Callan's late wife, Derek is on alert, because if he dies after the wedding, Callan would inherit his kingdom. It quickly becomes clear that Derek himself suffered a lot from his late father and never wanted this war, the consequences of which he must now bear. Despite his difficult situation, Derek is very brave and faces his fate - even if one of his brothers advises him against it - to protect those who are important to him.
Callan is also a character that gets you warm very quickly. He belongs in the cliché "rough shell, soft core", although he shows this soft side to his friends. Even though he is no more enthusiastic about this marriage than Derek and doesn't think much of him, I really liked that he always paid attention to Derek's well-being and treated him with respect.

I really liked the world in which the story takes place. I would have loved to know more about the other empires and peoples, because I felt that a few more stories in this universe would be possible.
The first third of the book is developing very slowly, and Callan is slowly getting rid of the prejudices he has about Derek. I really liked that they got the chance to gradually get to know each other better and to explore their interest in each other. I would have liked the relationship between the two to develop farther to the same extent. However, when the book suddenly picks up speed and it is very action-packed and dramatic, the feelings of the two suddenly shoot up to immeasurable heights. A little less would have been enough for my taste. Nevertheless, it was also understandable to me that the threatening situations that were experienced together brought the two of them closer together.
But I couldn't concentrate on that because I was so fascinated by the captivating story. Even in the quieter moments I could hardly put the book aside. The author creates a wonderful balance between hectic, exciting scenes and intimate, soulful moments, and both elements are incredibly exciting, so that you can hardly stop reading.
For me it was a bit sad that Derek's people and especially the conflicts with his brother were no longer examined in more detail. This topic, which both Derek and I, as a reader, were very concerned about in the beginning of the book, was left open at the end.

Conclusion:
This story was able to captivate and excite me over the entire period and has a very nice mix of action and feeling. Despite minor criticisms, I can highly recommend the book and will read even more from the author. Good 4 stars.
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I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve hit one of those bumps in the reading road. The kind of bump where the last books you have read all feel bland and unremarkable. This book and the one that I’m currently reading (at least so far) are not bad books per se, but they suffer from severe hollowness. No memories, good or bad, will be forged about them. Just one more on the list. Let’s see if I have something to say about The Wolf and the Sparrow!

Camria and Mulberny are two neighbouring fiefdoms who has just got over a minor war between them. To seal the pact, the Duke of Mulberny (the winning side) wants to marry his son with the new Duke of Camria: Derek. Having the death of his father still so raw, Derek is not eager to join his life to that of the so-called murderers; but he must sacrfice his pride in order to ensure peace for Camria. When Callan and Derek first meet, it is clear neither of them is happy with the rushed wedding. Luckily for them, a conspiracy and dark secrets threaten their lives and they are forced to work together. Will that spark any flame among them or will they use those dangerous times to get rid of each other?

I would divide the story of this books in two big chunks: the good one and the OK-ish one. We have a really good introduction of the characters, with a decent amount of interesting secondary characters, and some hints and nods about the secrets and hidden agendas of the cast. We had the hurried marriage where both main characters were not happy about it, the machinations of Callan’s father, the disapproval and warnings of Derek’s family, the attacks from pirates… Plenty of worldbuilding and bait to keep the reader entertained. There is even a couple of short but good fights that spice things up a little bit. The first half of the book is above the expected in all the important aspects of the book: story, romance and pace. Too bad the second half doesn’t show the same mastery…

When the story was supposed to bloom into something awesome, everything starts going sideways. The conspiracy and dark secrets are revealed, but I still have to see the consequences or the impact. Derek’s family looked like they were going to have a big role in the outcome, but are practically ignored except for some halfhearted cameos. The final battle that was being cooked is removed from the equation prematurely leaving the reader thristy for some action. All ends in a very simple way. Too simple for the way it started. I even dare to say that it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is not a horrible ending, but it has left me very cold and thankful that this is not the start of a saga.

Both main characters are not really remarkable, so there is barely anything to mention about them. Derek and Callan are interchangeable. The differences in their behaviour are so small that are not even worth mentioning. Both of them are ultimately good guys, who try to do what is right at every moment. They uphold honor and fairness as some of their most important qualities. It is thanks to that last part that the romanntic part of this book makes any sense. If they weren’t fair with each other, it would have been an epic mess to make their love relationship work. I’m glad the author has chosen a slow pace to build this couple, even though they are married from almost the beginning. Without any doubt, the best part of the story is reading about these two getting to respect each other a little bit more at a time.

It’s hard to recommned this book. It is not boring and has good foundations, but there are plenty of stories out there that are much more enjoyable and better rounded off.
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3.5 gay Stars ★★★✬✩
This book is for you if… you value representative reads. The gay love is all over the place but it still seems to be a very white book. TW: violence, physical injuries, mention of domestic abuse.

⤐ Overall.
Let's face it, gay romance is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Yes, the plot could have been a lot more thrilling, and yes, this wasn't the most original story. I was bored sometimes even. But I won't let anybody take away the joy I felt while reading this. Soft bois are da best.

Characters, special in their unobtrusiveness. The MCs could be described as utterly mundane. What makes them so lovely and captivating is their strong moral compass and the character development they go through, with each other and personally. The relationship between them is realistic and tender and my heart couldn't have asked for more.


World(-building). I loved that there is no explanation to the whole "straight ain't the norm in this one". It shouldn't need an explanation of why in this universe, political marriages can between two men. It shouldn't need an explanation of why the charismatic leader of the guard, Rema, has they/them pronouns. You just listen, accept and adapt.

The arch of suspense. This is where the praise stops because it really wasn't that great. The plot was mildly thrilling at best.


⤐ What’s happening.
‘Unless you end up falling in love with your arranged husband.’
‘You know,’ Derek said, ‘I think there’s a better chance of him murdering me in my sleep.’

Derek just became the young duke of Camria. To save it, political marriage to Callan of Mulberny is arranged/forced, an icy but beautiful man whose hostile exterior is as chilling as his blue eyes, surrounded by dangerous rumours.
‘Wouldn’t it be fund if he only fell in love with people he was forced to marry against his will? Hilarious.’

Or maybe it isn't that hilarious because Callan has lost all light in life. He bends to his father's will, only his kingdom in mind. But what happens when his mind is suddenly occupied by a certain soft boi that's got more courage and love in him than one person should legally be able to carry?
_____________________
writing quality + easy of reading = 4*

pace = 3*

plot/story in general = 3*

plot development = 3*

characters = 4*

enjoyability = 3*

insightfulness = 4*
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Its was a OK read but I found its quite predictable at times and I got a little bored with its. Could have done with more world building.I received  this book from netgallery inexchande for a honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book! I was originally drawn to it because of the gorgeous cover and the hard to resist "enemies to lovers" trope but I was very pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this world and these characters.  I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a romance with a little politics and fantasy thrown in.
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A lovely historical novel set in the fictional kingdom of Ivicia. The story is populated with a cast of interesting and engaging characters. Derek and Callen are heirs to two feuding fiefdoms who try to bury the hatchet by forcing their heirs into an arranged marriage.

The first thing I loved about this book is that same-sex relationships/marriages are normalized! This story didn't have the typical struggling about your sexuality and constantly being defied because of who one loves, which was a nice change-up!

The plot is filled with intrigue, there's great world-building, a mixing of Northern lore and magic, and I enjoyed Adler's writing style-- elegant without being excessive or redundant.

However, despite hating each other, the two save each others' lives and fall in love within a very short period of time, so the romance felt underdeveloped. Also the pacing of the story could've been better.
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DNF @ 50%

I enjoyed the characters but the plot felt too shallow and underdeveloped.

Rating reflects the part of the book I read.
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The last book I read by Isabelle Adler was Irises in the Snow. At the end of that book, there was a chapter from The Wolf and the Sparrow and if it was meant to be a tease, it worked because I knew as soon as I read it that it would be next on my request list. Although I have to admit it took a little while to get into, I wasn’t disappointed.

Nothing is ever quite what it seems on the surface and it took a little while, but Derek and Callan eventually realized that – about each other. The both had preconceived opinions about each other. Along the way, they even discovered things about themselves that they never considered either.

There wasn’t a lot of down time in The Wolf and the Sparrow. There seemed to be danger lurking around every corner and the source of the danger was much closer than either one of them realized. At times it was a little much, but it kept the pages turning.

Needless to say, I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from this author. There’s at least one series that I hope she continues sooner rather than later 😉
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There were little splatters of inclusion that I loved and didn’t necessarily expect from a historical novel. Ranging from the use of they pronouns, to a smart second in command who’s wheelchair bound, to a female second in command who (hints?) at liking ladies company. And obviously the complete acceptance of someone who married a woman, then marrying a man. 

I do, however, have some reservations on the portrayal of the islanders in this book. However, I am not well educated on that to offer any concrete opinion. 

I love a good marriage of convenience/ enemies to lovers plot line but this seemed a bit insta-love for me in the end. 

Overall, enjoyable and entertaining. I would read from this author again!
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Review excerpted from my blog post over at Pan/Cis LGBT2SQ+ Romance Reviews (https://pancis.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/the-wolf-and-the-sparrow-by-isabelle-adler/)

Overall Rating: 4.0 stars

Library recommendation: Recommended for public library LGBT2SQ+ romance collections.

Warning: Hereafter, you chance spoilers. I will try never to reveal major plot points, but to review any book, you must reveal some parts of the story. 

 ____________________________

Number of titles I have read by this author: 1

Love story speed: Fast burn

Relationship dynamics: Marriage of Convenience (Political Marriage)

Sexual content: A smidge; “on-screen” and explicit, but not overly so

Gender Identity: Cis (H1) / Cis (H2)

Sexual Identity: Bisexual (H1) / Gay (H2)

Triggers: Violence; public humiliation; parental death; spousal death (recounted)

Acceptance Rating: 5 stars

Acceptance Rating Explanation: It’s all good.

Grammar/Editing: My ARC had some problems with verb tenses.

Review: This quick-paced novel spends far more time on the characters than the setting, but it is set in a magic-imbued fantasy world with a polytheistic society. Enough world building is done to get a sense of the landscape and the politics, but we are not really given enough to draw a map from.

Callan is a widower and son of a duke and Derek is a newly made count after the death of his father. While they neither of them wish for a political marriage, Callan’s father requires it, so they acquiesce. Very quickly, they develop respect and then love for one another, making the best of a less-than-ideal situation. I like how even-tempered both heroes were and how ready they both were to communicate and apologize to one another. The supporting characters in this novel are not overly well-developed, but still developed enough to move the plot along. Ivo was an interesting character, as was Adele – while there isn’t a series attached to this book, I wouldn’t mind seeing a separate book about them.

 

Full disclosure: I received a free advance review copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Personally felt like this was one of these books where the premise and idea of it sounds better than what really was. I felt like a lot of this was undercooked and I couldn't connect.
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