Saturday, March 16

Book Review: Brute by Kim Fielding

Now, I have to confess, I'm only about half way through with Brute by Kim Fielding, so I can't truly rate it...but assuming the last half of the book is as good as the first half of the book (and I have absolutely no doubt that it will be!), I'd have to rate Brute at a solid 4.85 Stars.
Brute pulled me in from the very first sentence; I started it the day before yesterday because sometimes I'm a little ADD when it comes to reading and if what I'm officially reading doesn't suit my mood (or isn't holding my attention), I'll switch to something else.

After kind of a sucky day at work on Thursday, I just needed something different to read, and I decided on Brute. I was instantly in love, but only had time for a few chapters.

Last night I picked it up again after dinner and didn't put it down until almost midnight when it was time to go to bed. I'd be reading more today but I need to work on my own book. Well, I probably still will read more today, because I ended at one of those places (and there are lots of them in this one) where I'm just dying to find out what happens next. I mean, yes, I can take some guesses, because Brute ends in a Happily Ever After (hard to imagine with that cover, huh?), but it's the HOW of that HEA that has me hanging on the edge of my seat.
How will a one handed man--a great big giant of a man no less--save a blind (blind because his eyes have been plucked out) prisoner? (What doesn't show on the cover is that the prisoner is in irons as well as behind bars). Where will they go? How will they get there? And even though I have confidence that there is a Happily Ever After, I'm still wondering if it's really possible. I like that in a book.
Brute isn't really your typical romance. It's not just boy meets boy, boy and boy deal with the issues of life and buy a house togther somewhere. We spend several chapters simply getting to know the title character, learing about his life and him as a man. Brute is likable right off the bat. He's sympathetic and kind, and even though he has a miserable life, he's good natured and doesn't feel sorry for himself. He realizes his limitations and what they mean: his giagantic size and less than pretty face mean he's never going to fit in or find someone to love him because no one can get past his appearance. Most people assume assume he's stupid, little more than an ox with hands. His father was a thief and his mother is at least assumed to have been a whore; he was raised by an uncle who was far from kind.
The first time Brute is shown a shred of real kindness, it comes from the most unlikely of places: Prince...okay, withouth the book in front of me I'm not going to try to spell his name. His friends call him Friddy and that really works for me  :)  Friddy is the first person to who treats Brute like a human being.
Without going overly much into the plot, Friddy is a bit careless (or so everyone keeps saying, I think he's just the king's younger son, not destined to become king himself so really not important and he knows it) and ends up taking a tumble off the side of a cliff. While the entire village stands around gawping like idiots, Brute (the village idiot) springs into action--but saving the prince comes at a terrible price.
In fact, much of the story is about the price we all pay for things we want--or think we want at the time. It reminded me of Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series: everything comes at a price. The price for saving the prince was the loss of Brute's hand, which is badly injured; withouth his hand, he is no longer fit for manual labor (the only thing he's good for). But the reward for saving the prince is to be offered a new, albeit unusual, job in the palace.
And at least, we get to meet the other "boy" in "boy meets boy". He's a miserable blind prisoner locked up in irons, living behind bars, not even allowed the simple pleasure of being able to bathe himself or given more than a thin blanket for warmth or comfort. He's been beaten, abused, and abandonded, his only use the prophetic dreams he has about people's deaths, some of which are avoidable--at least when the person is important enough for the king to decide to intervene. When it's a beggar or a nobody, the crown quietly ignores the prophesy. Brute is told that the prisoner is a traitor and a witch and that no one has lasted more than a few months guarding him--but Brute is as loyal as he is stubborn. If he's given a job, he does it.
The prisoner is both more and less than he appears...but you should read it for yourself and let him tell you his story in his own words. It's a heartbreaking tale.
Brute is set in an imagnary fantasy world (although it's not high fantasy; wizards and witches seem to exist but the average everyday person isn't likely to ever meet one). There are Gods and healers, and a medieval sort of setting that is brougth beautifully and clearly to life in little details. Fielding engages all five sense regularly, telling us how things look and sound and smell and taste and feel. Although told exclusively from Brute's POV, we get a clear sense of other character's thoughts and feelings (and there is an amazing cast of wonderful secondary characters). Although the world is imaginary, it feels real--it's not some cushy Renn Faire fantasy, there are chamber pots and wretchedly poor people living in squalid conditions. (It really annoys me when medieval settings look more like a Renn Festival than historical Europe, so huge kudos to Kim!)
The dialoge us spot on. It is neither an attempt (usually handled badly) at "olde English" full of thees and thous (more bad Renn Faire memories), nor is it wholly modern; people simply sound like people, end of story (and yet, not always so common!) Anyone who knows me knows what a stickler I am for dialogue.
For all their seeming simple-ness (is that a word?), the characters were rich and complex; they had histories. They were born, lived before we met them, and will continue to live on after I close the book. I'm very certain that Brute will end up on my list of favorite books for 2013 (my fave list has nothing to do with publication date, it's about when I read a book).
While some might say that the plot is slow, I found it to be a steady slow build that kept me turning virtual pages until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer last night; I seriously can't wait to finish it, probably sometime today or tomorrow--and I have the sneaking suspicion I'm going to need to have some tissues handy!
Brute  is available from Dreampsinner Press.
I highly recommend it, especially to those of you who, like me, like a little (okay maybe more than a little) bit of angst and a lot of real story in your romance.
You can find Kim's website HERE and her Facebook HERE.

Edit/update: I spent the morning reading instead of writing and it did not disapoint! I was right, I needed those tissues!

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