Dear Ms. Francis,
A friend recommended “Free Spirit” to me as a good dark fantasy novel. As I read it, I was surprised that I was liking it as much as I was since its type of heroine can sometimes drive me batty.
Diesa isn’t resigned to the fact that she’s now a slave. Despite the fact that her fellow slave, a human, tells her that their elven master treats them better than most, she loathes having her magic bound, her thoughts read and being ordered around. She’s determined to not give in easily to the situation and fights every battle that comes along. As she and Kitellan travel with Scanlon to his home, she nurses her anger and vows to be free again.
Readers looking for in depth world building will not find it here. There is enough information to sketch an idea but the emphasis is on the characters and their interactions. The story is entirely told through Diesa’s POV and for most of the story, Scanlon remains something of a mystery. It readers can’t stomach Diesa, the book won’t work for them. She’s stubborn, argumentative and willing to do the opposite just for spite or to make a point. She almost never stops fighting herself as well as everyone else. As I said, usually this type of heroine irritates me so I was puzzled as to why I didn’t want to fling this book. I guess because she has enough common sense to never go overboard with her defiance and does eventually recognize the limits of Scanlon’s endurance.
I know there’s a reason why we don’t have Scanlon’s POV but I still felt the lack of it. Eventually we learn why he’s willing to stay his hand and not punish Diesa. I do like the fact that in this world elves are supposed to be imperious and you have Scanlon act that way. But what I never really understood is why he falls in love with Diesa. We get hints that it’s happening and his declaration at the end but I never really saw what made it happen.
I applaud the secondary romance between Kitellan and another slave. And got a kick out of his suggestion to Diesa of a threesome. I enjoyed the relationship he and Diesa developed but when I understand the dynamics behind a platonic friendship more than the main romance, something’s wrong. However, that might be my problem. Perhaps I should have been reading this more as a fantasy and less as a traditional romance.
Readers should be aware that this is a darker fantasy and some unpleasant things happen. Diesa is raped, more than once, but at least there were plot reasons for it instead of just titillation. The villain is truly nasty which makes me wonder why Scanlon ever had anything to do with him. And by the end, the story was tending to sink into misery piled on misery. I mean, how much should Diesa be expected to endure? For these reasons, I can’t really go much higher than a B- for “Free Spirit.”