It is also longer than usual at almost 500 pages.
The story is about Halanya Thæc (Hal), a famous duellist. Coming from the imperial court where she was brought up after being disinherited by an aristocratic mother, Hal found freedom in the life of a duellist.
As with all good lesbian fiction, she meets a beautiful young woman and everything changes. The young woman is Meracad Léac, the daughter of a wealthy, controlling merchant.
The two women fall in love and when Meracad’s father learns that she is sleeping with a woman he rushes her out of the city in order to marry a powerful Northern Lord. Meracad’s father isn’t alone in his endeavours to split up the two women, though. Hal’s aristocratic mother does everything in her power to kill Hal in an attempt to rid herself of the stain on her reputation that her illegitimate daughter has proven to be.
Hal finds herself in life and death situations as she faces off against her mother, Meracad’s father and the Northern Lord who has claimed Meracad as his own.
Kate Cudahy writes an interesting set of characters. None of them are deep characters and there was no real character growth. I found Meracad’s transformation, after her marriage, to be intriguing and unexpected but I would have liked to see something more done with that.
Each character had a clear motivation and their conflicts spurred the story forward at a nice pave.
The Writing Style
Cudahy’s writing style is clean and to the point. She doesn’t linger unnecessarily and the story keeps ticking along at a nice pace.
I would have liked to see a better description of the emotions between the women, the physical reactions to one another, the turmoil and uncertainty when they are wondering if the other woman feels the same, the tension and excuses to speak with or catch a glimpse of the other. Heck even being awake at night and restless because you just cannot stop thinking about her. Those feels are a large part of what I love about lesbian romance novels, Radclyffe does them particularly well.
I like the way Cudahy writes. I liked Hal and even though she is rather stubborn at times I couldn’t help rooting for her.
Hal was a lighter read than many fantasy novels; it is more of a romance novel with swords. The fact that it was a fantasy was almost a coincidence.
I would have liked to see more character growth. Large revelations happen and Hal pretty much stays the same person. Character growth would have deepened the story for me.
Hal was a fun book. I didn’t know what would happen in the story as I read which was refreshing. I liked the revelation towards the end about Hal’s friend and I felt bad for Meracad.
Hal was a good read and worth a look.
Excerpt from Hal by Kate Cudahy
“Resting her sword on the ground, Hal wiped the sweat from her eyes. “Who is it?”
A toothy grin laid claim to the cadet’s freckled face. “A pretty one.”
“Pretty?” Confused, Hal wrinkled her brow into a frown.
Finn shook his head. “You’d better go, Hal.” He threw her an indulgent smile.
She followed the boy to the top of the stairs. It took several moments to recognise the woman who was standing with her back to the hall. Long, straw-coloured hair cascaded down her bare shoulders and she wore a sleeveless, pale blue dress. She turned around and smiled.
“You remembered.” Meracad’s brown eyes betrayed her relief. The smile vanished. “You said I’d know where to find you.”
“I didn’t mean…” Hal immediately regretted opening her mouth.
“You didn’t mean what?” Meracad studied her. “That I should come here? That’s a pity. I must have misunderstood.” She moved towards the steps.
“No. Wait.” Without thinking, Hal reached out and put a hand to the girl’s shoulder. Her skin was soft, kissed warm by the sun. “I mean – I didn’t want you to take such a risk.” She leaned over the balcony and peered downwards through open doors onto the street. No one was there. She was aware of the kicking of her pulse.
“Strange.” Meracad’s eyes posed a challenge. “When I met you in the library I had the impression you believed freedom was worth any risk.”
Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781512261172
Note: I received a free review copy of this book for review. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always endeavour to review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.