I am not a Romance guy. Nope, not at all, no way, no how, call in the dog and put out the cat. Give me anything else to read and I am one happy dude. Not that there is anything wrong with Romance as a genre, or romance in real life (I am married, after all, and know how to be all romantical with my wife and whatnot), but I just can’t read the stuff. So, I apologize to all the Romance lovers out there…don’t hate, just relate.
That being said, I decided check out Khantara by Michelle Franklin because I heard her writing was evocative, beautiful, witty and her imagination was off the hook. Ms. Franklin was kind enough to gift me with a file copy of the book, so I put in my TBR pile and started slogging through all the books in front of hers.
A couple of weeks ago I finally made to Khantara and with great anticipation, I began to read. If you haven’t figured it out by now by the first paragraph, it is a Romance. A Fantasy Romance.
Boy, was I bummed, but I kept on reading.
Khantara is a giant, a 9ft tall slab of muscle who is the leader of his people. He is a peerless warrior, but gentle and kind…a paragon of virtue and virility. The kind of man other men (myself included) wish they could be. This fearsome, but wise, giant meets Anelta, a woman considered little more than property by her people, and so begins a rather tender and endearing voyage of discovery and romance that surprised me by its literary grace.
I am the son of an English professor, raised on Shakespeare, Homer, Mallory and Camus, so I have some idea what constitutes elegant writing. At least, I think I do. And I’m willing to bet some real money that Franklin’s efforts here meet the criteria handily. Think of Jane Austen meets Stephen R. Donaldson (although without Donaldson’s penchant for using words even English teachers wouldn’t recognize) meets Anne McCaffrey. The prose is so well written and the characters so real that I completely forgot my dislike of Romance and floated in the story. The dialogue is well realized and clever while the world-building is imaginative and well-conceived.
Don’t expect a lot of fighting, great battle scenes and visions of gore; it’s not that kind of book. Think more of the flow of a gentle river…not that exciting, but pleasant and comfortable…something in which you can comfortably immerse yourself.
Usually I am not surprised by a book or a movie (I saw the twist coming a mile away in the Sixth Sense) because there is very few new things under the sun, but this one took my by the lapels and shook me until my teeth rattled. It was the most pleasant surprise I had received in quite a while and I must hand it to Ms. Franklin, she knows how to write a hell of a book.