Star-crossed gay lovers meet in ancient Wales.
Vaughan (Blood Month, 2013, etc.) reworks legends from the early Welsh tales of the Mabinogion and Irish mythology into a powerful novella. In recompense for killing a deer being hunted by Anguish, High King of Achren, kindhearted Rhydian, Prince of Dyfed, agrees to exchange bodies with the surly monarch. Having slept chastely with Anguish’s royal consort for a year, Rhydian returns to his sister, Rhiannon, who suggests he visit the holy Mound of Modron to find a wife. There, under mystic circumstances, he meets Daire, an Irish prince exiled for kissing a boy. Though the lads are forced to flee, disguised as servants, after Rhydian kills an infuriated retainer who catches them snogging in a river, they find joy in each other’s arms—for a while. Battling a giant in the course of all this, and later rescuing Rhiannon from an imperious suitor, Rhydian is cast throughout not only as a hero, but the bearer of a spiritual “Force for Good” that tames the violence and arrogance in others. Unfortunately, the Romans, marching in at the end, turn out to be immune. The cast is all white except for one “Nubian” soldier. The rich language, evocative of folklore, will appeal to readers who enjoy Celtic mythology and storytelling such as Daniel Morden’s Dark Tales from the Woods (2006).
As raw as its title. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-adult)