Genre: Fantasy Romance
BY: Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison
Publisher: AO Collective
Content/Trigger Warnings: Shown on page: Mentions of rape, sexual abuse, and torture; Realistic representation of PTSD; Violence; One romantic sex scene
Alluded to: A brief mention of self-harm where a character considers killing themselves in a memory
“Since I cannot guarantee that I won’t die, I wanted to write this letter. This way, should I fall tomorrow, you will know what you mean to me and how grateful I am that you barreled into my life and changed every facet of it.” Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison
Bonds of Thread by Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison is an excellent fantasy that has fae, magic, an enemy to lovers’ romance, beautiful world building, but most important, it deals with the aftermath of the abuse the main protagonist suffers. I have read Ms. Pescatore’s The Last Gift series, and I once again praise her and J.P. Burnison for tackling difficult issues with both care and realism. The two main protagonists, Ilyas and Skye, are so well developed and their interaction was a delight. The world of The Nine Lands of the Mountain Fell that they developed is dazzling and imaginative, as shown in the map in the beginning of the book. However, what is so interesting about this book is that it takes place almost entirely in a cave. More precisely, the cave that is Ilyas’ home. The enemy to lover’s romance is my favorite romance trope, and it evolved so naturally between Ilyas and Skye. I loved this book from the first page and I didn’t want it to end.
There were so many unique elements in this book to love. First, I think it’s important briefly explain the magic system. All high fae use magic, that of their home realm and those next to them. The level of how powerful they are is expressed in the color of their eyes, with light rose the weakest and obsidian the strongest wielders of magic. As they become more proficient in magic, their eyes will begin to change color to reflect it. It was also nice that the fae did not have pointy ears. Every time I see a book with fae, they have pointy ears and I always wondered why it was necessary. Thank you for not having a pointy-eared Ilyas. The rulers, the Gentry, are Soulbonded to several high fae, each representing a certain aspect that will help their ruler. It is their Faerie Ring. Faeries rings actually exist in nature. Often when mushrooms will inexplicably grow in a circle and it is referred to as a “fairy ring”. The use of it in this book was just magical.
It is important to set that tone to understand the aftermath of the abuse the Ilyas suffers under the Mad Queen Maevian, the ruler of the Land of Vine, where the magic of might reigns. His eyes are silver, one below obsidian, which makes him wield powerful magic. Ilyas was both Soulbonded and Earthbonded to his Queen, and compelled, often when he truly did not want too, to do what she what she commands. Ilyas is the General of the Army of Vine, waging war on the other realms. He is also Maevian’s lover, and his bond was the heart bond, one that nurtures the ruler. The Earthbond was forced upon him to make him subservient. Ilyas suffers both physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from her. When he loses a fight, she brutally punishes him physically. She uses him for sex, making him “serve” her at her beckoning. He could no longer take the abuse, and strangled Maevian, an in doing so became the Oathbreaker. Her death broke the bond and Ilyas fled, living alone in a cave trying to deal with what he suffered. He was so incredibly developed that the reader can feel the pain he is going through to come to terms with the torture Maevian put him through.
“During the war he had been the Mad Queen’s Silver Shade. Her weapon of destruction…It was his failure to kill Willow [of Herb] that has sent him, time and again, to Maevin’s torture table. To be strapped down, cut and flayed for the crime of failure. He had been nothing but a vessel for carnage to sate her lust for vengeance…
Her use of him as a stud so she could give birth to a child Ruler who could be just as strong as the two of them. Their son, Ashan, had been just as effective…to get Illyas to do everything she wanted, and strip him of his sense of self.” Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison
Ilyas’ struggles are real. He doesn’t trust anyone, and by being alone, he can escape being bonded to any other Gentry. I thought to the choice to have Ilyas the character to have suffered the physical and sexual abuse was excellent. It drives home the point that men can suffer this type of abuse, and it is just as harrowing and painful. Very often we see the female protagonist suffering. As Ilyas tries to come to terms with his past in his own way, Skye drops into his life. Starving, magicless, and having no idea where she came from, she finds Ilyas’ cave and tries to steal food from him. Skye is both innocent and a strong female protagonist. When she is discovered, and instant heart bond is formed between the two. Skye has no idea she is a queen since she has no memory of her past. In addition, those of the Gentry have powerful magic, but Skye has none.
Neither Skye or Ilyas want this bond. Because of his past, he has sworn never to be bonded again. Unfortunately, the High Fae have no choice to which king or queen they bond too. It is formed when they find the right ruler. They both insist they will go their separate ways when they are able, and Ilyas can be free of the bond. Skye is no Maevian. She is strong, but kind, smart, gentle and in many ways, innocent. She cares deeply for the fair folk, the magical creatures of the Fell, often ignored by others. All Skye remembers is that she was fleeing from her former life, and like Ilyas, simply wants to be left alone.
When Void Touched Fae, fae that are corrupted by the Void, are extremely dangerous, and look like something out of a nightmare, threaten a town, Skye and Ilyas wind up taking the survivors to his cave to stay until the threat is gone. The majority of the book takes place in Ilyas cave, who, as a loner, must now share his food and home with many fae, fair folk, and humans. Skye and Ilyas, trying to resist the heart bond, are doing a very poor job of it, becoming closer as the days pass. The attraction is clear, as he still feels the need to protect her, and she has a knack for getting into trouble. Ilyas tells her of Maeve and some of what he suffered. It is the nature of Skye, her gentleness, perception, and kindness, to help Ilyas’ wounds heal. He will always have to deal with the hurt and pain, but with Skye, he comes to know that this bond does not come with torture. I loved these two characters. I loved that Skye was a strong female protagonist, and Ilyas was strong, but vulnerable. He is protective of Skye, but haunted by his past. It was realistic because when he bonds with Skye, he is still not free of his trauma. What happened to Ilyas is something that is dealt with throughout the book. I felt it was extremely well-done and handled with great care.
“Then, without warning, he pulled away from her, curling in on himself. Terror crossed his face…”… “But before you do, I need you to look into my eyes and believe that no one can hurt you right now. Not even me. Especially not me.”
“Ilyas stared at her for a long time… “You didn’t come to punish me? You won’t hurt me?”… His eyes flickered. Not with essence, but with recognition. “Mouse. Mouse, not Maevin.”
Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison
All of the characters were wonderful, especially the little fair folk, Mycellica, who knows Illyas and Skye are heart bonded and is always trying to get them together. She is adorable. It is very clever to have named her Mycellica. Fungi (mushrooms) are found underground, and what you see above ground are what produces spores. Underground is a mesh of mycelium, that are the true fungi. Very often, it is mushrooms that form Fairy Rings. The townspeople are also portrayed realistically, as they are all trapped in the cave until the threat of the Void Touched is gone. Nerves begin to fray, food is dwindling, and fighting ultimately breaks out. Heather, the town’s Mayor, along with Illyas and Skye, must balance the fragile nerves of the people to keep them safe.
The pacing and prose of the book was excellent. There was never a time that I felt nothing happening. The story was constantly moved forwarded. It was exciting, and there were twists and turns that I never could have predicted. The story is told in the third person narrative by Skye and Illyas. It was the perfect choice to see how Ilyas is dealing with his emotional trauma, and how Skye develops from the food-stealing thief to a very reluctant queen. I loved that each chapter had sub-text underneath that was Illyas and Skye writing to each other about how they felt. It was an unusual and beautiful touch to the narrative of the book. Did I mention that the High Fae have wings? I love characters with wings, and when Illyas envelops Skye in his, it was very sensual.
“Cracking her eyes open to look up at him, Skye shifted, pulling the blankets higher up herself. Sandwiched between the thick wool and Ilyas’ warm body, one of his wings curled around her, Skye didn’t feel quite so exposed and vulnerable when the screeching outside continued…” Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison
A Bond of Thread was an excellent fantasy read, with fae, magic, void creatures, and beautiful world building. It also deals with the aftermath of physical and sexual abuse suffered by the main protagonist, Ilyas. Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison handles this sensitive and traumatic issue with care and realism. The choice to have Illyas suffer this abuse rather than Skye, the female protagonist, was a choice that drives the point that men are also victims. Illyas was both Soulbonded, a bond that forms between High Fae and a King or Queen, and forcibly Earthbonded to Mad Queen Maevian. It is at her hands he was tortured, and to break the bond he kills her. Illyas flees and leads a solitary life, until Skye, a young woman with no magic or memories, falls into his life. She is apparently a queen, because much to the dismay of both, he instantly Heart Bonds to her. As they fight their growing attraction, their interaction is truly a joy to read. Skye, though innocent, is sarcastic and gets into trouble, which Illyas can’t resist saving her. Most of the story takes place inside the cave where Illyas lives. A town threatened by corrupted Void Fae must flee there to stay alive, with magic wards keeping them at bay. Even though it takes place in one setting, it works so well. The interaction of all the people cramped together with a limited food supply, leads to infighting and resentment that Illyas and Skye must work together to solve. Illyas, haunted by his past, is gently and lovingly cared too by Skye, who teaches him that not all Queens are Maevian, and she will never hurt him. I liked that while Skye helps him very much, he still deals with his trauma. It does not instantly go away, which is much more realistic. The pacing was excellent, it was exciting and full of twists and turns. The narrative is told from the third person perspective of Illyas and Skye and it was a perfect choice for the reader to get to know all of the characters. Even better, Illyas has wings, which I loved, as all High Fae do. As he and Skye’s attraction goes stronger, he is always wrapping her in his wings, which was at once both sensuous and protective. I highly recommend A Bond of Thread. It is truly an amazing addition to the fantasy genre.
Summary (from Escapist Book Tours)
Enter the Nine Lands of the Mountain Fell.
Skye has only ever known pain and solitude since waking up with neither memories or magic. Hunted for being a Ruler in a time when they are scarce, she has survived in the wilds near the Rim, always on the run from the rest of her kind. Only starvation could draw her close to a village, but when a chance encounter and a bit of bad luck launch her into the arms of a man whose soul is bonded to hers, hiding who she is may no longer be possible.
Ilyas is a hunted man. Wanted for killing the last High Queen of Vine, he is plagued by his past of wholesale slaughter. He never wanted another Queen, and certainly not a half-feral, distrustful girl who gave up on the Fae a long time ago. Unfortunately, Soulbonds are not so easily walked away from, no matter how hard they both may want to, especially when trapped together in a cave with a pack of Feral Fae right outside.
With long-held enmities breaking out between the besieged villagers and all their lives on the line, Ilyas and Skye must learn to work together and trust each other if they want to survive.
My thanks to Escapist Tours for providing me with an eBook for an honest review
Find out more about Allegra Pescatore on her website at: https://www.authorallegra.com/
Find out more about J.P. Burnison on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JPBurnison/
Purchase Bonds of Thread on Amazon
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Allegra grew up in a small village in northern Tuscany as the daughter of two artists. She was raised on the works of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, Frank Herbert, and many others, all read aloud to her while she drew and played make-believe. She began to write at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped since.
After many moves and dozens of countries visited, she now lives in a cozy cottage in Western PA. She is accompanied in her current adventures by husband Job, co-conspirator and long-time writing partner Tobias, and a small army of furry and scaly pets. When not writing or daydreaming, Allegra rules her kitchen with an iron first and feeds everyone who walks through her door. She also gardens, dabbles in various art forms, and spins stories for her tabletop gaming group.
As a disabled woman and staunch LGBTQ ally, Allegra hopes to write engaging, diverse, and representative Fantasy and Science Fiction, where people who do not often see themselves center stage get the chance to shine.
Her debut book, Where Shadows Lie, was an SPFBO Semi-Finalist and is a CIBA award finalist. It is the first book of The Last Gift series, and the first title of Project Ao, by Ao Collective Publishing. Other titles in Project Ao include NACL: Eye of the Storm (2021 SPFBO Semi-Finalist) and A Bond of Thread.
Co-author of The Mountain Fell series, along with Allegra and E. Sands, Justin joined the team in 2019 to help create the Fae Lands. Working as a tight-knit team, the three writers use a collaborative back-and-forth style to craft the action and adventure in the upcoming series. Justin lives in Florida with his spouse, Quinn, and two fuzzy and rambunctious cats.