I was very pleased over the holiday break to be able to read an ARC of Trueheart by Mel Sterling. Full disclaimer: I am friendly with Mel on Facebook, and we have a lot of mutual friends, but you guys know I don’t recommend anything I haven’t read and loved for myself. The plus to having author friends is that I get to read these kind of awesome advanced copies ahead of time and give you guys a heads-up! (And trust me, you guys want the heads-up on this one.)
Trueheart is the first in a new series called Portland After Dark. It was ripping good fun, and a contemporary fantasy I’d recommend to all my readers. Fast-paced action pushes the reader through an intricate and intriguing plot, while a well-drawn romance anchors a fantasy world I’m eager to revisit. I stayed up until 2am to finish.
Sterling’s world is well developed, and she captures the macabre beauty inherent in fae mythology. It’s beautiful. It’s grotesque. It’s violent and fragile, all at the same time. Likewise, her characters and their relationships, both romantic and adversarial, rang true.
Well-drawn protagonists are always what make a fantasy world for me, and Tess and Thomas were perfect (in lovely, imperfect ways.) Tess is smart, loyal, and alternately awed, attracted, and repulsed by the fae world she’s forced into. And while the hero, Thomas, may not be (fully) human, Sterling expresses both his humanity and his otherness, which made him doubly intriguing as a character. I loved them both, and was very satisfied by the ending.
Trueheart is set in Portland, Oregon, and while the insertion of old-world fae mythology might seem incongruous in many modern cities, Portland—damp, earthy, surrounded by woods and rivers—is the perfect setting for Sterling’s imagination. The supernatural and the realistic mingle in subtle ways that mirror the creeping ivy of Forest Park, and her writing brings the world to life. It’s lush and elemental, but not so dense as to hinder the pace of the book.
It was a beautiful romance, but the side characters were just as intriguing as the leads, and I think Sterling has left herself a lot of world to play with in the following books. The teaser of the second book, Ironbound, made me eager for more in this world.
I don’t do star ratings, so I’ll just say that I highly recommend this! It was great fun and beautifully written. Mel Sterling is an author I’ll be following.
Trueheart releases on January 12th, but you can pre-order it now! It’s only $3.99, which is a steal.