The Duke in His Castle: Slow build-up, big pay-off

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Vera Nazarian The Duke in His CastleThe Duke in His Castle

The novella The Duke in His Castle starts out like a conventional fairy tale but it soon spirals into a plotty story with unexpected twists. Admittedly, the book didn’t hook me at first, especially with its rude protagonist (not quite the initial sympathetic hero but some readers will grow fond of him) and the bare-bones setting (everything takes places in a castle) but Vera Nazarian turns things around as the enigma surrounding our main character slowly unfolds.

There are two key figures in the story and both have distinctive, unique personalities that definitely set them apart from the norm. Nazarian’s talent is in her language: on one hand, her dialog is direct and blunt while her narrative is verbose and detailed. I wouldn’t say Nazarian’s writing is mesmerizing or lyrical, but it definitely goes beyond being simply functional. It harkens more to a traditional writing style infused with modern sensibilities.

The author also pays close attention to character development as the story progresses and this is what sustained me as a reader: the way The Duke in His Castle slowly peels off layer by layer the secrets and hidden desires of its hero and heroine. This isn’t a book that I’d say initially blew me away, but it’s definitely a worthwhile read that relies on build-up and the big pay-off at the end.

FanLit thanks Charles Tan from Bibliophile Stalker for contributing this guest review.

The Duke in His Castle — (2008) Publisher: THE DUKE IN HIS CASTLE by Nebula Award-nominated author and award-winning artist Vera Nazarian is a dark, lush, erotic fantasy novella in the vein of Mervyn Peake‘s Gormenghast, with interior illustrations by the author. Rossian, the young Duke of Violet, wastes away in mad solitude, unable to leave the confines of his decadent castle grounds because of a  mysterious invisible barrier… until a strange female intruder arrives at the castlebearing a box of bones.

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CHARLES TAN, one of our guest reviewers, is the owner of the blogs Bibliophile Stalker and Comic Quest. He also edits Philippine Speculative Fiction. You can read his fiction in that publication and in The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. Charles has conducted interviews for The Nebula Awards and The Shirley Jackson Awards, as well as for online magazines such as SF Crowsnest and SFScope. He is a regular contributor to sites like SFF Audio and Comics Village.

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