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REVIEW: A Cloak of Red – Brenna Gawain

A Cloak of Red - Brenna Gawain

Title: A Cloak of Red

Series: A Book of Underrealm (The Tenth Kingdom Book 1)

Author: Brenna Gawain

Genre: Fantasy

LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Gay, Lesbian

Publisher: Legacy Books

Pages: 290

Reviewer: CC

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About The Book

To escape her fate, she must join a hated enemy.

The first in a new series from the #1 bestselling fantasy world of Underrealm.

Theren has only recently left the Academy for Wizards, in full command of her magical powers. But all the spells in the nine kingdoms cannot save her from the fate she fears.

Theren’s patron, Imara, sees her as a possession — a toy to be paraded before other nobles as a symbol of strength. Theren would do nearly anything to escape such a life.

Her resolve is tested when she is offered a position with the Mystics: warriors who serve the High King and serve her ultimate justice. But Theren has suffered punishment and torture from the Mystics in the past, and joins them only with the utmost reluctance.

As war rages across the nation of Underrealm, Theren and her lover, Lilith, must navigate treacherous waters. She will have to make peace with the redcloaks who have harmed her, even as she makes war against the rebels who seek to overthrow the High King.

And deep in the traitorous kingdom of Dulmun, she will discover a plot that could bring everyone she loves to a bloody, violent death…


The Review

In A Cloak of Red, by Brenna Gawain, we meet Theren, who is at a crossroads in her life. She’s been expelled from the magical Academy she’s called home, and if she’s not careful, she’ll be captured and forced to serve the woman who paid her way there. A chance encounter with a Mystic named Vivien gives Theren the opportunity of a lifetime, but she has good reasons for not wanting to take it.

Theren’s decision leads her on a journey of adventure, away from the life she’s known. She’s not alone – her clever girlfriend Lilith manages to earn her own place on the journey. Working together, nothing can stand against them.

I found the relationship between Theren and Lilith the strongest part of the book. There is no question about what they are to each other. They are as solid as an old married couple, and their respective skills complement each other. Where Theren is impulsive and bold, Lilith is measured and careful. Theren grew up poor on the streets, where Lilith was raised in the utmost luxury. However, the two are a solid couple, and that’s not something I see often in fiction.

A Cloak of Red is a coming of age story for Theren, in such a way that this book almost feels like a YA novel. Theren is still figuring out her place in this world, how she matters, and how she can use her powers for good. She may have been forced onto this path, but she does everything in her own way.

This novel is part of a shared universe, and while it stands alone, I wished I had read other books in the series to get a better idea of the world. There is a backstory about Theren’s time at the Academy that is mentioned quite often, and luckily the kindle version does link to the books that cover this time. I think readers who are already a fan of the Underrealm universe would get far more enjoyment from this book.

While it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, it ends on the promise of more adventure. Theren’s story is just beginning. And while she might be a small cog in the larger war, she’s an integral one. The world is incredibly diverse, including a variety of characters of color, mention of other gay couples, and featuring a deaf warrior as well. This is a solid fantasy novel, and I look forward to more from this author.

The Reviewer

CC is a mild-mannered librarian by day, but by night she writes about worlds of adventure and romance. When she’s not busy solving puzzles in an escape room, she can be found diving into comics or binge-watching superhero movies. She writes surrounded by books, spare computing equipment, a fluffy dog, and too many board games to count. In 2011, she won a Rainbow Award for best gay sci-fi/futuristic novel with Angel 1089. 


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