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REVIEW: Complete With Shipwreck – E.M. Epps

Complete With Shipwreck - E. M. Epps

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

Four friends: A warrior. A warlord. A teacher. And a villain. How far will heroes go to protect their hard-won peace?

As the leader of a small, forested valley territory, magician-warrior Nuho Kadza has three goals:

First, protect his people from bandits and starvation.
Second, avoid his little sister – who’s the new warlord in charge.
Third, figure out how to have friends.

The dust has scarcely settled from the last battle, which left tens of thousands dead. But there’s a new, subtle enemy on the rise.

To keep his people safe, Nuho and his fellow hero Hoje Efukhur will be forced to face a demon from the past…because their only hope for peace may be the help of the last villain. Who used to be Hoje’s best friend.

Brimming with action, adventure, political intrigue, magic, love, and treachery, COMPLETE WITH SHIPWRECK is a standalone high fantasy set in a richly-imagined, immersive ancient world that draws inspiration from East Asia and the Iroquois Confederacy. It’s a single-volume epic with likable, complex characters not easily forgotten.

The Review

What would you do if someone you loved turned out to be a monster?

A brilliant, richly layered adventure set in a fantasy world that, for a cultural historian like me, dazzles with its elusive specificity. It is clearly Asiatic, although the wildly varying and complex names don’t evoke any culture I can think of. Japan seems to win out (especially with the amazing consideration of colors and textiles), as does the Shogun-like medieval setting (swords and arrows only). The mixture of carefully considered language and customs (that feel “authentic”) with personal conversation (that seems very contemporary), invites the reader to slip into this world like an inhabitant rather than a voyeur. For me, it was seamless.

This is a world of magic, what magic it is! This is magic as science, as mathematics, as the result of scholarship and invention. It is a magic that only some possess, but it is part of everyday life, driving the mundane realities of home, while being a force for war. 

In the center of this book is the story of four childhood friends—Nuho Kadzo and his sister Siche, Hoje Efukhur, and Plef Dlufui. They meet in an elite school, where their magical and warrior abilities are trained. They are going to be heroes, leaders of their various fiefdoms—there is no aristocracy in this world, but there is a hierarchy.

Years after the friends leave school and begin their lives, the unthinkable happens, and they watch their world blow apart with them in the middle of it. The narrative begins a year after the cataclysm. Most of the book is seen through Nuho’s eyes, some of it through Hoje’s, as events conspire to bring them all together again, forcing them to deal with both tragedy and possibility. 

There is a romance here, and it is as discreet as one in a Jane Austen novel. Nuho and Hoje are two of the most wonderful, endearing characters I’ve ever met. (Every character in the book is carefully rendered and there are no accidents.) The emotional resistance here is not outright homophobia, but an undercurrent of social disapproval that discourages, but does not outlaw, same-sex attraction. Epps manages to handle this powerful underlying romantic thread with enormous finesse and tenderness, and weaves deftly it into the external plot-lines related to politics and conflict. 

This is a long book, and every moment of it was a joy to read.

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City. 

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