Seventh, by Rachel White
Publisher: Less Than Three Press (June 24, 2015)
Page Count: 140 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Summary: Hynd leads a lonely life, rejected by most of society after being disfigured by a blight. Instead, he immerses himself in the mystery of the disappearance of the Seventh Dragoons. When he meets Julius Ocere, he finds a man willing to overlook his disfiguration in order to prove that his ancestor was not the traitor to the Seventh Dragoons that everyone believes. Hynd hopes his research can help Julius, and in exchange perhaps Julius can help him remember what it is to feel loved again.
My Thoughts: This novel was pretty good, but would have been really, truly amazing if there had been more focus on the relationship. Wait, wait, let me back up. This novel was pretty good, and I enjoyed reading it. It had an interesting premise, fantastic world-building, and the character of Hynd was exquisite. But the relationship between Hynd and Julius was the weak point of this novel, unfortunately.
But maybe I’m not phrasing this right. Since starting from the beginning doesn’t seem to be working for me here, let’s start in the middle.
Hynd is a brilliant character. He’s still suffering from the Blight that struck him a decade before, leaving him scarred and in chronic pain. He is damaged, yes, but definitely not broken. While he may go out of his way to avoid the stares, whispers, and outright-hostility of the people around him, he refuses to give in to hatred and anger. He takes solace in his research, and in his relationship with his sister.
Julius Ocere, rakish and strong and most definitely not disfigured, is actually one of the weak points of the novel. His character is under-developed, and his most memorable encounters with Hynd are the ones in which he is unable to overcome his instincts, flinching away from Hynd in disgust or fear.
So back to the relationship. Hynd has a crush on Julius right from the start. And why not? Julius is handsome, and apparently interested in Hynd’s research, and so he is an easy figure to be enamored with. But Julius must grow as a person and learn to see Hynd’s personality rather than the Blight scars. Alas, the transition from afraid to friend to potential lover seemed jolting and sudden to me. The relationship comes on too quickly, and therefore seemed unrealistic.
Now let’s get to the beginning. The novel was pretty good, like I said. I really loved the mystery of the Seventh, and getting to see the pieces of the puzzle as Hynd and Julius uncover them. White did an excellent job of creating the two parallel stories of Hynd and Julius, and Captain Walsh of the Seventh and his secret lover, told through journals. The end result was satisfying.
I just can’t get over Julius’ character, and the way the relationship was handled. If this had simply been a novel about two friends, or if it had just been Hynd, I think it would have been far better. But the awkward handling of Julius’ feelings towards Hynd was rushed, and the novel suffered for it.