The Duke’s Handmaid by Caprice Hokstad – My Review

Splashdown Books (July 2010)
First off I must let Caprice and Grace know that I love the new cover for this edition. Kee’s key is not only a cool idea in the story but makes a wonderful addition to the cover design. If you haven’t read the book you’ll have to discover for yourself the story of the key I am referring to.

Young Keedrina is an Itzi peasant in a land where prejudices, slavery, and discrimination run rampant especially among the upperclass race of Elva who try to exclude the Itzi from many options including the opportunity for education. Duke Vahn Rebono of Ny, twin brother to King Arx of Latoph is an exception to the rules of this society. When Keedrina loses her family and home to a horrendous raid by foreign marauders, the family friend (healer Pharn Patkus) who cared for her father prior to his death and was trying to save her mother following the attack also buried her family near the property formerly belonging to Blod (Keedrina’s father). Following all the loss and destruction that she experienced Patkus took her back to the city and then to see the Duke. Vahn offered her a place to stay under his protection and care while he led a posse to ferret out the gang that took everything from this gentle and intelligent creature. Once he returns she also returns to what is left of her home though Timna the Duke’s Optimess (head of the household staff/slaves) is sent to stay with her as long as Keedrina welcomes her. Keedrina’s loss has left her starved for belonging and love though she only recognizes and pursues the former by asking about becoming Vahn’s slave. Eventually she feels the decision has been “approved” despite her mourning period for her mother and sisters and requests to be branded. Because she chose the route herself and is submitting to whatever is expected of her, rivals to Vahn’s favored trainer who is also headmaster of the ITC (Institute of Training and Correction) attempt to abduct her and make an illegal sale to pad their own pockets.

Once she joins the Duke’s household she is welcomed by the others save the duchess who despises not only Itzi but slaves as a whole so Vahn requests her to hide her true race by keeping the rounded ears that are the only trait to clearly distinguish her from the Elva always covered. Despite this attempt to refrain from riling the duchess, life at Rebono keep is difficult at best especially around duchess Saerula who believes that Ganluc traditons and practices are superior and demands free rein to choose her own servants then replace his carefully selected staff entirely. Poor Kee (the name Vahn gives her after joining his house staff) finally found a place where she was accepted and in a sense loved as well only to have it snatched right back by a jealous wife who trusts no one including her husband and is impossible to please.

The story of Vahn, Kee, and the other girls she befriends among his staff is a picture of loyalty, submission, and a deeper love than purely human ability to offer. When they lose one another to circumstances that make it nearly impossible to reverse the consequences of evil intents by those who resent the royal family and want the stature of government for themselves. Again you must read the book to discover the schemes threatening Kee and Vahn’s lives and the tenderness they feel for one another. Even family in this case is suspect in their motives and true desires.

As this is the initial volume in a fantasy series, it may seem that the author includes more explanation and background than readers are used to especially if they haven’t read much fantasy before. Personally as a fantasy fan although things seem to start out slow, Caprice is simply setting the stage for not only this book but the following volumes as well. Her world and characters surround the reader with the opulence and attitudes of the upperclasses as well as the reactions and desires of those many of the rich and powerful only endure as the “labor crews” to provide what they are too lazy to take care of on their own. The reader is also enmeshed with characters who endure pain and abuse from those who should be their guardians and protectors but would rather take advantage of their wealth and power to attain their desires even when they are not entitled to those things they pursue. (ISBN#9780986451737, 288pp, $10.95)

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Codicil:
Visit Latoph on the web. Thanks to Splashdown Books and Caprice herself for a Review Copy. Don’t forget to check out other tour stops this week (see buttons above). Click above to learn more about Latoph on its website and click the cover above to visit Splashdown’s Bookstore. Oh and the PDF format is free for a limited time.

4 comments

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  3. Sorry it has taken me a while to stop by to read your review, Melissa. Wednesday was very busy here.

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed the book. Yes, there is some world-building going on, which is a peculiar quirk of fantasy and science fiction. I don’t do as much as Tolkien, but most non-fantasy readers will probably notice there’s more description than in a contemporary book which needs much less scene-setting. My book is MEANT to take people away to another world, so if that isn’t something that appeals to you (not speaking to Melissa here, but any others who are considering whether to read) then my book is probably not for you.

    Thanks again, Melissa, for your time in reading and writing such a marvelous review.

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