Review copy provided by the publisher. Also I know the author on this here internet a bit.
Sometimes you read the first page of a book and you think, yes, I am in good hands, I am going to have a good time now. That absolutely happened here for me. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance introduces itself with the perfect balance of trope and utter trope rejection: Our Hero is not fighting for his father’s lands! could not care less for them! has a servant paid to put up with his bullshit and is not going to bother that servant with this observation HOORAY I AM HERE FOR IT. Look, I picked this book up after a book that started whining about how corsets were universally bad, so I really needed this.
Okay, so what is it really, beyond the first page? It’s an arranged marriage book, with absolute lashings of fantasy politics, riding through the mountains, fighting bandits and/or discovering someone has been a bandit, chase scenes, discovering secrets, fancy parties, more fancy parties, knife throwing, figuring out the customs of a new land, using people’s ableism against them, lots of descriptions of food. And it is gay as a bright summer morning. Velasin and Caethari may not be the husbands each other dreamed of, but if they’re given a chance they might grow into being the husbands they need.
This book is also pretty clear about what content warnings you might want: sexual assault and both internal and external fallout thereby, homophobia (SO MUCH HOMOPHOBIA), suicidality (resolved happily but still portrayed). This is an ultimately positive and fun book, but not because everything is happy on every page. There’s a lot of emotional range here–chiaroscuro, so to speak, some very low lows for some young people starting out in their lives but also some very high highs. Some deep friendships as well as some startling betrayals. Magic seems, at first, to be a thing that is peripheral, but its presence grows as the story unfolds–from the tiniest charm around the edges to something more, something integral to this world and its people.