📖 Review: Zone of Action – A.J. Sherwood

Series: Legends of Lobe den Herren

Pages: 306
Time to read: 1h58m
Pages/hour: 156

Date read: Mon 18 Apr 2022

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Ren looked up at the amazing man at his side, a man who wouldn’t allow anyone to deny their love and vows for each other, not even an emperor. He wouldn’t control his expression or voice as he answered huskily, “Always.

They’re married, so what’s next?

After well and truly husbanding Ren in Fourth Point of Contact, Arman’s not about to let anything come between them – even if they’re heading over to Shiirei, where they both know this new dimension to their relationship isn’t going to go down well. As we found out at the end of the first book, the Brahms are being set the task of helping a build a fortress to defend Shiirei’s coast, but they’re really up against it.

I’m going to be clear from the outset: I loved this book, but it is self-indulgent as all hell. Still, it’s adorable and we get to see both Ren and Arman right wrongs (that I’m sure would have led to incredible later books that never seem to have appeared) and love each other and build a great life they’ll enjoy together.

It’s teeth-rotting, truly, but it’s the sweetest long epilogue to Fourth Point of Contact, so I really didn’t mind.

A mixture of regret, pride, and love crossed over Ren’s face in quick succession. “What?

“Thank you,” Ren whispered, reaching up to stroke Arman’s jaw with gentle fingers. “I know it’s difficult for you in this country. I know sometimes you just want to bash people’s heads together. Thank you for coming with me, despite all of that.

Leaning in, he kissed him chastely, lips lingering. Silly man. Where else would Arman be? “I love you.

A growing family

Spoilers ahead!

Okay, there’s no way to write about this book without getting into spoilers, I think. (Well, there probably is, but I’m not good at it.)

So, Ren and Arman visit Ren’s brother first; he and his wife are pretty accepting of their marriage – as are, in fact, most people they come across, despite the repeated insistence we’ve had that Ren is looked down upon in Shiirei. And, of course, they both are thinking about children, because the Brahms need an heir, and it’s also just the thing to tie their relationship up with a neat little bow.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t like it! Sakura is adorable – almost too good at everything she does, truthfully – and a little precocious in the way children in Sherwood’s books can be (I’m reminded of How to Shield an Assassin), but there’s a vulnerability in her story that makes her journey – fast as it all is – a nice one.

There’s definitely a lot of plot armour in this book. It would have been nice to have a bit of a threat to either Arman or Ren – perhaps Arman, as Ren was poisoned in the last one – just to have more conflict, but that’s why I’d read this more as a long epilogue than anything else. There’s really not that much in the way of conflict at all: Arman and Ren’s relationship is never in question; their adoption of Sakura is not really threatened; and even the actual threat from the Mongs is solved quickly and without apparent consequence. Still, it’s lovely, and I enjoyed it – I’m just wondering if they ever got to the bottom of who was really pulling the strings in the first book?

So, what’s the score?

This book’s getting five cherry blossoms: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Yeah, it’s soft and self-indulgent, but I’ve read some books recently that are much more boring and, as usual, Sherwood’s written characters I want to read about, so I was less worried about the plot and more interested in what was going to happen to them. It was nice to spend another couple of hours with them.

If you’ve finished this duology and are looking for something else, then I’d recommend Sherwood’s Unholy Trifecta. The first book features a grumpy assassin and his adoptive daughter; the second a chatty Russian thief (my fave!); and the third a hacker and the man he is definitely not stalking, no siree.

“I think,” Arman told him in Aartan, “I just gave you another fantasy.”

He felt his eyes sting for a moment and ruefully grinned at his husband. “I think you did, at that. Wait, no, why are you taking the credit for this? I did all the legwork.”

Arman, smug, drank his tea demurely. “I knew if I dropped enough hints, you’d do it.”

It was close, but Ren didn’t throw his chopsticks at him.

Fancy giving it a read?

Check it out on Goodreads.

Find it on Amazon (UK).

Find it on Amazon (US).

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