A Bond of Thread
Author: Allegra Pescatore, J.P. Burnison
Enter the Nine Lands of the Mountain Fell.
Skye has only ever known pain and solitude since waking up with neither memories or magic. Hunted for being a Ruler in a time when they are scarce, she has survived in the wilds near the Rim, always on the run from the rest of her kind. Only starvation could draw her close to a village, but when a chance encounter and a bit of bad luck launch her into the arms of a man whose soul is bonded to hers, hiding who she is may no longer be possible.
Ilyas is a hunted man. Wanted for killing the last High Queen of Vine, he is plagued by his past of wholesale slaughter. He never wanted another Queen, and certainly not a half-feral, distrustful girl who gave up on the Fae a long time ago. Unfortunately, Soulbonds are not so easily walked away from, no matter how hard they both may want to, especially when trapped together in a cave with a pack of Feral Fae right outside.
With long-held enmities breaking out between the besieged villagers and all their lives on the line, Ilyas and Skye must learn to work together and trust each other if they want to survive.
A Bond of Thread has elaborate and unique world-building, that is colorful and layered, rich with unique creatures – skitterlings, mosskin, and druzies, and Fae of nine different kinds, with overlapping magic. When I picked up A Bond of Thread, I hoped to find it engaging, but I did not really expect to like it, as it looks like it’s definitely a romance, and possibly a very sexual one, from the cover, and those aren’t my thing.
However, much of the book was occupied by character development, trauma, and relationship struggles that do not need to be interpreted as romantic, and are not spicy. I was able to relate to the characters apart from the romance, and see a lot of their relationship from an angle that does not have to do with romance. However, the development of the romance itself between our two protagonists, Ilyas and Skye, felt a little strange, a little off, but since I don’t usually connect to romances, I won’t say much more on that count.
Ilyas is wounded in so many, having been coerced to swear allegiance to a Queen who then tortured him to make him obey her – and in punishment, whenever he lost a battle – while rewarding him with sex. He has a dark and twisted past, that has left his mind and his present twisted, as many of the other Fae fear and despise him for having broken through the bond created by his oath and killed this Queen – even though all the Fae lands hated and feared her. Ilyas’s experience is dark, and while not overly detailed for the most part, I can see the combinations of darkness being disturbing to some readers. But he felt real and relateable, and I could follow his struggles and growth as a person affected by terrible wounds, struggling to deal with them, quite apart from the romance. He struggles with voices in his mind and delusional visions, and with his own belief he’s lost his soul – and it’s interesting to see how much heart and compassion he still has, even when the wounds of his past make him dangerous to be around. As a character, I really liked him.
Our second protagonist is Skye, an innocent child-like Queen I really liked. There is a fundamental innocence and straight-forwardness to her personality and desires, and she is nothing if not compassion incarnate, and open friendliness, utterly courageous, unbound by the constraints of the Fae society she has mostly fled, but which has flourished in the company of the fair folk – skitterlings, mosskin, druzies and so – with whom she has lived, and who protect her. She might be a thief at times, but she means – and can mean – no creature any ill. If anyone is fit to be Queen of Earth and Sky – the supreme Queen of the Mountain Fell – then it is her. But that begs the question of whether there should be Queens at all. Nonetheless, as a person and a character, I really liked Skye and I found her to be refreshing and fresh.
This brings us to probably my greatest issue with the book. I really did not like the Fae Rulers, and the in-bred instinct in the Fae to follow and obey them. This is not an “Authorities are Always Good” sort of book; after all, Ilyas’s previous Queen was pretty evil, and while the way he killed her is disgusting and repulsive, the fact he succeeded in defying and killing her isn’t wrong. But I don’t like the feel that runs through it that Authority is. That some people are capable of and responsible for leading others, while other people are less responsible for following them. And this is not just in the world-building; it is also in some of the parables told in the book, particularly one about three Queens who each make different mistakes with their people, and the mistake of the last and the youngest is that she listens to everyone and then is unable to make a decision for all of them on her own, and then they fall out and fight amongst each other and kill some of each other when she can’t make the decision for them. Like, No, it’s not a flaw in her or a weakness in her that she was unable to make a decision for them. They were just as responsible for working something out, and it is a flaw in them that when someone else did not decide their path for them, they fought, instead of working something out, even if it’s splitting ways.
In some ways related to this, the romance between Ilyas and Skye felt off in a way I couldn’t ignore as just ‘weird romantic stuff’. Skye is a Fae Queen, and Ilyas is one of her Bonded, compelled by her will, creating an uneven imbalance that’s two-sided. Imbalances are part of life and part of relationships, and a book that interacts with them is interesting, but I felt there is something more off about this one. Complex relationships between people with wounds so deep they react to each other with deep-engraved responses that have nothing to do with the situations they’re actually in – between one person hurt so deeply, and another with a completely different past and very different scars of her own that she doesn’t even really remember – there is a great deal of potential here, and I greatly enjoyed it, but it was seriously tainted by several aspects of the Soulbond, and some of the ways that Soulbond – and his particular “role – appear to force their relationship to development in a way that is rushed, not natural or inherent, and seems a bit wrong for where they are both coming from. The fact he belongs to her as a Soulbonded to a Queen, was a substantial part of it – but there are other things as well that I don’t know what to think about or what I feel about, and it’s hard to work through it with that element tangled into everything. I don’t mind soulbonds or fated mates necessarily, but I definitely didn’t like the authority in the bond.
But here’s one passage I liked and wanted to share:
“You don’t need to do this,” he groaned against her lips. “My conditioning isn’t something you’re responsible to fix. You don’t owe me this.”
“I know that. Have you considered that I’m an opinionated and bossy adult who can decide for herself what she is and is not willing to do, and will tell you to your face if you cross a line or do something I don’t enjoy? Or maybe that far from being disgusted or scared of you for killing the woman who Earthbonded and abused you, I kind of want her not to be the last Queen you kissed?”
Additionally, while most of the book is not that steamy – though there are many sexual references, and I probably missed more than half of them – there is one somewhat detailed sex scene that goes on for pages, and is wrapped up with a not-irrelevant conversation between Ilyas and Skye. I’m not really sure how detailed it is, but I picked up things that were definitely pornographic while skimming it for the conversational bits, and I know most people can’t skim like I can.