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Reviewed by J. C. Steel for Readers' Favorite
Marissa Ames’ Vassal gives us a window into the life of Aislin - orphan, lady of a fief more or less by tolerance under the abusive lord whose ward she is. Aislin keeps her head down and obeys the laws, insane as they sometimes appear, trying to keep her people safe and fed, and herself far from any official notice. Violence is tearing the kingdom apart, magic users are hunted and registered to the point where concealing one is an offense punishable by torture, and Aislin’s unpleasant overlord is looking at her to be his latest wife. If that weren’t enough, a group of strange men have turned up from nowhere to work on her fief. It doesn’t take lengthy acquaintance for Aislin to get the feeling that they’re going to be trouble, but even she doesn’t guess how much.
Vassal is a wonderful example of the epic fantasy genre. The storytelling is evocative, but the characterization is where the story truly shines. This story focuses on a group of people who won’t give up on what they believe in, no matter the dangers, and no matter the odds. The world the story is set in frames the interactions perfectly, providing drama and action in plenty. Marissa Ames’ characters have worries that are very understandable, flaws that made them worthy of sympathy, and humorous moments that made me laugh out loud. I found it a really enjoyable read, the kind of book that you find yourself thinking about afterwards – definitely recommended for the fantasy readers out there.