This author has an amusingly appropriate name, incorporating 'bard' as it does, for someone who is writing a courtly romance - and by romance I mean it in the old-fashioned sense, but it's written from the female perspective and in first person and I don't think this author can carry it. I'm not someone who thinks guys shouldn't write first person girl stories or vice versa, but the more I read of this one, the more it started to sound like a guy's idea of what or how a woman should be rather than what a woman might really be, and it felt rather hollow and inauthentic because of that. Plus he seems to be confusing the granddaughter with the grandfather far too much.
Let me explain. The fantasy plot takes place in a pseudo-medieval milieu featuring knights and swords, but it's told using modern idiom, which I think loses the period a little. It's set in a world where the heroic Sir Corbin, the Hero of Jerkum Pass (so we're told to a tedious extent) is looking forward to a reunion with his old army buddies where he will give a speech and get a financial consideration, through which he'll be able to move his family from the increasingly village where they live, to a place safer for his daughter, who is a mage.
Since his stint in the military, times have changed and now, despite their help during the great war, the emperor is turning against mages and a pogrom is coming. Unfortunately, before he can attend this reunion, Sir Corbin dies. His remaining family: granddaughter Elsa, and her dad and mom, who is Sir Corbin's daughter, find themselves increasingly - and for no apparent reason - becoming pariahs. This felt entirely inauthentic to me, but it's no more than has been done in many other stories (and therein lies the problem). The only solution seems to be for Elsa, under a magical disguise, to impersonate her grandfather and go to the reunion in his place, get the much-needed money, and enable the family to relocate to a more hospitable locale.
Elsa's mother, a mage who acts as the village doctor (for which the village resents her apparently - and inexplicably) uses her magic to create a façade of her own father over the top of her daughter, but it feels outwardly real, such that if someone touches her chest, for example, they will feel a man's chest, not a woman's. The problem with this is that it's just a superficial change, so I understood, but the author began writing the story subsequently as though her grandfather's very soul and spirit were somehow possessing the girl. Plus the girl came-off as being quite young at the start of the story, yet later, she seems a lot older, so it was confusing as to exactly how old she was exactly! If she was so much older, then how come she wasn't married?
It's not that I'm saying a young girl must get married, but given the background to the story, it's the kind of world where that seems like it's a given, and if she isn't married or promised to someone, then there has to be a good reason for it. The problem is that the fact that she was single was never discussed, like it wasn't an issue precisely because she was so young. If there was some other reason for it, then it ought to have been brought up, but the way this is written, it's like the author never even considered the implication of the world he was building, or it never crossed his mind that single girls might marry in his world. The thing is that if she was unmarried because she was so young, and even knowing all of her grandfather's war stories, how come she was able to carry off this impersonation of an much older guy so convincingly to everyone, including people who knew her grandfather intimately?
It wasn't just that, either. The writing wasn't so great in parts. At one point I read, "Who had been fooling whom that night?" This is wonderful grammatically speaking, but the problem is exactly that: it was speaking - and no one actually speaks like that in real life unless they're boorishly pretentious. I've repeatedly seen writers do this because they can't help themselves. My advice is to get the emdash out of your ass and loosen up! At another point I read, "still out brothers and sisters." Now there is some gender-bending going on in this book, but I think this should read 'still our'!
On top of all that, we're told nothing of Elsa's sex life and left to assume that she had none, precisely because she was so young, yet under the guise of her grandfather, she runs into Maven, a mage and an old flame of her grandfather's, and she falls into bed with her and has sex without even a second thought or a whiff of distaste or fascination, or anything else! How can that be, unless Elsa is highly-sexually experienced and has had many lovers, and not just men? It felt completely wrong to include this scene and not address any of this. Worse, there was a second encounter between them later in the book that just went on and on and on, tediously so. Again, without a word of the fact that this was an apparently young and inexperienced girl having sex with a much older woman, and not only not thinking twice about it, but not thinking a single thing about it. It was just thoughtless and poor writing.
It was like once Elsa had donned the disguise and left her village behind, the author dispensed with the fact that she was in fact a young female through and through and simply went with her being a rather elderly man. It was lazy at best. Even that might have been manageable if the author had gone somewhere with the story, but once in the city, all progress stopped. It became tedious to read, and the story, other than revealing that there was a conspiracy to destroy mages, which we already knew, the story literally went nowhere, unless you count going round in circles as progress. I don't. All we got was repeated chants about the Hero of Jerkum Pass of which I was thoroughly tired of reading by then, and talk of this big speech, without getting any closer to actually hearing the speech. When I got to seventy percent and nothing had changed, I ditched this, resenting the time I'd wasted reading it. I cannot commend something as cluelessly-written as this, and I plan on never reading anything else by this author.