Title: Across Borders
Author: Alex Powell
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 25,500 words
Genre: m/m Fantasy Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: The Bestiary collection, Unusual Creatures, Shifters, Under the Sea, Enemies to Lovers, Royalty, Warriors
Rating: So So
In an effort to help mend a long-standing rift between the Shui-long dragon clan and the Ceffyl Dŵr, Xin-jian reluctantly agrees to be the ambassador for the dragons and spend time amongst the Ceffyl Dŵr. The enemy he comes to know is nothing like he expected, however, especially Tiernan. But before he can truly begin to explore peace, he must stop those who will not give up the old hatreds.
Xin-jian became foster-brother to the princes and princess of the Sui-long when his parents were killed in combat. Like his brethren, he’s a sea dragon, but unlike most he’s a very rare frozen dragon, able to manipulate water like the others, but also ice. Taken in and fostered by the Emperor for this ability, he is chosen as a protector for the princess Mai-hua, the royal sibling he is closest to. As the story starts, Xin-jian finds himself searching the sea desperately for Mai-hua and her brother, unable to fathom why she would have snuck away from him during the night and out into the void-zone, where confrontation with their enemy race, the Ceffyl Dŵr will surely find them. What he comes upon is a dire situation, and barely escapes with his life and that of Mai-hua’s, though she is severely injured.
During the fight, he ends up in a stand-off with the Ceffyl Dŵr fighter, Tiernan. A race of flying horse/serpent creatures (like, kelpies, maybe? not totally sure), they are evenly matched, except for the tactics Tiernan uses to unbalance Xin-jian, namely of a sexually lecherous nature The secret Mai-hua is hiding is for the good of all, peace amongst their nations, and not only will Xin-jian have to circumvent the various factions among the Sui-long who are urging for peace or war, but he’ll have to face Tiernan again — something that scares him more than anything.
This story opens with a pretty elaborate fight scene, which captivated me right away. The story drops the reader immediately into a fast-paced scene with elaborate displays of magic without giving a lot of information about it. I liked that, but kept waiting for more information. Ultimately, this was a great story that just didn’t give enough time for the story to play out. The plot is more suited for a novel or longer novella, with time to develop not only the relationship but the political machinations of different warring races and nations of different magic users within nations. The biggest part of the story deals with a building of a peace treaty in which Xin-jian stays with Tiernan and vice versa in each other’s cultures to learn more about each other and possibly bring each nation together. But it was all just too rushed to me. There is too much information to explore, too much actual plot and history to examine on top of developing a romance within this short time frame. It led to a very, very quick pace and each scene seemed rushed to get to the next. I never felt as if much chemistry or intimacy could develop when the rough pace made the prose seem like a recitation of an outline, without more time to stop and develop the story within the words. The story itself was thought out, but there just wasn’t enough time to experience it. The best example of this was in the ending with the Emperor, and it’s rather anticlimactic ending.
So, what started out as a rather interesting story because of the world presented, ultimately frustrated me. I wish that the author had been able to expand the story, because I would have really loved reading more about the relationship between Tiernan and Xin-jian when they had more time to explore it, and without the plot moving at breakneck speed and steamrolling everything into just a couple days.