In the blackened heart of a cursed forest, a banshee haunts her crumbling castle with lethal screams.
Lady Vago is trapped in this place. She cannot fulfill her purpose as a banshee: to warn her loved ones of their deaths and watch over them while they pass. To solve the mystery of her imprisonment, she must sift through the rubble and ruin that surrounds her. By communing with old paintings, broken furniture, and even the stones themselves, she rediscovers who she was in life.
Before she was Lady Vago, she was Rovena Stoddard, a sharp-witted horse merchant’s daughter that caught the eye of a charming baron. Lord Kalsten Vago’s life as a wandering knight was over, but it inspired visions of a better life for his most vulnerable subjects. Rovena was far less afraid of bold change than his staunch and loyal steward, who saw her presence as a threat to Lord Kalsten’s success. Love and shared dreams alone wouldn’t overcome the controversy of the couple’s hasty and unequal union, as well as the trials of governing a fledgling barony—Rovena knew that. What she failed to recognize was the deeper darkness taking root in Vago lands and hearts…
Every memory of what Rovena loved is a reminder of what she lost, but she cannot let grief halt her search. Devoted spectres of ash are begging their lady for an end to their torment, and she will not let their agony–or her own–go unanswered anymore.
Lady Vago’s Malediction is the ambitious debut novel of A.K.M. Beach (a pseudonym for a husband-wife writing tandem). I thought it was a really interesting read with a unique concept.
While Lady Vago gets all the cover time, in my opinion it is the narrative that steals the show. I was actually quite confused for about half book because there are dual-storylines being presented, but the exact nature of them is not apparent early on. This appears to be by design, as the authors seem to want to let that second piece simmer until it is fully ready for consumption. This also presents a story that is very balanced, as the main narrative is a very straightforward telling of Rovena Stoddard’s journey to becoming Rovena Vago and the events that took place thereafter; the second narrative is more of a mystery at first, but it eventually becomes clear that the Lady Vago being presented here is a result of those events that took place in her life. For me, this combination really carried the book and is what drove me to keep reading.
On that note, my favorite part of the book is the beginning when Lord Kalsten is courting Rovena and the circumstances surrounding them getting to know each other. It was a nice, sweet piece of the story that gives the reader a glimpse of what could be before things start to devolve.
Character-wise, this book is 90% Rovena. Sure, there are others, but every one of them is just a conduit to get help her move the story along. Rovena’s father is a farmer and salesman who molds her personality and teaches her how to convince people to give her what she wants. She marries the Lord Kalsten Vago, becomes Lady Vago, and that puts her in a position to use her skills to become a leader and decision-maker. There are other minor characters, but not many, and none of these exist to make a huge direct impact to the story. This is Rovena’s journey alone, and, while I did like her character, I thought she could have shared the spotlight more. It is incredibly difficult for one character to pull an entire novel along on their back without being given the support they need, and I think this book could be improved by allowing for one or more of the other characters being given more of the spotlight at times.
I really think that goes for the rest of the book, as well. I did think this was a good book – and I enjoyed reading it – but I would like to have had a little more development. Many of the events felt rushed at times, almost like the authors wanted to get the story to a certain place and could not wait to share it with the reader. I get that, and I see that often with other authors. It is not intrinsically a bad thing, because it shows how passionate the author is about their work. This does manifest in there not being enough development at times, which I think this book fell victim to.
Overall, Lady Vago’s Malediction is a unique and interesting story, and I enjoyed reading it. If books with a little romance and a paranormal aspect are your thing (to be clear, NOT A PARANORMAL ROMANCE, though) I definitely recommend you give this one a go.