Reids Rating: Dark Chocolate
To quote a dear friend of mine... "Oh, my aching yum-yum."
Counterpoint is a heart-wrenching romantic fantasy that weaves slavery and cultural animosity with the duality of struggle -- personal struggle against one's self, and the external one of survival.
It starts out a bit slowly, but I feel that's not the fault of Rachel's writing: neither characters, nor plot development. Rather that perception of slow build is the fault of an entire industry of romance stories that demand a specific formula be laid out in the development. First encounter here, conflict arising there, intimate interaction at this juncture. Excessive porn and smut must logically follow.
Conversely, Rachel keeps the reading guessing. Will these two ever find common ground of anykind? Just as the lead, and the reader with him, resign themselves to that lack--settle into a comforting familiarity of, okay, even without the romance, these characters are engaging, have depth, and I'm one hundred percent invested, and the plot is thick and twisting just enough to keep me breathless--the author rips the heart straight from your chest with intimacy so deep and eloquent that this reader, at least, could feel almost tangibly everything that the characters did.
And that, my friends, is the pinnacle of prose.
She handles the interactive complication of master/slave with tact, sensitivity, and authenticity. Not trying to play with the characters or their reactions to the situation in the least. That honesty and clarity is insightful and refreshing, when so many have no concept, or play with the scenario as with a new and shiny high-tech gizmo whose practical functionality escapes them.
I had doubts, at first, about the fashioning of interplay between elf and human. Tolkien saw to it, through cult and ensuing culture, that elves and any association are so thoroughly overdone as to be disinteresting.
And yet... while it is difficult to pick one scene as the most riveting in the book, every one I put on such a list would be from Aiden's POV. The elf, hearing the songs of a god, of the creation of worlds, as he sits listening to Freyrik play his violin, is just one example of many that followed from the relational turning point in the book. Rachel does an exquisite job of showing the reader just what her elf hears and feels, of sinking the audience so thoroughly into who and what he is, that it truly took some effort, at times, to switch gears back to Freyrik's point of view.
To put it bluntly, the elf is a page-stealing show-stopper. Which is completely fine. And fascinating.
And... all I have left to say, short of flailing and grinning like a loon, is... Give Me The Sequel. Please?