A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

“Stolen me? As soon to say a caged bird can be stolen by the sky.”

Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead.

Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock.

With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page.

*

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I rarely go into a book thinking I’ll dislike it. Every year without fail, Tor’s upcoming releases hype leave me incredibly hyped and I’m rarely disappointed with the outcomes. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is one of those rare occasions of disappointment. The first 88% of this book was, if boring, lacking any outright faults. I would have walked away giving it two stars and hoping other readers found the story more compelling. And then the last twist occurs and I all but threw my Kindle across the room in sheer anger. Because I can’t fully express my thoughts without delving into the last 12%, this review will contain spoilers for the full story. Spoilers will be marked and hidden, to the best of my ability.

On paper, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance appeals quite strongly to me. Velasin vin Aaro, forced into a political marriage by his father, eventually ends up marrying his intended-bride’s brother instead of the bride herself. After Velasin moves to this new country Tithena, to a culture he has little familiarity with, he finds himself entrenched in court politics as the people around him mysteriously start dying. I profess to be more a ‘Fantasy w/Romance bits’ fan than a ‘Romance w/Fantasy bits’ fan and in theory, A Strange and Stubborn Endurance should have delivered exactly that! There’s such much setup for rich court drama, so many moving parts and possible motives for why some mysterious faction would so badly want Velasin, citizen of a country with historically poor ties to Tithena, they’re willing to carry out attacks in the name of his own husband to do so!

Tragically, the book doesn’t go into any of this. With each subsequent attack, Velasin and his husband Caethari, make a half-assed attempt at investigation, asking about two people if they saw anything before throwing their hands up and going, welp, guess we can’t figure anything out. Why Caetheri, son of the…leader? mayor? of this city (holding?) they live in and a well-respected soldier in his own right can’t appoint someone to investigate this issue (or at least do so in private if they don’t want to alarm the people) I never understood. Even the political intrigue, the many players and their possible motives, felt very lacking. For a 150k+ WC book, I felt like I learned very little about Tithena and its culture or politics. (more on this later)

In private, Velasin and Cae are dealing with the ramifications of ‘oh shit you mean your dad forced you to marry and you didn’t consent to this at all?’ that marks the start of their marriage. Overall, I did like their relationship together. Velasin, having survived a very graphic on-screen rape scene at the beginning of the book, has had his confidence and self-worth utterly shattered and Cae quietly and respectfully navigates supporting Velasin through these traumatic experiences. And the two have some extremely badass moments together that I happily cheered for. However, while Velasin has a personality established prior to the start of this book as a skilled navigator of court politics and master of secrets, Cae’s background pretty much starts and ends at ‘fought a bear once’. For a book that spent so long on the interpersonal moments, I still don’t feel like I learned anything about Cae as a person.

Spoilers begin here (highlight to read text)

So now let’s talk about the ‘twist’. Aka, why then hell am I almost finished with the book and we seem no closer to uncovering, frankly, literally any detail about this mystery. Why, dear reader, that’s because it seems Meadows had no intent of actually writing actual court intrigue or a mystery to begin with. At 88% in, Velasin and Cae entire a guy’s house for some unrelated reason. As they enter the house, they hear two people yelling from upstairs, (paraphrased) “well omg if you just killed him properly, <name>, we wouldn’t be in this situation!” Said two people walk down the stairs, (two people that had never been suspected in this mystery). Turns out the one who shouted was the sister Vel was supposed to marry! Who promptly a) monologues every detail of her plan and what happened throughout the course of the book and b) has a fucking QA session afterwards.

Because why write actual political intrigue when you could have your characters fuck around for 90% of the book and have them miraculously stumble upon the fucking conspirators arguing and have them confess on the spot. Vel has an entire character arc of building back his self-confidence, so what better way to do that than have him cleverly navigate through a court he has no experience with, in an unfamiliar culture? Instead, let’s have him do literally none of that and just deus ex machina our way to an ending. I won’t talk about the confrontation with the rest of the family other than to reassure you that it was an eye-rolling soap opera. It really felt like Meadows’ editor went ‘uh, you need a plot to go with the romance’ and Meadows quickly wrote an extra 10k of hamfisted garbage.

Overall. I rate this book a 1/5. The first 88% was bland and something I hoped other readers would connect with more than I did. The last 12% was an affront to storytelling itself.


r/Fantasy 2022-23 Bingo Squares:

  • Standalone (hard mode)
  • Published in 2022
  • Features Mental Health
  • Features Biological Family Ties

Publication Date: 26 July 2022
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: eBook
Pages: 544
Word Count: ~166,000
ISBN: 1250829135
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

One thought on “A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows

  1. Cae’s background pretty much starts and ends at ‘fought a bear once’.

    banger line from the review! I love it when you write negative reviews, it never fails to cheer me up. But I am so sorry you spent time reading this book.

    Liked by 1 person

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