a strange and stubborn endurance book review

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows: Book Review

📖 GenreFantasy, Romance
📃 Number of Pages544 pages
🪴 Average Goodreads Rating4.03⭐
🌻 My Rating2.5 ⭐

What’s A Strange and Stubborn Endurance About?

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows is a story about Velasin vin Aaro who is forced into a diplomatic marriage to a girl from another country. But then it’s discovered he prefers men, and while his father wants to disown him for it, the other country’s envoy suggests marrying the brother of the girl he was supposed to marry. Though his new country, Tithena, seems great and freeing, and his new husband nice enough, Velasin is traumatized — and more than that, there’s suddenly a threat on his life and the life of his new family. 

I’ve been on a mission, recently, to find fantasy romance books that don’t fit the template of popular BookTok romantasies. You know, books that veer away from the standard tropes: teenage girls with extreme amounts of power, two love interests, one of whom is the villain and definitely her mate somehow, medieval-like kingdoms, and so on. 

Because look — I love fantasy. I love romance. Yet, somehow, I’ve been having no luck with fantasy romance because I keep running into the same things. I’m tired, and I need something new. And I refuse to give up on the genre. 

If you’re keeping up, you’ll know I discovered Your Blood, My Bones and loved it — so I’d say I’ve been successful. 

Now, how does A Strange and Stubborn Endurance fit into this? 

Well, it’s a fantasy romance with no teenage girls and no villain-mates, so I’d say it fits the bill. Did I like it though? I’m still unsure. 

The plot and the characters, as well as the romance, are quite refreshing. The love interest isn’t rude or brooding. He’s nice, sweet, very considerate. The romance is tender and gentle. The plot is a mystery with plenty of court politics, which I loved. All of the characters are fun, diverse, and involved. The world feels populated, and well-developed too — no expositions or info-dumping, at least not egregiously so. 

And while I appreciated those elements, I don’t think I liked the whole thing. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance, to me at least felt a bit plastic. A bit fake. I don’t know how to explain it. 

So, I’ll start with a few things that I feel didn’t work, and hope it all makes sense in the end. 

First of all, the rape scene. Because yes, there’s a rape scene and it’s pretty graphic and happens really early on. So, be warned. I skimmed it hard because I cannot put myself through that.

Anyway — that scene felt too much like a plot point. And I know what you’re going to say, of course it’s a plot point, all of this is. But hear me out. It felt shoehorned in because otherwise, there’s barely any romantic conflict. If it was discovered Velasin was gay in a different way, Velasin and Cae’s marriage would be simple, easy — because they do like each other immediately. There’d be no tension in the romance portion of the novel. 

So yeah, it does feel like this character was put through this horrible thing just so he can have a reason not to fall in love with the love interest immediately.

Don’t get me wrong, the author handled it and the aftermath with care (well, somewhat, but I’ll get to that later), yet it felt gross because it was just trauma for the sake of the plot.

Plus, I’d argue it wasn’t necessary at all. Velasin could have been found just kissing his former boyfriend, as a sort of last goodbye, and it would have the same effect. The romantic conflict could have been Velasin’s lack of confidence, the fact that he isn’t used to being openly with someone, his lingering feelings for his former lover, his feelings over being exiled from his family and former life. Any and all of the above. 

Or, alternatively, hear me out — we could have had Velasin go to Tithena ready to marry the lord’s daughter, without being discovered, only to find himself falling in love with her brother. There’s your conflict — plenty of it. 

But no, we went with the unnecessary rape instead. 

And I get it, I do, that the author maybe wanted to say something about it. It just — again, at least to me — didn’t feel like it. 

The whole plot of this book (including Vel’s three-week trip) takes place over a month, maybe. And I’m far from judging someone for moving on too quickly from trauma, but Velasin goes from trying to kill himself to being happily in love within a week. Which just confirms my thoughts that the assault was added for conflict’s sake. Something to keep our main love interests apart for a little while. 

I don’t know — I’m not an expert on any of this, but as someone who has SA experiences, it didn’t feel right. 

The world of A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is a diverse one, wonderfully so. I loved that we had a third gender, same sex relationships, transgender characters, and I wish more stories went in this direction. 

However, the duality between Tithena (the “good” country) and Ralia (the “bad”, rigid society) struck me as a bit strange. These two countries are right next to each other, and have had trade agreements, wars, etc. How come none of Tithena’s progressiveness transferred to Ralia? Based on our world history, it would have — clusters of nearby countries often share belief systems and culture due to centuries of intermingling. It would make more sense if there was more geographical distance between Ralia and Tithena. 

Also, it felt as if this worldbuilding point was there for the author to have a chance to say things about our (real life) society. Which, on principle, I don’t mind, but the storytelling (and characters) felt a bit sock-puppety whenever the difference between two countries was mentioned. 

Now, for the main mystery — who is causing all the trouble, trying to kill/scare Vel and others? I wouldn’t say that it was predictable, because I had a feeling who it is but wasn’t sure. Yet, it felt wholly unnecessary and underdeveloped (so perhaps that’s why I feel it was unnecessary?). 

Throughout the novel, things keep happening. This person is wounded, a horse is killed, messages are left, yet never do these characters get any closer to solving it. The mystery isn’t satisfying, especially because at the end, the characters just stumble into the solution (overhear the villain arguing with a co-conspirator). 

It would have been better if Vel was the one to figure it, because one of his main traits is that he’s smart. 

The writing is at times clunky and overdone, but not bad. There are also two POV’s here, Velasin’s and Cae’s, though Vel felt very much like the main character and Cae just the love interest. Because of that, his POV felt unnecessary — we learn nothing interesting from Cae’s perspective, other than how he feels about Vel. 

And for this plot, this book was too long. I understand 500+ pages in epic fantasy with more detailed and complex plots, but this one could have been shaved down to 300 pages and it would be much tighter overall. 

Overall, while I can’t say I didn’t enjoy A Strange and Stubborn Endurance at times, I also didn’t love it. It could have been a really good book, but the author made some choices that made it feel inorganic and disjointed. I hear it has a similar plot to a few other books, at least in parts, so I might try those out, but I won’t continue reading this series.

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