Having really enjoyed the web serial which formed the draft of the book, I was naturally expecting great things after the Intimate History was formed and edited for publishing.
I wasn't disappointed. It's fantasy, but not as you know it.
'Lovers and Beloveds' follows the newly-come-of-age Prince Temmin as he leaves his childhood home to take up his duties as Heir to the throne, and the demands, influences and temptations that promptly crash down upon him.
I hesitate to call it 'low fantasy,' it just feels a little pejorative. This story certainly isn't overpowered with magic and defined by rigid ideologies. The world feels real and believable; flashy magic is a thing of the past and now (for the most part) forgotten. I particularly love how Meilin has declined to build a stock fantasy setting, you know, where the primary concerns are castles, swords, mud and world-ending cataclysm. Tremont is a sophisticated, pre-Industrial society which feels real and intricate from the very beginning.
The vividness of the Intimate History universe is all the more remarkable because of the character-driven nature of the story. Meilin builds her world seamlessly with the narrative; quite a break from the norm in the fantasy genre. Wordy world-building is hard to omit in fantasy, but Meilin avoids it with a refreshing (and characteristic!) ease, with no superfluous detail. Everything that the characters experience and the reader sees; all adds to the richness.
Sex and sexual encounters are prominent in the story but it never feels shoehorned in. In my opinion, sex takes its proper (and believable) place in the motivations of many characters, tied in as it is with power, influence and personal behaviour. It's even well written!
I expected that I would be hard to please with the rewrite of the drafts which I and others had come to love, and I worried that any big change would be too jarring for me to be able to enjoy it. This simply didn't happen; rather, seeing the History reborn brings me great pleasure and I really can't wait for the next instalment. 'Lovers and Beloveds' is a smashing book. For $3.99, I reckon you could forgo your next giant coffee and pick up a really satisfying and engaging read.
Finally, disclosure:, I'm proud to be one of the original crowdfunders of the book. The production of 'Lovers and Beloveds' has been entirely funded by we readers, which I think makes Meilin the very antithesis of vanity publishing!