“The Beast of Blackmoor”, by Milla Vane

3 Jan
Cover of The Beast of Blackmoor showing a bare chested muscular white man wearing a fur cloak, some sort of leather garment from waist to mid-thighs, and vambraces, holding a bladed polearm

I first read this story shortly after it was published as part of the Night Shift 1 paranormal romance anthology, back in late 2014. I was lost in the story from the word go, while well aware that it is set in a very dark world, with violence of every kind and abundant gore, and graphic sex on the page.

Reader, beware.

I finished it wishing for more stories, and I’m very glad they are now available.

(Also worth noting, Milla Vane is a pseudonym for Meljean Brook. 2)

“The Beast of Blackmoor” by Milla Vane

I originally got the anthology, in print, because of the Nalini Singh novella in it, but, over the years since, it is this story that I remember most clearly, some scenes almost word by word, even though I only had read it once, until today.

This novella is a prequel to a larger series 3, A Gathering of Dragons, which is set in a medieval-ish fantasy world, with technology equivalente to somewhere around the 10th Century on Earth, but also with dinosaurs, extinct prehistoric megafauna, and gods/goddesses and demons who can, and do, interact with humans.

I must reiterate the content warnings, especially for sexual violence (there’s one instance of rape on page–not a named character, as part of the worldbuilding, and a reference to CSA), but also for consensual sex that can be problematic to some readers, such as public sexual acts.

There is a definite HEA, but the novella is just 123 pages long, and the time span it covers is something like eight to ten days, so there’s a whiff of insta-love and fated mate tropes in it, which I know can be deal breakers to many romance readers.

Here’s the blurb, from the author’s website:

A warrior princess must tame The Beast of Blackmoor to earn a place among her people. When she arrives in Blackmoor, however, she finds a land cursed by a demon and ruled by an evil warlord…and discovers that the beast isn’t a monster, but a barbarian warrior who intends to do some taming himself.

The plot is fairly simple: Mala, High Daughter of Krimathe, has been charged by the goddess Vela to “tame the Beast of Blackmoor”. Her recompense will be “the strength of ten thousand warriors” to aid her people when The Destroyer returns. As there’s a demon-possessed behemoth in her path, Mala wonders why she’s not been sent to slay it–until she realizes that it’s the warrior Kavik, embittered and forsaken, that she must tame. Given his life experience, not a straightforward endeavor.

There’s a short prologue that sets up the male protagonist’s arc, and the first few pages of the first chapter do the same for the heroine. The story starts with a bloody fight to survive, and the intensity, the weight of the stakes, do not let up until the climax. Not a word is wasted; the worldbuilding is both integral to the story, and entirely unobtrusive as one reads, even though the story is packed with it.

I really like Mala; despite an ‘origin story’ that could have easily made her hard and bitter, she’s basically an optimistic realist. She’s been promised unbearable pain and a nigh impossible task, but as she’s known love and community, she’s confident she’ll have the internal strength to live through them. Mala has agency in all ways, and expects that everyone she meets should.

Kavik would have been a harder sell for me if it weren’t for that prologue, for he’s just a bit too good to be true, just a bit too heroic–until he’s not. His backstory, which is dark as fuck, is revealed more slowly than Mala’s, and makes his bitterness and internal struggle easier to understand.

The bleak moment comes near the end and it is not drawn out, which I appreciate; the stakes are high for both characters, and the (literal) divine intervention makes sense in the context of story, rather than signaling that the author wrote herself into a corner.

If there’s a weakness is that the villain’s comeuppance takes place in the space of a page. And yet, given the total length of the novella, and the pace of the story, this too fits. As I said at the beginning, the novella more than fulfills its function, as a prequel, of wetting the apetite for the full-length stories to follow.

“The Beast of Blackmoor” gets 8.00 out of ten.

* * * * *

1 The anthology consists of Nalini Singh’s “Secrets at Midnigh”, which is part of the Psi/Changelings series; Ilona Andrews’ “Magic Heals”, which is part of the Kate Daniels series, Lisa Shearin’s “Lucky Charms” (I can’t figure out if it’s also part of a series), and this story.

Cover for Night Shift anthology showing a white woman holding her hair up, showing a tattoo of a tiger on her upper back

2 I am very sad to say that it seems as if there will be no writing under this name, which means no more Iron Seas stories. This makes me very sad, but writers, like everyone else, must give themselves grace.

3 So far, two books have been released with another coming out in 2022, along with this prequel and a free short story hosted in the authors website.

5 Responses to ““The Beast of Blackmoor”, by Milla Vane”

  1. Lori 03/01/2022 at 12:23 PM #

    I’ve always been a little hit and miss with this author. A few of her books engulfed me in the story and a few were too much for me to get my head around. Barbarians would be an automatic no from me but your review is intriguing. Maybe…

    • azteclady 03/01/2022 at 1:06 PM #

      I definitely recommend reading the sample–the one for the first novel is long enough you get a good idea of the world and the writing voice.

      But seriously: DARK world.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Secrets at Midnight” by Nalini Singh | Her Hands, My Hands - 05/01/2022

    […] When this anthology was released, in 2014, I was very much into Nalini Singh’s Changeling stories, so it was a given that I would get it for this story alone. I cannot say what my impression was at the time, because I had completely forgotten everything about it. (I do know that my favorite story, by far, was “The Beast of Blackmoor”.) […]

  2. A Heart of Blood and Ashes | Her Hands, My Hands - 07/01/2022

    […] upon a time, I read a novella called “The Beast of Blackmoor”, from the Night Shift anthology. Like all the best short stories, it introduced me to a world I got […]

  3. A Touch of Stone and Snow, by Milla Vane | Her Hands, My Hands - 10/01/2022

    […] expanding on the central world plotline laid down in “The Beast of Blackmoor”, as well as the mythology and politics of the world, this is, in essence, a story about second […]

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