Season after season, hunters have attempted to capture the white-tailed stag. Local legend holds that its capture promises prosperity, and in a land that is dying—to hunger, to war; to a magical curse, some say—even a whisper of hope is a powerful lure. Yet every hunter who tries fails, never to leave the forest. Fenton, god of the forest, yet imprisoned within its borders, watches from his place in the trees as the hunters first despoil and then fall to his land, dispassionate as his deadwood heart.
Prior doesn't enter the forest in hopes of capturing the stag or securing prosperity. He has a far bolder hunt in mind: to entreat the god of the forest to save his sister from the sickness sweeping the land. It's a desperate attempt without much hope of success. He doesn't imagine he'll meet the god in person, much less that he'll find himself agreeing to a favour in turn: his sister's life will be spared, and in exchange, Prior will kill the god's sibling. And he certainly hadn't imagined that a god would be so... human.
When Fenton leaves the forest, he has little but revenge on his mind. As he spends more time with Prior, though, he discovers that the world isn't as simple as the hunt, and he's not the only hunter with teeth—but sometimes the chase is worth the risk of being caught.
Content Warnings: contagious magical illness; bloody violence; magical violence; bodily injury; death, including the death of animals for food, and magical animals in battle; abduction; vomiting; minor self-harm; bodyhorror; sex.
Cover artwork by Tiferet Design with illustration by Mar Espinosa.
Foye's bewitchingly folkloric but underdeveloped full-length debut (after the Love Has Claws novella series) centers on the developing romance between human Prior and a fox-faced, stag-horned forest god called Fenton as the pair adventure across a disappointingly generic fantasy world. The men meet when Prior heads into the forests to pray for help and Fenton answers this prayer. A magical blight is sweeping Prior's home village, causing a lethal sleeping sickness, which has infected his sister, Sylvie. Enamored with Prior, Fenton agrees to temporarily lift the blight's influence, but to stop the curse entirely, he and Prior must seek out a powerful mage's advice. The mage they find, Nola, informs them that breaking the tainted magic's hold entails a gory journey to rescue Fenton's godly sibling, Lorcan, from an even more powerful mage and so destroy the blight's source. Foye builds a lot of mystery in the early pages with fable-like prose that paints Fenton as eerily otherworldly. This feeling dissipates once the romance kicks off and the story settles into straightforward romantic fantasy with plenty of grisly misadventures, but few surprises. It's uneven, but readers on the hunt for queer romantic fantasy will find it worth a look. (Self-published)