Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
I’ve read all of the Virasana Empire books from the whimsical, smart imaginations of Osiris and Beryll Brackhaus. There are three distinct storylines presented in this half-dozen volumes, although the world they all share is so neatly presented and fleshed out over the six books that any one of them could intersect with any other at any time in the future. Does that make sense? The Brackhauses have thought big, and it works.
The foundation and heart of this universal series is Sir Yaden, quirky child of a Quetzal duchess on a geo-dynamically troubled planet. The barefoot Lotus Knight who controls metal and stone has come a long way in these four books, acquiring a boyfriend, a squire, and an adoptive daughter; in addition to his ever-faithful Darios, the slave who was purchased to manage him when he was a child. Yaden understands that his family of choice is the most important thing in his life.
The Bloodied Broom feels like it is the last chapter of the First Act of a future epic. It both completes the scenario of Yaden and his personal world, and establishes a whole host of potential directions for the series to take in whatever books may follow. The supposed focus of this book is Yaden’s wedding with Colin—and all the wonderful PR-related silliness, since he is a Lotus Knight and has a whole team assigned to him and Colin to make sure everything is picture-perfect and camera-ready.
However, the real focus of this book is Colin, the gentle baker from Leichnam, who fell in love with the weird barefoot Lotus Knight back in the first book. While Colin and Yaden’s love for each other is never questioned—indeed it is affirmed in many ways—Colin is just a normal human. He is not noble. He has no superpower. The only thing that is uniquely Colin’s is his membership in the Baker’s guild—something he will lose when he marries Yaden and becomes Sir Colin, and a noble by marriage. It is at the core of the Brackhaus team’s sly social commentary that, in Virasana, nobles DO have special rights that ordinary people do not have. But they also have limitations, because social distancing is part of the cultural structure of the empire. Yaden is notoriously comfortable with commoners; but Colin has yet to acclimate to the idea of being noble and having to deal with “those people” as equals.
There is a great deal of fascinating and beautifully managed observation of Myriam, the adolescent Psion rescued by Yaden and Ivan; and of Ivan himself, the horrifically abused noble son of yet another Quetzal family, rescued by Yaden. Ivan is Myriam’s de facto big brother, and these two powerful young misfits continue to calibrate their relationship as a major sub-theme of this book.
It is Colin, who cooks and helps Darios care for their paradisiacal compound on Sooraj Island, who is a little lost. Yaden has changed his world, and some of those changes leave him feeling not only helpless but useless. Readers of this series already know that Colin is beautiful and gentle and very good. But, what else could he be?
It takes a crazy family road trip, in the resurrected antique Quetzal family spaceship Pebble (seriously, the names in these books make me laugh out loud), to bring Colin’s dilemma to a head. The whole adventure is a fantastic mishmash of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lost in Space, with a little bit of Father Knows Best thrown in for extra weirdness. Osiris and Beryll Brackhaus seem to draw on every possible aspect of sci-fi pop culture and create something that is fresh and familiar, filled with little wisdoms and emotional bull’s-eyes.
With all this verbiage, I really have revealed very little. This is a lovely journey, and a promise of many more. Jump in. Enjoy.