The Haanta Series is one of the longest, ongoing, romantic fantasy series currently being followed online. Red Willow Press has recently acquired the rights to publish the series, with The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu being the first book in the series.
As you might expect from a romantic fantasy, this is a character-driven series. It focuses on Boudicca (the Commander), and Rautu (the Den Assan). As physically different as they may be, and as odd a couple as they may appear to make, we soon realise the two warriors are well-matched, complimenting each other well.
Rautu is a grey-skinned giant from over the mountain, exiled from his people until he can redeem his honour. Sexist, arrogant, and possessive, he’s not exactly the kind of man to take to a fiercely independent woman, but she challenges him intellectually, emotionally, and even physically. The Commander is a formidable woman, and one who garners our respect (and admiration) right from the start. That puts the Den Assan at a bit of a disadvantage, especially given his difficult nature, but part of the joy of the story is the way in which he wins over Boudicca (and the reader).
More than just a romance, however, it’s also the story of two wars – violent disputes between neighbouring nations, fought with blood, magic, and more. One of the things I really appreciated about the story is that the battle scenes are tense, with a tangible sense of tension. Far too many fantasy stories just go through the motions, but you never feel safe here. Additionally, Michelle is careful to explain the political and social issues behind the wars, but without bogging things down or confusing the reader.
At times adventurous, humorous, and romantic, this was just a fun read. I breezed through this first volume in a matter of days, and find myself anxious to not only read more in the series, but also to dive into the companion short story collection, Tales from Frewyn.