This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Having enjoyed great success with the Black Library, their subsidiary for printing tie-in fiction for their games, Games Workshop recently decided to go even further with Solaris, the Black Library’s shiny new imprint devoted to publishing original (as in not based on a gaming or other franchise) fiction. I’ve been interested to see what sort of material they’ve been putting out, which is how I came to pick up Emily Gee’s The Laurentine Spy without giving it enough scrutiny to realise it was a fantasy romance novel.
Not that examining the back cover blurb would have really helped me in this respect; for a romantic fantasy or a fantasy romance The Laurentine Spy is awfully coy about being romance-adjacent at all. In contrast to, say, Erastes’ Transgressions, it goes in disguise, infiltrating the fantasy shelves disguised as generic fantasy. Perhaps Solaris find it easier to classify their books as SF/fantasy, rather than try to break onto the romance shelves, or maybe some enterprising editor is trying to slip in a broader range of titles but doesn’t want Games Workshop to realise they are publishing Girl Books. Whatever the case, The Laurentine Spy pulled a fast one one me, but I honestly don’t mind: as well as having a strong and reasonably satisfying romance plotline (caution: I have never previously read a romance novel, so I might be completely wrong on that) it’s also a gripping pseudo-Renaissance-Regencyish espionage adventure with low-key but interesting magic and enough violence to satisfy my Khorne-inspired thirst for blood.