Stop. Go no further. There is something very important that you must know before continuing on. Something so important, that this one truth is critical to everything that comes after. The Last Hour of Gann is about a woman. A very cool, very interesting woman who I enjoyed getting to know greatly. But this woman loves a man. A lizard-man. They have sex. This is something one must deal with before even beginning this book. If you can, then stick around.
Many, many people told me since beginning here at H&H that the perfect cross-over book if you are new to Romance and come from a history/fantasy background (as I do) then you should read Outlander. I've read Outlander, I enjoyed it, but, R. Lee Smith's The Last Hour of Gann is better at reaching the non-romance fan in me. Had not this year been the year that I finally read through Rothfuss, it would easily have been my favorite book. That said, it is still one of the best things I've read.
First off, let me tell you about Amber Bierce. Amber Bierce is an amazing heroine. I wish there were more Ambers in the books I encounter, all of them, not just Romance. Amber is a self-described overweight bitch. She is tough, a survivor, a skeptic, a city girl, and she is incredibly no-nonsense. When the hyper-alpha hero tells her to do something, she does the opposite just to spite him. I cannot tell you how much I liked her.
The problem I've encountered with a lot of the PNR I come across is the Beth Syndrome. Yes, that Beth. I'm not a fan of hers, as blasphemous as that may be 'round these parts. I hate the idea of a woman laying down her whole life just to please some jerk jock. That is not Amber.
Which brings us to Amber's hero, Meoraq. Meoraq is best described as a lizard-man. He has a lizardish snout with no lips and long tongue. The only teeth he has are meant for biting, not chewing. He doesn't have a tail, which I will admit to being a little disappointed about. Meoraq is bit of a religious zealot/warrior. In Dungeons and Dragons we call them Paladins. Known as the Striding Foot of God, Meoraq is treated better than royalty. He can move freely between the city-states of his world, he is judge, jury, and executioner of any official or percieved blasphamy or crime. He also has his choice of any woman, be they wife, daughter, or slave. meoraq can be a bit of an anal-retentive, puritanical asshole. And you love him for it.
Nothing that Meoraq does is unbelievable. The sheer amount of world building that goes into the book makes Meoraq less Marty-Stu Badass and more a vibrant character that is very good at what he does, even though what he does ain't all that nice. You don't like him at first, he is abrasive and bible-thumpy, but then you spend so much time with him that you find yourself missing him as much as Amber.
What makes this whole thing work, despite the crazy, sometimes jarring, inter-species sex, is how these two affect one another. When talking about the incomparable Hayao Miyazaki, I mentioned that love, be it between family members, friends, or romantic partners, is a transformative emotion. To really and deeply care about someone is to both change that individual, and be changed by them. There's this country song by Diamond Rio called Meet In the Middle, and it is the best way to summerize Meoraq and Amber. I haven't encountered it in books as believably as it is presented here.
Their individual personalities couldn't be more dissimilar. Amber is from a future Earth where population control is limiting births, resources are scarce, and technology has cured every human disease and illness, for a price. Meoraq comes from a land that is barely out of the dark ages. There are no countries, just cities upon the frontier. Points of light in a world of darkness. But they meet, and it works. It works so well that you forget that he is pretty much a ninja turtle without the shell (something I'll ashamedly admit to joking about).
When we first heard about this here at H&H HQ, I, being a typical smart-ass, made a couple of snarky quips. Then I read the description, which made it sound like a much sexier The Sparrow. (Which is an amazing book and if you like The Last Hour of Gann, you should REALLY read it.) I certainly wasn't expecting to like it, let alone having to force myself to sleep because I was staying up till 1 or 2 reading and keeping my wife up because of the lamp by the bed.
You must know, though, that the book is brutal. It is not kind to Amber and Meoraq. It is tough to read at times and there are more than a few potential triggers in terms of sexual assault and violence. But it is still one of the best genre-crossing books I have encountered yet. And has me looking for more by the author.