For my first ever book review, I got the chance to read something that isn’t actually published yet. Which is my fancy dancy way of being a book hipster, since I’ll have been into this novel before the rest of you.
Yes, I know. Skinny jeans do not look good on me. Whatever.
Doctor Abbott, as it is currently titled, is a hybrid genre novel I can best describe as being a fantasy romance erotica novel, by Michelle Laverdure, who I’m not the least bit shy to call a genuinely gifted new novelist. Remember her name, because I feel certain you’ll all be hearing it again in the near future, and a lot.
The novel follows Doctor Benjamin Abbott, a well respected medical professional, as he returns home to London after having spent several months in Africa, providing medical care for the people living there. It turns out, he does a lot of work for the government as well, and in general, doesn’t always care much for it. The pay is great, but he sees his apartment, friends, and family so rarely he’s basically become a stranger to them.
The interesting thing about Ben, as soon as we meet him, is that he genuinely wants to help others, just as much as he wishes he could spend more time at home. He’s aware enough of the state of the world that he knows he can do more actual good elsewhere than he can in London, but at the same time, he’d like to be able to stay in one place for a while. The reason this is interesting, at least to me, is that it’s his caring side that wins out over his self interest, every time. He willingly trades what he wants for what other people need.
This is not a quality you see as more than a superficial trait in a lot of fiction’s leading men these days. Be it novels or movies, it almost always comes down to the male lead doing what he thinks is best for everyone else, rather than what is actually, really, best for others at the expense of his own self. It’s pretty refreshing, right out of the gate.
Sadly for Ben, those very qualities are about to be tested rather severely.
Bound for Iceland on his next assignment from the government, he ends up in a shipwreck and washes ashore an island that doesn’t appear on any map. After several days of trekking through the snow covered wilderness, pursued by wolves, he is at his end. Starving, freezing, and exhausted, he knows he has little time left, and is at his breaking point, when rescue comes from the most unexpected direction.
Found by a lost race of humanoids who call themselves the Joutone, he is dragged back to their village as a slave. Vaguely resembling the fabled Sasquatch, but with a heavy touch of Nordic culture, he quickly finds himself at the mercy of his new owners, his only ally a young woman who befriends him. It is from Luta that he begins to learn more about the Joutone, as well as his very precarious place in their society.
Everything changes when he uses his medical skill and knowledge to save the son of the king, however, dropping him squarely into the complex politics of the fearsome warrior culture he finds himself at the mercy of. He slowly comes to realize that Luta’s fate is tied to his own, and home is a place he may never see again, as he becomes a major asset in a brewing war.
There are a large number of things about this novel that grabbed my interest, besides Ben’s own character. As he begins to step more and more into the Joutone culture, it is a detailed, vibrant mix of Nordic warrior mentality and European feudal structure. Even as warriors challenge each other for dominance, more Machiavellian plots are worked from within the king’s court.
Which is not to say the Joutone are presented as savages, for they are most certainly not. Despite their isolation from the world of humans, they know a fair bit about them, and to a small degree, even understand certain technological developments. Theirs is a world of implied honor, however, where violence is often used to settle an argument in the name of saving face, masking the more duplicitous plots that are happening out of sight. All of which gives them a real, complex, and believable society.
Likewise, their isolation seems more self imposed, born of a desire to not trifle with humans, a species they see as weaker than themselves. Yet, as we learn, one of the greatest kings their islands ever knew was a human, one who brought a time of great peace and prosperity. We learn, as Ben tries to navigate their culture, that trust is the most valuable commodity they have, something not traded easily.
Despite his best efforts, earning their trust proves a difficult task for Ben, who’s medical skill quickly moves him from slave, to eagerly sought commodity. So, trapped in a world of ferocious warriors, how does a doctor who only knows how to help people stay alive?
That’s the excellent question posed by this novel, and one that is well worth exploring. I can easily say I am eager to return to the world of the Joutone, and follow Ben’s adventures as he tries to stay one step ahead of the political machinations he has found himself stuck squarely in the middle of.
Overall, I have to give Doctor Abbott a solid 5 star rating. Engaging, well thought out, and with a sense of genuine peril, it’s a solid read. I’d personally give it extra points for the well thought out cultural mix of the Joutone, and difficult Ben has with simply going along with the many wrongs he sees, an issue I expect will steadily become a larger part of the story as it advances.
You can read some sample chapters of Doctor Abbott over at Wattpad. Better hurry, though. I’ve got a feeling Michelle will be getting this one accepted by a publisher in the near future.