The back blurb:
Once he had scorched the world. Once he had driven back overwhelming darkness. Once he had loved with such passion, his name was legend...Tairen Soul.
Now a thousand years later, a new threat calls him from the Fading Lands back into the world that had cost him so dearly. Now an ancient, familiar evil is regaining its strength, and a new voice beckons to him--more compelling, more seductive, more maddening than any before.
As the power of his most bitter enemy grows and ancient alliances crumble, the wildness in his blood will not be denied. The tairen must claim his truemate and embrace the destiny woven for him in the mists of time.
The first book in CL Wilson's series (yes, it's a series and, no, this book cannot stand alone) introduces a very familiar world that blends fairy tale and fantasy. The world building is rich with details that reminded me very strongly of Tolkien. (I also found touches of Star Wars, but let's not discuss that further.) The plot is familiar epic fantasy: good versus evil on a grand scale--and, of course, the
Rainier vel'En Daris Feyreisen, Rain Tairen Soul, King of the Fey (phew! give me a second to catch my breath) and a were-tairen (or large winged cat that breathes fire), realizes his people are dying and seeks answers from a crystal ball that has a sadistic streak and likes to play power games: the Eye of Truth. The Eye leads him to his truemate, a shei’tani, who is the key to saving the Fey.
Ellysetta Baristani is an orphan, which is romancespeak for has special powers because her parents are special people, but was taken in by a kind couple (well, the father's kind, but the mother wanted her to marry an over-the-top evil porker). She's tall, red-haired, green-eyed, and curvy, but, since this is a romance, everyone thinks she's a troll except for the magical Fey who can see into her soul. And her soul, just like everything else about her, is beautiful and perfect. She's kind, gracious, and even feels sorry for her enemies--which is why Rain and his men have to do the dirty work for her:
Fey women cannot kill, not even to defend their own lives. Their natural empathy prevents it. The shock of slaying another living being would kill them. (379)
[Belliard] had so much death on his soul that all but the strongest women among the Fey had avoided touching him centuries ago, unable to bear the pain of his sorrow, the ruthlessly self-enforced emotionlessness, and the dark burden of the lives he'd taken to protect the Fey. Even the shei'dalins only touched him when they needed to heal wounds he gained in battle. Yet this child, this incredible child whose soul called a tairen's, had reached out to touch him and sent a flood of healing warmth and love so strong that it burned straight through the block of black ice that encased what remained of his gentle Fey emotions. (92-93)
Despite her magic touch, Ellie denies her special powers again and again and again and made me want to reach into the book and shake her. And while I like alpha heroes, Rain is an overbearing jerk too often. He's a king not because he has the diplomatic and strategic skills, but because he can shape-shift and burn down a village with his breath.
So, why did I finish book besides it being a condition of getting the ARC? Well...
- The world building, as I mentioned at the beginning, is well thought out.
- The secondary characters are fleshed out and serve purpose.
- The plot, predictable as it might be, is intricate and moves quickly.
- The villains, other than the cartoony spurned former suitor, are unapologetically evil and power hungry and, most importantly, have the smarts to potentially pull off their maniacal plot.
- The prose is tight and quite lovely in places.
- And, even though I'm not a fan of soul mates, truemates, bondmates, bloodmates, breedmates, or any other kind of mates because it seems like an excuse for characters to instantly fall in love and jump each other's bones because it's destiny, it's meant to be--and the sex will be magical and somehow save the world, it works for me in this book because Ellie and Rain have to work to form the truemate bond. It's not instantaneous. They have to learn to accept each other on different levels for the bond to be formed, and it's a nice change from the paranormal/fantasy romance norm.
Overall, this book is a B- for me. The good outweighed the bad and made me want to read the next book in the series, where "an epic battle [is] fast approaching and only united could [Ellie and Rain] hope to turn back the armies of darkness."
"Armies of darkness"? Really? Should Bruce Campbell and his chainsaw be called for help?
And other unintentional humor: umagi, a term Wilson uses for someone who is mind-controlled by the evil Mages from Eld, made me giggle, especially during the villian sex scene, because if you change the m to an n, you have the Japanese word for eel.