Castles In The Mist
Having read and granted Desert Island Keeper status to the final chapter of Josie Litton’s Viking trilogy (Come Back to Me), I thought it only fitting that I also read and review Castles In The Mist, the third book in her Akoran series. While I found the story interesting enough, and the characters generally sympathetic, it’s hard to believe this is the same author who wrote the enchanting and twice-DIK’ed trilogy that featured my own personal favorite Come Back To Me. This volume certainly suffers by comparison.
Brianna Wilcox orphaned by a storm that nearly cost her own life, is washed up on the shore of Akora, a mythical, Greek-inspired island nation when she was only 8 years old. Taken in and raised by an Akoran family, she is nevertheless eager to learn more about her origins, and travels to England, which she suspects may be her homeland, in this pursuit. When the Vanax, or ruler of Akora, comes to retrieve her, she must reconcile her own vaguely revolutionary beliefs with the desire to be with him. But when she learns the truth about her past, those decisions become much more complicated than she ever thought they’d be.
Atreus is the scion of the Atreides family, which has ruled over Akora for thousands of years. Having become Vanax by way of a mystic ritual of self-discovery, he also had a vision of the woman who would stand by his side. For eight years he searched for that woman, only to find her in the savior who nursed him back to health after an attempt on his life. Now he has come to England to bring her home, and must make decisions about revealing her past, knowledge which will shape her future – and likely take her away from him. But as little as he can stand to lose her, he can stand to lie to her even less. Now he must find out whether or not honesty will be enough to bind her to him – or to win her forgiveness.
While these characters started out rather two-dimensionally, and remained so for roughly the first half to two-thirds of the story, they gradually gained more depth in the last portion of the book. Unfortunately, this will probably be too little too late for many readers, who will give up before they have a chance to discover who these characters really are, and what complex problems rule their lives. Atreus starts out as the prototype alpha, who doesn’t think twice about making decisions for and about women without feeling the need to consult them. By contrast, Brianna is much more likable, if reserved from the reader. It takes a great deal of time for these two to begin to reveal themselves, and could easily stretch the patience of someone who didn’t have any reason to finish the book. The wait, however, is worthwhile, since the characters revealed are decent and sympathetic, with real if dramatic conflicts to overcome. I would add the disclaimer, however, that Atreus never becomes as complete a character as Brianna, possibly because of the amount of time spent in her POV. Still, from the sounds of it, there is a great improvement in this area from the previous books in this serious, which admittedly I have not read.
The plot is an intriguing one, at least by the end of the book. As with the characters, it takes quite a while for it to gain momentum. With the change of setting (England to Akora), the conflict also changes face and becomes more pressing. In fact, there’s the sense that there are actually two different books here, evenly divided by the voyage to Akora. This definitely distracts from the overall flow, even though the book becomes much better right around that time.
As for the premise of Akora being an isolated nation, the idea is pretty hole-ridden, particularly in the obvious connection Akora bears to Greek culture, yet there are glaring differences, particularly in the areas of religion (there is no religion as far as one can tell, although there are temples, and Akorans are familiar with holidays such as Christmas), and treatment of women, who are seen as meant to serve and be protected by men (with certain anomalous exceptions). Also, the reason that Akora seems to interact solely with Britain is suspect – the claim that the British and Americans far more than any others have begun to see the possibility of a new way of life, with the common man having more control over his own destiny is fairly ridiculous, considering the contemporary French and Italian revolutions. Yet Akora seems determined to have contact only with Great Britain. Perhaps this is better explained in previous volumes, but it was one of many questions I was left with in reading this one.
All in all, this is not Litton’s best work, even under this name (AAR regulars will remember that she is also known as Maura Seger). It’s not horrible, and even makes for interesting reading, particular beginning somewhere after the halfway point. But it’s not the Viking trilogy, and if you’re going to read one or the other, go with that one instead. You’ll be glad you did.