Crown of Crystal Flame
Grade : A-

Five years ago, if someone had told me that I’d become a passionate fan of a fantasy romance series featuring flying cats and evil, soul-stealing mages, I’d have scoffed. Then I read C.L. Wilson’s debut novel Lord of the Fading Lands and I was hooked. If you’re used to reading more realistic fare, you’ll have to suspend your disbelief—but if you do, you’re in for a tremendous payoff.

Crown of Crystal Flame is the final installment of Wilson’s Tairen Soul series, which follows Rain, the last in a long line of tairen souls, and his truemate Ellysetta. Rain and Ellysetta didn’t meet in a traditional way—an oracle sent Rain to find Ellysetta, and had to win her heart. But a truemate’s bond is more than love. It’s eternal trust and devotion, and it’s taken four books for these characters to almost complete their bond. The key here: almost.

Meanwhile, the Elden mages are preparing a vicious attack on Celeria, Ellysetta’s homeland. Some Celerians are wary of Rain and the magic-wielding fey, and they worry that the fey are using magic to take advantage of them and to drag them into a war that they do not wish to fight. Winning the most powerful Celerians over to their cause isn’t an easy feat, but in order to defeat the evil mages of Eld and their vicious, soul-stealing leader Vadim Maur, it is necessary.

In earlier books, the secrets of Ellysetta’s birth have been revealed. She’s not the daughter of a humble Celerian woodcarver and his wife—she’s the daughter of one of the most powerful Fey warriors ever to walk the Fading Lands and his magic-wielding wife, and her birth was engineered by High Mage Vadim Maur himself so he could take over her body when the time was right. However, Ellysetta hasn’t fully revealed the secret of her parentage to her beloved Rain, because she fears what he will do when he finds out the truth. Ellysetta worries about the evil within her—how can she be the truemate of the Tairen Soul, Lord of the Fading Lands when she carries the taint of Eld?

As expected, there is a climactic final battle between good and evil, and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s resolution to all of the various stories that have been woven throughout the series, and they are all satisfying. There’s even some unexpected heroism from within the bowels of Vadim Maur’s own lair as a young woman finds her voice and her power, and uses it to defeat the Eld mages on their own turf. Favorite characters return, and there are a couple of tearjerker moments. But the center of the novel is the heroism of the main characters, and their desire to save their world at any cost.

The entire series is populated with complex characters who, like real people, walk the line between right and wrong and don’t always make the best choice. Love and partnership are a process, something to be worked on over time. Rain and Ellysetta have struggled for their relationship. They’ve fought and disagreed and been downright furious with each other, but they’ve forged a bond through their trials—a bond that will last for eternity.

Crown of Crystal Flame is an extraordinary conclusion to a series that will have a permanent home on my keeper shelf. Rain and Ellysetta are a love story for the ages. Beylah vo, Ms. Wilson, for sharing your world with readers.

Reviewed by Nanette Donahue

Grade: A-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 22, 2011

Publication Date: 2010

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