Keeper Of The Light
Keeper of the Light is a frustrating book, one that often shows glimmers that it could be more than it is. As published, it’s a modestly diverting tale. Its characters are likable, if not very deep. The story has its charms, but is very simple, which ultimately is the book’s main flaw. The final third, which could have been powerful and romantic, fails to reach that level because of what came before.
Rioghan is a healer who chooses to live in a cave close to the Sidhe, the faerie folk who are dying out because of the rapidly growing influence of men in ancient Ireland. One night she is visited by the warrior Donaill and his men from the nearby fortress Cahir Cullen. They hope she will return with them to care for a woman none of their healers have been able to help.
While there, one of Donaill’s men sees a small collection of gold and jewels in Rioghan’s cave. Overcome with greed, he organizes a group to come back and try to steal the treasures. Rioghan is determined to protect these items; they don’t belong to her but to the Sidhe and are connected to their magic. She looks to Donaill for help, having sensed from their first meeting that he is a good man. He in turn has been struck by her beauty and vows to help her.
Keeper of the Light is not a bad book so much as a severely underdeveloped one. It comes in at a brisk 310 pages, and feels like far less. Something about it screamed “series romance,” in style if not in subject matter, and a very slight series romance at that. It’s very small scale, focusing on Rioghan and Doniall as they travel back and forth from the castle and her cave, the castle and her cave. For nearly two thirds of the book, the story amounts to Rioghan and Donaill flirting and his men’s attempts to take the treasures.
While simple, the book is not boring. Rioghan and Donaill are both likable, and the story has a certain quaint charm. It’s also easy to get into and flows well. Author O’Kerry does a solid job expressing the primal need of the Sidhe to protect what’s theirs, and the inherant unfairness of people who are bigger and better equipped trying to take something that isn’t theirs generates some interest. It would have been more compelling, though, if Rioghan and Donaill were stronger characters. Donaill in particular is no deeper than the pages he’s printed on, his only discernable trait being manly goodness.
Things do pick up in the final third. A subplot that seemed like filler develops into something more. A much more dramatic road block is placed in the way of the romance, giving the story more of a sense of urgency. While this part of the book is more exciting to read, and builds to the type of supernatural showdown that I love, it may be a case of too little, too late.
The story’s focus on this threat to Rioghan and Donaill’s relationship could have made for gripping drama… if only they had a relationship to be threatened. Up until this point, the romance moved so slowly that Doniall only agreed to court Rioghan, making it hard to believe they’re even close to being in love, so what are they fighting to save? The light flirting they had before this crisis arose? The book is over as soon as the crisis is resolved, so any hopes at an actual romance go unfulfilled. Rioghan’s anger at Doniall for a stupid action that leads to the crisis is also annoying, when her own actions setting up the crisis were far more idiotic and purposeful than his own inadvertent one.
I don’t know if the ending weakens or improves Keeper of the Light. If the rest of the story had been more like it, this would have been a much better book. At the same time, it isn’t as effective as it should have been because of the lack of a proper setup. O’Kerry shows she has some good ideas in Keeper of the Light, but in this case her execution can’t quite rise to meet them.