Lady of Light and Shadows
It’s been a while since I last reviewed for AAR, partly because my life had become hectic and partly because I’d read what felt like dozens of books that made me go meh. I decided to dip my toe back into the reviewing pool and picked what I thought would be a safe bet: the sequel to Ms. Wilson’s great debut book Lord of the Fading Lands. I was right. Book two, in what is projected to be at least a four book series, was even better then the first.
This book begins just where the first one left off. Ellysetta Baristani is in the midst of hurried wedding preparations. Though she’s bewildered and more then a little overwhelmed by the speed with which her life has changed, she has begun to accept her place as the Shei’tani or chosen mate of Rain Tairen Soul, Lord of the Fey. And while she is coming to terms with her betrothal and the direction her life has taken, Elly is not yet ready to admit there’s anything particularly special about herself. Even the evidence of her awakening magic doesn’t sway her, since her mother has always made it clear that magic is to be denied and hidden.
Rain is impatient to make Elly his mate. not just because of the driving need of his Tairen side, but because of the rising sense of danger that surrounds Elly and her home in Celieria. And, though he’d like to devote all his time to the courtship of his mate, Rain’s presence is necessary to convince the lords on Celieria’s council that the danger their country faces is real. The Eld lords have regained their power and will stop at nothing to conquer their old enemy, the Fey, and the lands that they protect. The problem is the Eld have been quiet for too long and human memory is short. Celieria is poised to open it’s borders once again and everything Rain does to stop it only makes matters worse.
What works so well with Ms. Wilson’s story is the well-crafted world she has created. It’s clear she knew what the rules and the history of these places were before she set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and that knowledge shows. In the descriptions, in the plotting, and, most importantly, in the character development. One of the reasons I liked book two a little more than book one is that the characters were settled into the story a little more fully. With any series, book one must necessarily become something of an info-dump. It can be skillfully done and has been in this case, but it can distract from the story. With this second entry the characters and the reader are able to relax and enjoy the ride.
Though this is a romance review and there is an abundance of romance to be experienced in Rain and Elly’s journey, the second thing I’ve come to admire is the very real danger the author is making her characters face. I’m an occasional end-peeker (usually in mysteries if I want to see if a particular character is still alive), but I try to avoid spoiling a story that I’m deeply enjoying. In this case I was tempted more then once because I wasn’t sure these people could survive the enemies they faced. And this is a romance! I know that things are supposed to end well, and yet, I worried. I’ll admit that knowing this is part of a series and that things might not necessarily be happily-ever-after this time around gives the author a little more leeway in the suspense department. But even so, well done.
Given the great world-building, well-developed characters and romance, and the very real sense of the doom they faced, why not make this a DIK? I think it comes down to the pacing. There’s a lot going on in this book: the central romance, Elly’s burgeoning magic, Rain’s attempts to save his people from the plots within plots against them. And for all that, or maybe because of that, the book bogged down about halfway through. Not enough to truly slow me down, but enough to make me just a little impatient. Which is how I ended the book – impatient to read the next in the series which won’t be out until late next year.