Lord of the Beasts
Rarely have I disliked a heroine as much as Cordelia Hardcastle. Had this not been a review book, I would never have finished it, which I find depressing because Susan Krinard used to be one of my favorite authors. Sadly, I haven’t enjoyed many of her recent books for one reason or another, but none of them angered me as much as this one.
Donal Fleming is only half human. His father was a Fane (Fairie) known by humans as Hartly Shaw, and by the Fane as the Hern, the Forest Lord (see The Forest Lord). Hartly was banished from Tir-na-Nog, the Fane land, for loving Donal’s human mother, Eden. Donal has his own gifts and can communicate with animals. His hob friend, Tod, a smallish Fane who can take the form of a fox, has told Donal that should he fall in love, he will lose his Fane gifts. Since Donal is uncomfortable around humans other than his family, that hasn’t been an issue. Donal chooses life as a veterinarian, and has recently traveled to London to work with animals there.
Cordelia Hardcastle traveled the world with her father and has always championed animals who were abused or mistreated in some way. With her fortune she built a menagerie on her estate to house the animals she rescued. Unfortunately they seem to be lethargic, and she despairs of finding the answer to their malaise. While visiting the London menagerie, an elephant escapes and she sees Donal in action guiding the elephant back to safety. When another chance meeting occurs involving Donal and his young charge Ivy, Cordelia knows he is the man to help her animals.
Donal all but refuses Cordelia’s strongly worded request until she mentions that she will be willing to take Ivy under her wing and provide a home for her. Since Donal cannot care for a young woman, he accedes to Cordelia’s request. He finds her animals in a state of deep despair because of the loss of their freedom, even though Cordelia has saved them. When Donal tries to tell Cordelia they would be better off free, she cannot accept his explanation.
The only character here I truly enjoyed was Donal. His bond with the animals is his life and he rescues those in need, even humans. He keeps on trying to share his knowledge of animals with Cordelia, but she is wrapped so tightly in her own cage that she refuses to believe him. Her character was horrid, and even her reasons for being unyielding and controlling didn’t mitigate her actions. She is absolutely blind to anything except her own beliefs and righteous actions. Even near the end, after she has given herself to Donal, she believes him mad and feels compelled to help the poor mad man, for his own good, of course. Spare me!
There are other horrid characters to help matters along, Cordelia’s father Lord Geoffrey treats everyone terribly. Donal’s Fane friend Tod has his own agenda, a spurned Fane woman named Befind is seeking her revenge, and Cordelia’s neighbor friend Viscount Inglesham is pushing her to marry him.
By the time Cordelia finally listens to Donal, it was far, far too late to salvage her character, and when the book finally ended I was just grateful to have survived. Donal deserved a better heroine, and frankly so did I. This could’ve been a great book, but without slogging through all of Cordelia’s baggage, it probably would’ve been much shorter. My advice? Skip it, and save yourself the lost hours; I’m sorry I had to waste mine with these characters.