Normally secondary characters in a novel are just that, secondary. However, sometimes they are wonderful and almost overpower the main characters, and other times they pull the reader right out of the story with their awfulness. Soul Magic featured a secondary character so incredibly annoying that he nearly ruined an otherwise good book. Thankfully, the character changed his tune and was almost likable by the end. Despite that annoyance, this book turned out better than I expected after an uncertain beginning.
Darrick of Thorncliff has turned into a hard and haunted man. After the love of his life, a Fae princess of Rune named Alanna, jilted him at the altar, he went on Crusade with his brother. The results were disasterous. His brother was killed, he was tormented by guilt over the carnage, and almost immediately upon his return, he had to defend his lands against his evil uncle, Morfran.
Alanna of Rune has her own share of problems. The Fae land of Rune and its inhabitants are losing their magic. Slowly but surely the Fae have lost their strength, and only one of the Fae elders has any real power left. The downfall started five years ago on the eve of Alanna’s wedding. She was raped by Morfran, and in shame and despair retreated to Rune, never telling Darrick what happened. She bore a child, and Caradoc is the light in her life, in spite of the circumstances of his conception. However, he has been kidnapped by a powerful evil Fae, and no one in Rune can locate him. Wynne, the only Fae to hold her full powers, has advised Alanna to seek out Darrick. Wynne believes the two of them are meant to fulfill a powerful prophecy and save Rune. Alanna cares for none of that and only wants her son returned. Reluctantly, she seeks out Darrick to ask for help.
Darrick is none too happy to see Alanna, as he still smarts from her desertion. He refuses to help her until he hears word that Morfran is holding his mother hostage also. (It helps greatly that Alanna reveals the truth behind her desertion as well.) In order to save his mother, he agrees to the quest. One great thing about Darrick is his acceptance of the Fae and Alanna’s powers. He never once doubts Alanna’s words are true, though the same cannot be said about Geoffrey, his second in command.
I was certain that Geoffrey would drive me insane before I finished this book. His constant religious zealotry and bigotry, though consistent with its Medieval setting, was an annoyance. He never seemed to let up, and at times his behavior overpowered the narrative. Every time he looked at Alanna he decided she was: a) evil, b) a witch, c) in league with the devil, d) trying to harm Darrick; etc. etc. ad nauseum. Fortunately, a secondary romance changed his mind part way through the book and his character mellowed considerably, although his narrow-mindedness persisted in some areas.
The strength in this book was the relationship between Darrick and Alanna. Darrick truly cares for Alanna, even though she dumped him. To Alanna’s credit, she tells him from the beginning what Morfran did to her (even if the book begins five years after the deed). Darrick wants to champion Alanna even if her son is Morfran’s. Alanna is slower to accept their relationship as she still suffers from a fear of men thanks to her ordeal at Morfran’s hands. She is willing to talk with Darrick, however, and works through her feelings for him. She comes to accept that the only way to save Caradoc is to accept Darrick in her heart.
Geoffrey is not the book’s only weakness. Some of the secondary plotting poses a problem as well. Darrick’s mother is mentioned, but never truly makes any meaningful appearance; she is merely a conflict point for the plot. Similarly, Caradoc briefly appears as the card-board cut-out of a gifted, perfect child. Geoffrey’s constant doomsday attitude throughout most of the first half of the book was bad enough, but and he and his lover developed a completely asinine plot involving Darrick and Alanna for no real reason in the second half, again to further unnecessary conflict in the plot.
While this secondary plotting detracted from the main storyline, it didn’t really bother me (in the way Geoffrey did) , and most of the problems resolved themselves by the end of the book. Darrick and Alanna make this a story worth reading, and though Soul Magic isn’t the best paranormal I’ve read lately, it remained a compelling enough to keep me reading, and that always means I’ve enjoyed myself.