The Forest Lord
The Forest Lord is a faerie paranormal that gets bogged down in its own melodrama. The book has an interesting premise, but most of the magic is lost in execution.
Six years ago Eden Fleming was the victim of a cruel deception. Her father, caught hunting in the protected lands of Hern, the Forest Lord, was given a choice: surrender your daughter or lose everything. The Forest Lord needed a woman to give him a child so that he could go on to be with all his faerie people who had preceded him to the wonderful land of Tir-na-nog. Eden’s father gave in to his cowardice, but made a small stipulation. Hern could have his daughter, but he had to marry her first. That way when he left with his child, Eden would at least have her reputation intact.
Things did not go as planned, however. Eden and Hern eloped and celebrated their wedding night a trifle prematurely, but the next morning Eden learned what kind of creature she loved, and filled with fear and sorrow, ran off. Nine months later she bore a son, but the child was spirited away and neither Eden nor Hern knew of his existence. Hern went into hibernation, and Eden married a man she didn’t love.
Six years later, Eden is widowed and learns that her son is still living. Since she is left with few resources, she goes back to Hartsmere. She is shocked at the devastation she finds. With the Forest Lord’s favor gone, everything has gone into a decline. The only joy she finds is her son, but even he is problematic because her Aunt Claudia has plans for Eden’s future and remarriage, and a bastard child would jeopardize them.
In the forest Hern awakes and vows vengeance on Eden. He decides to disguise himself as the servant, Hartley Shaw, and steal away his son. But when he meets Eden again, he is surprised to find that Eden is not what he thought she was. And he can’t help but be drawn to her.
The very beginning of the book reads just like a fairy tale, and the story Krinard outlines sounded very intriguing. There is much to wonder about. What is Hern’s nature and what are his powers? How much of Hern/Hartley’s magic did his son, Donal, inherit? What kind of happiness is achievable with a faerie lord who is, by nature, incapable of love? The story’s progression and ultimate ending are not predictable. Unfortunately, Eden’s and Hartley’s emotions and reactions to each other are predictable. From the very first melodramatic thought to the very last melodramatic utterance, it’s obvious how they will interact. He will deceive her. She will trust him. He will begin to feel guilty, but not too guilty to take advantage of her sexually. She will rejoice in their wonderful carnality. They will bond emotionally. They were meant to be together, after all.
It should be clear from the above paragraphs that Hartley is none too chivalrous. He is willing and eager to take what Eden will give him in emotion and sex, all the while planning to take her child from her. For a Forest Lord, that’s not too noble. And yet Hartley is fully willing to condemn the least of Eden’s infractions. If she shows the tiniest particle of doubt in him, he sulks and fumes. When he thinks about her sexual past, he gets possessive. This is his woman! No one shall have her! If you’re planning on abandoning her, Hartley, what does it matter if she sleeps with every Tom, Dick, and Hartley in Hartsmere?
Eden’s sexual past is another point of contention. As the Fake Slut, she’s the female incarnation of the Fake Rake. When first we meet her after her husband’s death, there are strong hints of rampant sexuality. Eden’s been around…or so we’re meant to think. But later we learn that’s it’s all been Eden’s little joke. She encouraged the ton to think she was wanton when really she was chaste. Why? Why would she do this? Why would any woman trash her own reputation? It’s inexplicable, as is Eden’s totaly personality shift. One moment she’s a dilettante, concerned only with her clothes and social calendar. The next she’s a concerned landlord and loving mother. She takes one look at her son and –wham – she’s overcome with maternal instinct and feeling.
Not only Eden, but Hartley’s behavior too grows out of plot necessity rather than character. Why doesn’t he just take his son immediately? It has been established that unthinking vengeance is his modus operandi. It doesn’t make sense for him to stay and get to know Eden. And why doesn’t Aunt Claudia tell Eden right away who Hartley is? She recognizes him, hates him, and wishes to keep them separate. Ah, but that would negate another 200 pages of story. Tacked on to these contrivances is a twisty ending that seems utterly unnecessary. The book should have come to its natural conclusion a hundred pages earlier.
Claudia is too, too evil. Krinard takes a stab at making her multi-dimensional but fails. The only really likable characters are the boy Donal and Hern/Hartley’s faerie friend, Tod. They sparkle but have little real depth.
Susan Krinard is a competent writer, and The Forest Lord had real potential as a story, but all of the good can’t negate the fact that the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and is full of melodrama and excessive We-were-meant-to-be! emotionalism. And, as such, I cannot recommend it.