The saga continues! For those of you who sighed and lamented the conclusion of the Faire Isle trilogy, get ready for more. The legend of the Silver Rose, the Book of Shadows, the Dark Queen, and more return in The Huntress.
After Catriona O’Hanlon’s step-father exiled her from her Irish clan, she met Ariane Deauville and became her gallowglass (mercenary). She serves Ariane out of love and friendship and followed her to Faire Isle when Ariane was reinstated as the Lady of Faire Isle. Now Catriona has been tasked to discover if the coven of the Silver Rose remains active. After discovering that there are indeed still followers of the Silver Rose and that they are trying their utmost to find their leader, the Silver Rose herself, Catriona must go to England to find the girl in question and keep her safe from the coven and the Dark Queen.
Megaera is only eleven, although she is hailed as the greatest potential sorceress alive. Her father, Martin le Loup, moved them to London and took a new name for himself and his daughter in an attempt to keep her safe. Both Martin and Meg are terrified of the coven discovering Meg and using her for dark purposes. To gain the necessary funds to transform them into the proper English family, Martin becomes a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham. Rather quickly he realizes that he is in deeper than he would like to be and his guilt grows throughout the story as he tries to gain enough evidence of an assassination plot against Elizabeth so that he can be rid of Walsingham for good. Part of respectability involves Martin trying to find a gentle, proper English woman who could be a mother to Meg and wife to him.
When Cat arrives on the scene, Martin and his daughter mistake her for one of the coven of the Silver Rose. After a fun action scene, it is discovered that she was sent by the Lady of Faire Isle. Martin is not willing to leave London, however, since he feels there is no immediate threat to his daughter. Cat grudgingly accepts that she can’t kidnap the child and remains at their house in order to guard Meg as she promised. She also takes on the enormous task of making Martin understand that Meg would be better off embracing who she is and finding guidance under Ariane. She is completely thrown when she realizes that she is falling in love with the stubborn, close-minded head of the household.
I, unfortunately, haven’t read the previous books, but they have been on my tbr list for a long time. Now I feel the need to finally get my hands on them. This book felt more like a historical fiction than a romance, although there was certainly a romance spun throughout. The historical details were wonderful and the intrigue kept me reading until the late night hours. Although none of the main characters are English, Elizabethan England is brought to life. We meet Walsingham, hear of Queen Mary, and even visit with Elizabeth herself.
Despite the historical depth, there were a couple of details regarding the characters that I would have liked included. More than once I wondered about the background surrounding a certain action scene or words that were deliberately used. These were images that seemed relevant to this book alone, that wouldn’t have been covered in the previous installments. It left me feeling like I didn’t fully know the main characters, like their lives were second to the plot, when it should be the other way around.
Sadly, the romance could have used a bit of work. Cat is a bit too aggressive and tomboyish for me, but that wasn’t the problem. The love story was built up nicely throughout the first three-fourths of the book and then wrapped up too quickly. Part of the appeal of the book is the complexity of all the different threads running throughout, which includes the romance. But Martin and Cat don’t discuss all the things they need to get out in the open until the epilogue – and even then they don’t actually talk about the deeper issues. Probably because they don’t have time. I was left with unanswered questions about this couple.
Overall, though, The Huntress is an intriguing, complex historical that brings the Renaissance to life, and its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. Finishing Carroll’s story left me wanting more, and needing to read the books that came before, always a strong sign of a good read. There are also hints that another book will follow, and I look forward to it.