Desert Isle Keeper
The Silver Rose
The Silver Rose is the last book in Susan Carroll’s Sisters of Faire Isle trilogy. It beautifully weaves all the threads left dangling from the first two books into a rich tapestry of magic, history, passion, intrigue, and impossible love.
Faire Isle has undergone a drastic change from when we first discovered it. It was once a haven of peace, of acceptance and community for Wise Women lead by Ariane Cheney, the Lady of Faire Isle. Now, after the devastating witch-hunts and exile of the Cheney women, it is a dark and dismal place whose few remaining inhabitants are bitter and suspicious. Into this atmosphere comes the youngest Cheney sister, Miribelle, now 26, but still possessing an otherworldly, fey air and the ability to talk with and heal animals, drawn to the home of her youth and seeking to recapture a connection to the land and her past.
Her past shows up in a most unexpected way in the person of Simon Aristide. Miri and Simon knew each other as adolescents when she helped hide him one summer, though he was apprenticed to a witch-hunter bent on trying the Cheney women. They formed a bond, a connection that remains, even though they were on opposite sides then and have been since. The bond is love, but love laced with much pain and sorrow, for it was Simon who, as a full-fledged witch-hunter, later led the witch-hunts on Faire Isle that lead to the demise of all Miri held dear and her family’s exile.
Simon is much changed from those days. He is no longer the confident, crusading, charismatic leader we last saw. He is a defeated, fatalistic man who fends off almost daily attacks from the witches of a coven led by a new and evil sorceress called The Silver Rose. It is feared the Silver Rose may eclipse even the Dark Queen, Catherine de Medici, in evil and is rumored to have in her possession the infamous Book of Shadows, a book full of information on dark magic and spells. Her calling card is a poisoned silver rose resting atop the lifeless body of an infant. Simon seems to be the only one who has even heard of this sorceress, and his feeling of responsibility is all that keeps him alive.
But he needs help. What he needs is someone who has contacts and knowledge of other Wise Women to help him find the Silver Rose. What he needs is a Wise Woman. What he needs is The Lady of Fair Isle. Hearing that a Cheney has returned to Fair Isle, he makes his way there only to find Miri, and their reunion wreaks emotional havoc on them both. Miri refuses to believe Simon, and he cannot blame her; he lied to her often enough in the past, and after giving her a soul-searing, desperate, I-fear-I’ll-not-live-to-see-you-again kiss, he leaves.
Shortly afterwards, Miri begins having nightmares which show Simon being attacked. Miri’s night visions always come true; they are portents of the future. When she comes across an abandoned infant with the poisoned silver rose atop its blanket, she knows Simon told the truth and that the Silver Rose has invaded her small island. She takes off after Simon, determined to join forces with him and work to defeat the witch.
And so Miri and Simon begin a road trip through the French countryside, following clues, evading danger, meeting up with old friends and rivals, and eventually landing in Paris, where all comes to a head. Along the way Miri and Simon make a kind of peace, coming to terms with each other and their past. Simon is such a conflicted man, full of regrets for the way he has lived his life, and the choices he has made, especially where they concern Miri. Miri, always the shyest and most timid of the Cheneys, discovers a strength and a confidence that surprises even her. And together they find that a love which has brought them both much pain, may also, perhaps and finally, bring as much joy.
The Silver Rose is an engrossing book, and depicts a France not often shown in romance novels, a France reeling in the aftermath of the Catholic-Huguenot civil wars, and poised for more. All the chicks Carroll has hatched in the previous two books come home to roost in this complex, evocative novel. As a reader of the two previous books, I reveled in watching the disparate storylines and characters all come together and resolve. But this leads me to my only concern about this novel – someone who hasn’t read the two previous books will know they are missing large chunks of the story. Carroll does a good job of giving the reader, through the narrative and use of flashbacks, what they need to understand the action in The Silver Rose. And I do believe The Silver Rose can stand alone and be enjoyed by someone who hasn’t read The Dark Queen and The Courtesan, but that the reader will also know that they have missed a great deal. Hopefully that will just encourage them to pick up the two previous books, for they are marvelous and well worth the time.
The Silver Rose is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to the Sisters of Faire Isle series. I eagerly look forward to what Susan Carroll does next.