Lord of the Fading Lands & Lady of Light and Shadow, by C.L. Wilson

>> Wednesday, November 14, 2007

TITLE: Lord of the Fading Lands & Lady of Light and Shadow
AUTHOR: C.L. Wilson

PAGES: 384 for each.

SETTING: City of Celieria
TYPE: Fantasy Romance
SERIES: Books 1 & 2 in the Tairen Soul series. From what I can see in Wilson's website, there will be four books in all, with the titles of the last two being King of Sword and Sky and Queen of Song and Souls. Those two will also be about Rain Tairen Soul and Ellysetta Baristani, and they're coming out in October and November 2008.

REASON FOR READING: Buzz, buzz, buzz, all over the place!

Long ago, in the magical holocaust known as the Mage Wars, the immortal Fey and their allies fought to defeat the grasping evil of the Elden Mages and their dark-gifted supporters. During those wars, in a fit of grief-induced madness caused by the death of his mate, Fey shapeshifter Rain Tairen Soul nearly destroyed the world in a blaze of tairen fire.

Now, a thousand years later, the fierce Fey king must fight to save his race from the brink of extinction and once again stop the evil rising in the homeland of his enemies, the Eld. The key to his success lies in the mortal city of Celieria, where the Mage Wars began, and with a young woman whose soul sings to him in ways no woman's ever has, whose presence reawakens the primal fury of the tairen within his soul, and whose vast, untapped power can either save or destroy him and his people.

Since her earliest memories, Ellysetta Baristani has feared magic, even as she has been inexorably drawn to all things Fey, especially the poetry and legends of Rain Tairen Soul. Now claimed as Rain's truemate and no longer able to deny her own magic, Ellysetta is swept into the very center of a struggle filled with the magic and darkness she has always feared. The High Mage of Eld wants to capture her. The most murderous dahl'reisen who ever lived wants her dead. And her enemies will corrupt even the people she loves most in their quest to claim her magic for themselves.
I've made two or three attempts to write a plot description of these books, and it's hopeless. I've tried to keep them simple, but I always end up going on about the Fey this and the Tairen that and the Mage Wars and the Eld and the Celierians and Rain touching the Tairen Soul and blah, blah. Someone who hasn't read the books yet will be completely lost reading such a summary, and someone who's already read them won't need it. Given this, I think it would be better if I just gave you a very, very basic idea of what the books are about, and don't get bogged down in the details.

Our hero is Rain Tairen Soul, an immortal being, part of a magical race called the Fey. His race is dying, and he finds out from a powerful magical object that the key to its survival is in the nearby mortal kingdom of Celieria.

Arriving there as head of a huge delegation, he immediately gets an inkling of what this key might be when he senses his truemate is near. Now, finding a truemate is a huge deal for the Fey, as the link between them is immensely powerful. Rain had actually already had a mate 1000 years earlier (remember, immortal being here) and went completely mad when she died, so mad that he literally scorched the world with his great powers. And this wasn't even a truemate, but a regular mate, so believe me: huge deal.

The truemate in question is tradesman's daughter Ellysetta Baristani, at first sight a regular gal. Ellysetta is initially half-terrified, half-intimidated by this legendary being who's suddenly intent on claiming her as his, but soon becomes convinced of the rightness of it. And as their courtship proceeds, facing seemingly everyone's disapproval, she'll come to see him more as a person she can actually love than as an almost-god.

As I hinted above, their courtship doesn't run smoothly. Part of it is that Ellysetta needs to trust and accept Rain completely for the bond to actually happen on her side, and this is hard for her, and not just because of her initial awe. Ellysetta isn't at all a regular gal, it turns out. There's powerful magic deep inside her, a magic she's been pressured into suppressing for years, and letting go of that fear will depend on her going against the conditioning of a lifetime -and against her family.

And in addition to this, the external opposition against them is fierce... from the plots of a scummy Celierian young man who is obsessed with having Elly (and her magic) all to himself, to Elly's mother honest fear that becoming mated with a Fey will mean Elly's moral ruin, from Celierian noblemen's distrust of the Fey, to the Eld, the Fey's longtime enemies who have a very mysterious interest in Ellysetta.

As I mentioned above, this whole big, big story will take a full four books. Ordinarily I'd say wait until all four are out, but I'll make an exception here and say go read these two. While the overarching storyline of the fate of the Fey and the battle against the evil Eld will only find closure by the end of the whole series (I asssume!), I think there's enough emotional resolution in Elly and Rain's story by the end of book 2, enough for me to not feel dissatisfied when I finished it. Just don't start reading book 1 without having book 2 close at hand, because you'll be desperate to read the latter when you finish the former!

So what did I like about these books? I think Wilson's story is probably the best balanced combination of epic fantasy and romance I've ever read. I've read excellent, strong epic fantasy with some romance and I've read excellent, strong romance with a bit of epic(-ish) fantasy mixed in, but this is the first time I've read something where the epic fantasy was so much in the forefront and yet, the book was recognizably and quintessentially a romance novel. This is a big, big story, with complex and fascinating worldbuilding and with a half-dozen different threads intertwining, and yet it's perfectly accessible and satisfying for the romance reader; perfectly balanced and integrated.

As a fantasy, it's top-notch (not that I'm exactly a connoisseur of fantasy, but as Jane pointed out when I mentioned this in a chat, what I've read of it has been the very cream of the genre), and as a romance (where I am pretty confident of my knowledgeability!) it's fantastic.

Yes, this is a "mate, mate, mine, mine, mine" story (and I'm sure quite a few of you groaned when I mentioned this in my summary), but it's done the right way. Wilson doesn't substitute the process of falling in love with a simple and immediate "we're mates, so that's it, we're in love". The truemate bond as she writes it is way more complicated than this. In fact, not only does it not immediately imply love, it actually complicates the love relationship quite a bit, as both Rain and Elly have to come to terms with how this involuntary link might affect a more willing and fragile bond like love.

Ah, I loved single-minded Rain. He's a total alpha, but the protective kind of alpha, and Elly is the perfect kind of heroine for someone like him, since she's more than strong enough in her own right. She doesn't seem so at first, but she really comes into her own during the story, and the shocking revelations about her past make complete and total sense. And it's not just the main characters who were three-dimensional and well-realized... all the different secondary characters are subtly drawn and play very real roles in the plot, giving the story a lot of depth.

MY GRADE: I can't really grade these two books separately: an A- for them, then!


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