Each month Thea and I choose one book that we both review. Last month’s was The Time Traveler’s Wife and we read it because it was the choice of our book club. This month, we chose to read Lord of the Fading Lands, due to the rave reviews online and the fact that Katie from Ramblings on Romance listed it as her top 1 read of 2007.
This month though we decided to change the format and instead of two reviews we are writing a joint one. Well, sort of.
Hope you like this one!
Title: Lord of the Fading Lands
Author: C.L. Wilson
Stand alone or series: Book 1 of the Tairen Soul series which will have 4 or 5 books.
Ana: I literally just finished reading the book and everything is really fresh in my mind and if I were less emotional I could probably do a good job but as the emotional reader that I am, right now I only care to say WOW, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I loved every single thing about it and I can only berate myself for not reading it sooner.
I also realize that I have no idea on how to write this review.
Mostly because two sides of me are battling for attention: the side that loves fantasy and will tell you that this is a wonderfully crafted magic book and that Mrs Wilson has met my most wildest expectations in the development of a new world, which has its own languages, geography, peoples. There are the inner laws of the Magic world and a whole History that goes back thousands of years. Suffice to say that I kept thinking LORD OF THE RINGS, which is my favorite Fantasy novel and one of my top 5 best books of all time. People that know me well, know that I do not take my Lord of the Rings comparisons lightly and when I do so with Lord of the Fading Lands, I am giving it the highest compliment I could give to a book.
The other side of me, the side that loves Fairy Tales and Romance will tell you that the romantic aspect of the book is as sublimely crafted as the Fantasy side if not more. It has all the aspects of an epic love story and if the Fantasy is LoTR reminiscent then the Romance reminds me of a Cinderella story, my favorite fairytale.
But really, I must end the battle inside me because in this book the romance and the Fantasy do not exist without the other.
Thea: I also very much enjoyed this book. Well written, good array of characters, a solid (if somewhat rehashed) plot in a compelling universe. When I discovered that this is Ms. Wilson’s debut novel, I instantly became even more impressed. I’m not sure I loved this book more than any other I have read this year, but it certainly was enjoyable and a good, fast paced read.
As a fantasy lover, I was pleased with the universe Ms. Wilson created. As Ana says above, it is very Lord of the Rings. Understandably, LOTR is a genre defining work, and its influence is going to be felt in every author’s foray into high fantasy. Lord of the Fading Lands portrays an epic struggle between Good (the Fey and the Celierians who are neither good nor evil, but men) and the rising Evil (the Eld, evil mages)—which, let’s face it, is always gonna feel a bit reheated. I had some problems with the power hierarchies and ‘rules’ of the universe, but this didn’t detract from the general reading experience.
The romance was sweet and much more believable to me than the political intrigue subplots or the world building and magic wielding. I loved the characters of Ellie and Rain, and I am so incredibly happy that Ms. Wilson doesn’t fall into the pitfall of rushing characters together romantically.
My actual overall first impression of this book is how interesting it is that it was marketed as a romance, as opposed to a fantasy novel. I’ll cut to the chase—there’s no sex in this book, which is a romance novel staple. There is far more emphasis placed on character development and the fantastic elements of the story than there is on quivering loins. I wonder if this was an editorial decision, or Ms. Wilson’s own decision? Surely had this book been marketed as a fantasy, I highly doubt it would have received half the press and following it has now.
The scope of the story is grand and with an epic quality to it.
The Dark is Rising, and it happens to coincide with the fact that the Tairen are dying. And if the Tairen die, the Fey people will follow suit to their strong connection. The Tairen Soul, the King of Fey is desperate for a solution and dares to ask the Eye (…) to show him the way. The eye, shows him the figure of a red-haired woman who is the one that will save the. It just so happens that Ellie, the adopted daughter of a woodscrafter is also the Truemate of Rain. A truemate is the person that shares the soul of a Fey, the connection going beyond that of a wife or a mate of the heart and it is the most precious gift a Fey hope to receive in its existence. It doesn’t happen to everyone, it hasn’t happened in over a thousand years but most importantly it has never happened to a Tairen Soul.
After receiving the strange vision from the Eye, Rain makes his first appearance in Celeria in a thousand years, and he hears his truemate’s call. The Tairen within lashes out and tries to claim the mate of his soul, and Ellie—oblivious to her importance—is frightened. The book follows as Rain struggles to court Ellie and win her trust, for if their souls do not bond, Rain will die. The stakes for having such a rare gift of a truemate are exceptionally high, especially for the last Tairen Soul. Rain knows that he must be successful, because Ellie is not only his truemate, but represents salvation—she is the dying Tairen and weakening Fey’s hope for survival. Having now found his truemate and this incredible hope for the future, Rain immediately assigns a quintet of his finest Fey warriors to protect her and her family with their lives.
Ellie is no ordinary woodcarver’s daughter. Abandoned in the woods as a babe, Lauriana and Sol took her in and treated her as their own. Ellie has suffered from terrible nightmares and seizures since she was a child, and does not want to admit that she has a deep and exceptionally powerful magic within her, for she also feels that there is a great darkness there and she struggles to keep it hidden and safely locked away. Someone haunts Ellie’s dreams, and calls her to reveal herself to him in a cold, cruel voice. Ellie knows that above all else, she must stay hidden from The Shadow Man of her dreams, for if the darkness within her is ever to surface, she is capable of great evil and destruction.
Although impatient to return to the Fading Lands where Ellie will be safe from any threats, Rain must submit to the Celierian marriage customs and wishes of her family. While courting Ellie and trying to earn his trust, the Fey also must make diplomatic assurances and amendments with the Celierian King Dorian. The Celierians want to open a trading agreement with the Eld, claiming that the evil they represented and all the mages who were cause of the old war are long dead. Rain is the only one who senses that the Dark is Rising and knows above all else that the Eld are not to be trusted, but the seeds of doubt in Celieria have already been sown. The mages of the Eld are sneaky and subtle, and work through suggestion, doubts and fears, trying to turn Celieria against the Fey. There is intrigue involving the court, as a mage infiltrates and tries to turn Queen Annoura of Celieria and her court against King Dorian. Border skirmishes also occur and Fey steel is planted at the scene, again causing doubts and fears to surface.
And all the while, the Dark is Rising.
Ana: All characters are well developed, in my opinion.
I liked specially Ellie’s family, how her father is a strong and honourable man. How her mother is a deeply religious woman with very tangible fears about her daughter’s future. Her sisters were extremely cute.
The Fey quintet was amazing. And the friendship and bond that they share leaped from the pages of the book. Their fierceness and willingness in defending their queen along with their humorous exchanges made the sequences where they were present a delight.
Rain is fantastic hero. Even though he is Tairen Soul and the King of Fey he is still very much flawed. He is not a instantly wise, patient King. He doesn’t know everything and makes mistakes, both in his way of dealing with the politics and in his courtship.
In fact once upon a time he almost destroyed the world in a moment of madness after the death of his first mate, which was a woman he chose not a woman chosen for him. He at first struggles to accept Ellie as he thinks he is being unfaithful to his mate of the heart. But a mate of the soul trumps everything – because she is the other half of him.
Ellie is Cinderella – a peasant upgraded to Queen is a few moments who has to cope with the changes in her life, and with her inner feelings of not being worthy of devotion and the fact that as the truemate of a Tairen Soul she must be as powerful as he is. And she struggles to accept the magic in her.
Thea: I agree—the characters were compelling and rich.
While I can’t say I was digging the whole “Cinderella” thing, I loved that Ellysetta was not breathtakingly beautiful or incredibly confident. She is awkward and shy, but despite her timidity has flashes of deep steel beneath. When people belittle her or those she loves, Ellie’s transformation from quiet ordinary girl to Fey Queen is remarkable, and had me rooting for Team Ellie, guns blazing.
Rain also is a wonderful hero—he’s dominant and wild, but thank the Lord of the Light he is not just another growly Alpha Male dragging his woman off by the hair. He is haunted by the former mate of his heart Soriel—the woman he scorched the world for—and must reconcile his past heartbreak with the needs of his soul. Also, he’s not very good with courtship (besides the wonderful presents he gives), which provides some much needed levity to his character.
Another character that I loved was that of Bel, Ellie’s sworn second protector after Rain. A hardened, soul shadowed Fey warrior, Ellie manages to thaw his heart and give him hope again. You cannot help but love Bel, reading this book.
Also, the array of secondary characters was well written and more than simple stock cardboard. From Ellie’s quintet to the members of the Celierian court, each character had dimension and believability. For example, Queen Annoura is petty, spiteful towards Ellie—but not because she is simply EEEVIL and empty headed. She is ambitious, but her motivations stem from love of her husband, the King. When the mage tries to seduce her and turn her against her husband, Annoura is able to shake off the spell. Very impressive stuff.
Ana: All the political ramifications of the battle that is sure to approach with the possible ensuing darkness : alliances will surely have to be forged between peoples in order to survive the threat but with the pettiness of the Queen of Cieleria, the stubbornness of mortals who have short memories and can not remember the evil things will not be easy.
We loved the fact that the bond between truemates must be worked. It is not a given and it doesn’t signify instant love. Even though they share a soul, there must be a period of courtship initiated by Rain and until Ellie accepts herself and him there can never be a true bond between them. It is interesting to note, that she can still deny him and carry on with her life. On the other hand, he will die if the bond doesn’t complete. Not only his life hangs by a thread so does the future of the Fey and of their world.
Thea: Word! The bond between trumates is not easily earned and cannot be completed with a simple “yes”. Both must share every facet of their being with the other—darkness and light both. Without this final bond, as Ana said, Rain will die. I also found it interesting that early on in the novel, after Rain discovers his truemate Ellie, his heart still yearns for his lost former love. The fact that the heart can rebel from the calling of the soul is wonderfully done, and lends an authenticity and originality to Ms. Wilson’s romance. I loved it.
Ana: The book ends but the story is nowhere near its conclusion. The tale will span for another three books or four books, which is great for the development of the storyline and the different plots. Plus that fact that Ms Wilson doesn’t have to rush to conclude the story in less than 400 pages gives a great depth to the romance as well. To the romance readers out there: the romance is extremely well done, with all the elements of a soul mate story: Possession, Protection, lust. As this is considered a Romance above all , I am pretty sure of a happy ending. FYI, book one ends on a high note on their relationship with the first thread of their bond connecting them.
I finished the book and rushed to my TBR shelf to get the sequel because I was smart enough to buy it once I reached page 200 of Book 1. I wanted to remain in the world CL Wilson wove out of her magic hands.
To me it was a gripping tale of love and magic that I am certain will captivate both fantasy and romance lovers.
Thea: I too am very pleased that Ms. Wilson knows she has a good thing going, and isn’t impatient on either the romance or the fantastic spectrum. The opening and baring of one’s whole soul, especially for characters like Ellie and Rain is not a simple thing. Similarly, for real, palpable danger to threaten this universe, I appreciate the slow building of tensions and dastardly plots Ms. Wilson is amassing.
I did have a (very) few problems with certain aspects of the book, which detract from giving it a higher rating. Firstly—the power hierarchies. How are the Fey, especially Rain, so incredibly gifted with magic? They can control all the elements, Rain is an exceptional magic weaver AND has the ability to transform into a Tairen, and they can heal wounds, and they can read minds, and they can create force fields, and they are deadly warriors, etc etc etc. There simply cannot be this unlimited supply of magic without any consequence. Weaving a spell has no physical effect on the weaver, they can cast as many spells as they want for as long as they want without tiring or having their powers depleted. It’s like if someone was an incredibly fast runner, but was able to run a marathon at a 100m dash sprint pace, without ever breaking a sweat or needing a break. For every action, there must be a reaction—power doesn’t come from nowhere. Also, if the Fey are this badass and powerful, how can they not sense the magework of the Eld?
Also, I found it irritating that Ellie of course has her own unlimited supply of power and is not just a woodcarver’s daughter but actually possesses the skills of a master mage, able to weave spells subconsciously and is more powerful than everyone else. It gave me nasty flashbacks of The Black Jewels trilogy and Jaenelle with her dozens upon dozens of black jewels and limitless power supply.
It just kinda felt like…cheating. If the good guys are omniscient and all powerful, where’s the risk and danger? We all know Ellie isn’t *really* going to turn (and stay) to the dark side. Heck, even in Harry Potter, Harry is just an average wizard with a wide streak of luck and enough grit and tenacity to get through all his terrible ordeals. Why make Ellie some SuperPowerfulMageMaster?
Romance: Rain and Ellie’s first encounter when he feels her distress out in the crowd and flies to her and waves some brand of magic around them and says the usual Fey words to the truemates: “your soul called out, mine answered. Beloved.” Every single time, any of the truemated couples say that to each other, it brought tears to my eyes. I kid you not.
Fantasy : the sequence when the two Fey friends battled to their death, without being able to summon magic to help themselves. Fighting side by side as they did for over a 1,000 years and their sorrow was truly heartfelt.
It was Fantasy heaven. Brilliant and heart breaking.
And I want the Mages to die. Every single one of them.
Thea: I quite enjoyed the scene where Ellie first touches Bel and lifts the weight of shadows from his heart with her kindness. Also, the first game of stones between Ellie and Rain makes you go “awww!”
I also have to admit I have admiration for the sneaky, subversive mage and his well planned out ploys to turn Celieria against the Fey. Villains should be villainous and capable, and the Eld certainly are that. Well done!
Ana’s Rating: 10. One of the best books I ever read. To be honest though, I was torn about which rate to give. My first thought was “It’s a 10!” Then I thought, I should wait to read all the instalments to see how the whole thing proceeds and decided to give it a 9. But then, writing this review, I realised HOW MUCH I enjoyed myself whilst reading it and a 10 it is!
Thea’s Rating: 8 Excellent. While I very much enjoyed this book, it’s not exactly Kushiel’s Dart or A Game of Thrones. But, it’s good reading, I cannot wait to pick up the sequel and get back into Ms. Wilson’s world. I definitely highly recommend this book to everyone—it’s a keeper.