For my first official review for the Irresistible Review Challenge, I read Lord of the Fading Lands, a book I'd never heard of, solely because of the wonderful review posted by Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers blog. I loved their review format - a sort of conversational, back-and-forth piece that shared both their passion for the book as well as intriguing details about the plot and characters that made me want to read it. This is by no means the only book I've added to my list because of their reviews - but it's probably the one that's been on there the longest.
There is a lot of backstory to this tale, but rather than bogging it down with details and explanations, it is inserted seamlessly into the narrative, giving the setting depth and complexity. Our heroine is Elysetta, an ordinary citizen of Celieria, tall, red haired, and gawky. She lives with her parents and her two little sisters, and while she has romantic notions about the graceful Fey who live in the Fading Lands, devouring their legends and poetry, the reality is that Ellie is going to be betrothed to the odious Den, son of the neighboring butcher, even though she finds him repellent.
Meanwhile, Rain Tairen Soul, king of the Fey, risks his life in order to determine why the Tairen - the great cats that are inextricably connected to the fate of his people - are dying out. He is granted a vision of a woman who may change that fate, and for the first time in a thousand years he ventures forth from the Fading Lands, determined to find her. He himself is a legendary figure - the people of Celieria can barely believe it when he appears among them. He is the king from stories and ballads who, devastated by grief at the death of his mate, nearly destroyed the land in storms of fire centuries earlier. Ellie watches in awe with her two little sisters as he and the other Fey arrive on an ambassadorial visit to Celieria, and the last thing she expects is for him to swoop from the sky and declare her his truemate.
Their encounter sparks a chain of events that resonates throughout Celieria and the neighboring land of Eld, ancient enemy of the Fey. Celierians barely remember the wars with Eld, and Rain's attempts at warning them of a gathering darkness on the border fall on deaf ears - after all, his is bound to see evil there, after his age-old war with Eld, but Celieria and Eld have been at peace for many long years. The plot strands twist and turn, showing treachery at the heart of Celeria's royal court. Rain is determined to protect Ellie, and Ellie despairs of ever being any sort of respectable queen - after all, she is only the daughter of a woodcarver. Or is she? Her parents adopted her, but no one knows who her true birth parents are. All she knows is that her dreams are haunted by a dark presence, and that she's been plagued with terrifying nightmares her entire life.
This first volume of the Tairen Soul series is a gripping tale, creating an intricate world with characters who are complex and believable. The atmosphere was reminiscent of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop - the political intrigue, the growing sense of peril for Elysetta, and the machinations of those who wish to harm her. Ellie's growing relationship with Rain is told with humor and sensitivity, and it is delightful to watch their romance develop. Their weaknesses and faults make them all the more sympathetic to the reader. This volume of the series has a satisfying conclusion, but there are many unresolved issues that make me very much look forward to reading the subsequent book, Lady of Light and Shadows.
Many thanks to Ana and Thea for their irresistible review, which led me to read this book!
Books in the Tairen Soul series:
1. Lord of the Fading Lands
2. Lady of Light and Shadows
3. King of Sword and Sky
4. Queen of Song and Souls
Lord of the Fading Lands (#1 in the Tairen Soul series) by C.L. Wilson (Dorchester Publishing Co., 2007)
In addition to their irresistible review of this book, the Book Smugglers have posted a most interesting interview with C.L. Wilson.
Also reviewed at:
Lady Caella's Dream World