I saw this one and was thinking ‘oh, I haven’t read fantasy for a while and this looks good’. And yes indeedy it was just that for the most part, but the thing is…it was more historical paranormal than anything though it has a fantasy flavor too. I wasn’t disappointed because Scotland in the time of King Alexander is always a hit. Give me some serious intrigue, powerful elemental magic, promise of battle and medieval romance and you’ve definitely got my attention.
This book is the beginning of a shiny new series that makes the assumption that the old Celtic gods were real, that they trapped one of their own who would destroy the world in fire and chaos, and that all of them including the raging goddess imprisoned passed down their gifts to human descendants to protect their interests before they retreated to give way to humanity ruling the world.
The story begins when the goddess of fire decides that the time has come to end her imprisonment and begin her reign of terror. As she sets her plans in motion, this has a domino effect for she is not the only one who would put plans in place. Just as evil rises so do those who would oppose her. The druids receive prophecy that sets them on a journey away from their misty isle to find those who would have the power to seal the Stone Circle gates. The king of the land is uneasy by something he has seen on a visit to one of his trusted advisers and has his most trusted knight journey to investigate and end any threats. Little does the knight know that the truth he seeks will push him beyond belief and lead him to a girl filled with old elemental magic that calls to something similar inside him. The girl is the key as she must decided who she truly is and where her loyalties lie. All the players converge as if moved into place by some cosmic chess player.
In essence, this book is the set up for the series and very much feels like it too. It moves forward at a ponderous pace most of the time. I didn’t skip, but I confess that I was strongly tempted. The thing is, the story is full of good stuff, but the promise I was seeing right away when I grasped where the story was going had me impatient for it to get on with it. I love the worldbuilding using Celtic mythology, love the time period, love the conflict, and that hero, and there are many interesting characters.
The hero, William, has an interesting past. He is the king’s bastard child though he was given legitimacy when his mother was married to a powerful noble of the de Brus family. He is acknowledged in private and his true parentage is a not so well-kept secret. He was forced to grow up strong, fierce and skilled to protect himself and prove himself. In spite of his heritage, he is loyal to his father and he is very honorable. He holds his passion in check and is gentle and protective of Brienne.
The heroine, Brienne was on the mild side for my tastes. She’s been raised in a little village by the blacksmith and his wife, but she suspects who her real father is. She dreams of big things and isn’t satisfied with her life. I couldn’t tell if she was hopelessly naive, resigned to her fate or just wanted something so badly that she ignored reality to believe a dream. The story spent a long time drawing out her story so that much of the book focused on her. Not that this is a bad thing, but she didn’t do much for me and I was impatient for her. She chooses to ignore fact so that she can have her fairytale life. Part of the suspense was knowing how this would factor in to the war that is building between those who stand against the goddess’ return and the ones who would free her.
I was actually very taken with the villain of the piece. Now there is a character with passion, shades of gray, layers, and power. He makes me wonder who he would have been if his early life with his father hadn’t molded him into the tool of the goddess that he is. I’m intrigued by his storyline.
I’m not sure what to say about the romance because it was just okay for me. I’m struggling to describe why it was only moderately pleasing. The best I can figure out is that the all the other stuff going on overshadowed it a bit and I wanted more balance- evidence of a relationship. There is a fated mate idea going on and I think the story relied heavily on that to carry the romance so the characters could focus on other stuff. For must of the book, the characters have an attraction. There are a couple passionate scenes, but I wouldn’t describe it as a steamy romance though it’s not exactly sweet. So somewhere in between?
Anyway, overall, the book was a decent start and left me eager to continue with the series as the heroic band pushes forward to keep thwarting the evil goddess. Even though this felt more like a historical paranormal romance, I would say light fantasy romance fans might like it too.
My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.