Lord of the Fading Lands: Entertaining romantic fantasy

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsromantic fantasy book review C.L. Wilson Lord of the Fading LandsLord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson

Lord of the Fading Lands has me thinking about genres, and the distinctions between them, and the places where they blur. Specifically, is the Tairen Soul series romance-with-fantasy or fantasy-with-romance? I’m going to have to come down on the side of romance-with-fantasy, though there’s a great big fantasy plot in this book alongside the love story.

The central characters are Rain, a shapeshifting Fey king with a thousand years’ worth of traumatic past; and Ellysetta, a young woman of humble background who is unappreciated in her home city but who turns out to be exceptionally powerful. Each is able to heal some of the other’s psychological wounds. Though the particulars of the plot are very different, I was reminded a little of Anne Bishop’s romantic themes; fans of Daemon and Jaenelle may find another couple to root for here. And like Jaenelle, Ellysetta has a few moments of seeming a little too “Mary Sue” as her unprecedented powers begin to emerge. Then again, she’s in good company. Romance is full of waifs who grow up to marry the prince, and fantasy is full of waifs who grow up to save the world. Ellysetta may well turn out to be both…

Rain and Ellysetta are drawn together as “truemates,” which means their souls are metaphysically bound to each other. This is not a plot device I ordinarily like, but C.L. Wilson does a great job of showing that the soul-bond doesn’t automatically equal a perfect relationship. Rain and Ellysetta have to learn to understand each other and get along just like any other couple.

The course of true love never did run smooth, of course, and at the same time as Ellysetta and Rain are getting to know each other, they face a slew of threats both mundane and magical. Ellysetta’s boorish former betrothed is unwilling to give her up. The Celierian court is less than pleased at the sudden elevation of a commoner. Prejudice against the Fey is growing. And a sinister Mage is delighted to exploit all of these problems in order to achieve his own ends. The Mages, might I add, are scary as hell.

The plot starts a little slowly; the thing to remember is that Lord of the Fading Lands and Lady of Light and Shadows were originally written as one book. A “slow” start in a 400-page book isn’t necessarily a “slow” start in a book twice that size. I found that the story crept up on me. At first I thought I was just reading a sweet love story, but as I went on, the fantasy plot thickened gradually until it had me compulsively turning pages. By the time I finished Lord of the Fading Lands, I was on the edge of my seat. I’ve already ordered Lady of Light and Shadows and can’t wait to see what happens next.

One more bit of praise: There’s a map! And a glossary! (I used to gripe when these weren’t included in a book; I think I’m going to start giving props when they are included, in the hopes that they’ll become more common.)

Recommended for readers who like a heavy dose of fantasy in their romance, or a heavy dose of romance in their fantasy.


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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