King of Sword and Sky (Tairen Soul #3)
September 30, 2008
Based on an Advanced Review Copy
Previously, in Lord of the Fading Lands and Lady of Light and Shadows, we met the legendary Rain Tairen Soul, king of the mighty Fey and Tairen races that lived behind the Faering Mists in the Fading Lands. The Tairen Soul was so named as he was the last of his kind, the last tairen soul – both Fey and tairen and a shape changer. Having sought the Eye of Truth, he knew what he must do to save his dying brethren, the tairen.
And the secret dwells within the young Celierian, Elysetta Baristani. In a most unusual first meeting, Rain claims Elysetta as his truemate, a bond all Fey hope for but seldom find anymore. As the two struggle to come to terms with very different ideals and wants, the nearby country of Eld stirs. Within its borders are housed mages of such evil and such power as to be almost unstoppable. They have been dormant but are now planning once more. Rain wants to secure his mate behind the impenetrable shield of the Mists, but yields to Elysetta’s inexperience and uncertainty, giving her time with her family and a proper wedding before beginning the journey. As the two learn to trust one another, tragedy strikes a blow so hard, not even Celieria can deny any longer the danger of the Eld.
In King of Sword and Sky, we continue the journey of Rain and Elysetta and their struggle to protect the world against the evil Elden mages and save the dying tairen. Ellie herself still struggles with the hold a particular mage, Vadim Maur, has over her. It looms like a shadow over everything they hope to accomplish. Rain himself still struggles with his past, when he scorched the world in his giant cat tairen form for the murder of his beloved. The two have much to overcome, but now they have one another’s love and trust to aid them.
The book picks right back up where we left off at the end of Lady of Light and Shadows. Ellie, her father and twin sisters, Rain and the Fey travel back to the Fading Lands. They will leave Sol, Ellie’s father, and the twins at the Garreval, an old outpost between Celieria and the Fading Lands. From there, Ellie and Rain make their way into the Fading Lands to convince the remaining Fey to stand against the Elden mages, and for Ellie to cure the tairen kits. Their young are dying, though no one knows why. But the Eye of Truth has foreseen Ellie as the tairen’s savior and she does her best to solve the mystery of why the young are dying in their eggs.
Meanwhile, Rain fights an uphill battle to rally has people to a war many want no part of. Thanks to the Faering Mists, they have grown complacent and relaxed in their vigils against an ancient enemy. The Mists are impenetrable, why do they need to risk anything? Simply stay within the Fading Lands and all will be well. But many know they cannot simply sit back and do nothing. With Ellie by his side, they manage to amass support enough to make a difference. But will that aid come too late? Will Ellie’s arrival to help the tairen be too late? It’s a race against time, time they do not have.
It is extremely difficult to review this book as an ARC. There are so many aspects of it and details that I want to discuss openly, but I will not be spoiling the book, so must resist. I can start off though by saying that this installment is every bit as good as the first two, and thankfully for very different reasons. Yes, we are told often enough still how beautiful the Fey are, how might the tairen, how majestic the beauty of the Fading Lands…so do be prepared for what I thought was a slight bit too much repetition on that score. I do suppose it could be necessary to emphasize it in order to show how much the Fey have fallen in terms of the strength of their people and homeland, compared to what it used to be before the first war with the mages.
Ellie I know seemed like too perfect of a heroine to some, but she really comes into her own in this book and still did not appear too perfect to this reader. If she was, she’d have had all the problems she knows she will be facing solved before ever stepping foot out of Celieria City and never had to make any sacrifices. She does indeed make sacrifices too, things those around her could never imagine. She struggles with herself, her limitations imposed by being raised in a non-magic country, where those like her are feared and disapproved of. So she’s still trying to come to an understanding of not only who she is, but her magic as well. She has enormous responsibilities, the kind that will either reveal the person for a hack and a coward or a strong and capable leader. I think she very much begins to assume the mantle of leader. It’s no less difficult too than when she and Rain were courting in Celieria. She is met with much the same type and level of suspicion amongst the Fey, or at the very least, the Fey who matter and could keep her from being successful. Since entering the Fading Lands, Ellie takes on one crisis or problem after another, with barely a minute to breath. And she handles it like a queen, albeit a queen with inner fears and doubts, but a true heroine nonetheless.
Rain meanwhile has to deal with the continued burden of having killed so many in the last war. He hears their laments every minute of every day. On top of that, he knows that the Eld are planning something and that the Fey can no longer sit idle, satisfied that the Mists will keep enemies at bay. He looks to raise his people to the level they once were at, a strong, proud race that was a match for any mage. In order to do that though, his people will have to be willing to change. And that is what some that oppose him cannot understand. Steeped in tradition, some Fey are hard pressed to change. Their ways are centuries old, have worked for centuries and there is no need to change anything. But their enemy has changed and if the Fey are to survive, if the tairen are to thrive once more, if the Fading Lands themselves are to reclaim the areas being consumed by desert wasteland, the Fey will indeed have to change. As a race, they will have to grow. Rain has a grave challenge ahead of him, and he needs Ellie’s help to see it through.
And their relationship is once again what makes this series one of the strongest in terms of romance today. I continue to be enthralled by the ways in which it continues to develop, the way every aspect of this series continues to develop. I’ve said it internet-wide many a time, but there is a lot going on in these books. We have Rain’s, Ellie’s, Vadim’s, and so many more points-of-view, yet the focus is always on or comes right back around to the continuing romance between Rain and Ellie. I mean, for gosh sakes – there is a war coming. We’ve known that from book one, yet Rain and Ellie’s relationship has always been the core. It was strengthened immensely in the second book, but it becomes firmly rooted in this one. I was amazed once again at the passion, the communication, and the sheer beauty of their love. Nothing that happens in this series happens to only one or the other. For all intents and purposes, they are the dream team of the Fading Lands. They are the future of their people. We’ve got mages, hidden court spies, Ellie’s family, the many different cultures yet Rain and Ellie are still clearly the stars in this series. Major kudos goes to Wilson for continuing to build the romantic focus in this very busy romance series.
At times, I did feel like it was a bit too busy. Ellie and Rain really don’t have one minute hardly of down time before the next crisis hits. I would say the pacing with this one is on the same level as the previous two. With the amount of detail, both in worldbuilding and plot, make sure you have plenty of time to devote to this because you will not want to miss one single detail. Business aside though, I loved, loved and loved every detail we get.
Worldbuilding – if I had the power, I would shout it from the rooftop that Wilson is the Queen of it and crown her so. It takes a highly imaginative person to think up this kind of world (not to mention keep it all straight). She’s created new kinds of magic, a new race in the tairen and Fey, their cultures, modes of dress, traditions, and evil creatures. You name it – if it’s essential to fantasy, this series has it. It’s very much something fans of The Lord of the Rings would enjoy; Wilson herself ahs admitted to inspiration from that quarter. Of course, it is the romance between Ellie and Rain that amplifies this one and sets it apart. But back to the worldbuilding, there’s not much to say other than it is phenomenal. And if you still don’t believe me, you should check out Wilson’s blog and read her posts on Worldbuilding 101, where she breaks it all down in clear and very helpful ways for aspiring writers.
But within the confines of the series, Wilson’s worldbuilding takes on that epic proportions approach and it’s not long before I felt as if I traveled the Mists with them, or feasted in the great halls and castles of the Fading Lands. The prose itself is simply beautiful and marries perfectly with the worldbuilding. It is perhaps a tad more flowery than others, but again, it just drives home and compliments nicely the power of the Fey, or the beauty of their homeland, the sinister feel of the mages or whatever it is being emphasized at the time. Quite simply, Wilson’s writing has the power to make me feel a part of the story, to become connected with her characters and everything they do in the books.
We revisit secondary characters like Bel and Kiernan. The former dahl’reisen, Gaelen, with his Azrahn weaving ways, becomes monumentally important in the coming war. Dax and Marissya have joyful news and bring one hope back to their people. The war begins in earnest…and there will be more sacrifices, ones that have the power to bring Ellie and Rain to their knees. The mages themselves and Vadim in particular go to new lengths we’ve not seen before and could rank up their with some of the best villains I’ve read in a romance. His actions quite surprisingly repulsed and angered me – I do advise readers to beware of some gruesome scenes involving the Eld, but know that they lend a very genuine air to the book and are not simply gratuitous violence.
Healing flares and evil strikes; there is literally no rest in this third of Wilson’s powerfully written Tairen Soul series. I loved it, and it has earned a place in my top five reads of 2008.
Queen of Song and Souls, the fourth and final installment, releases June 2, 2009, which the thought alone of will be sheer torture once you finish King of Sword and Sky. However, this one was well worth the wait, so I am assured by now that the last book will be too. Simply put, this is a rock-solid romance series, and I really could not ask for more from it.
To learn more about the Fey, the tairen and the Fading Lands, visit the author’s site.