Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson
Series: Tairen Soul #1
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Dates Read: February 22-27, 2019
Synopsis: Once, driven wild with grief over the murder of his beloved, the majestic Fey King Rain Tairen Soul had laid waste to the world before vanishing into the Fading Lands. Now, a thousand years later, a new threat draws him back into the world—and a new love reawakens the heart he thought long dead.
Ellysetta, a woodcarver’s daughter, calls to Rain in a way no other ever had. Mysterious and magical, her soul beckons him with a compelling, seductive song—and no matter the cost, the wildness in his blood will not be denied.
As an ancient, familiar evil regains its strength, causing centuries-old alliances to crumble and threatening doom for Rain and his people…he must claim his truemate to embrace the destiny woven for them both in the mists of time. (from Goodreads)
I read this for Mystery Pick #1 for Romanceopoly, which was revealed to be Fated Mates.
This book is exactly what I ask for in a high fantasy novel. It’s not too convoluted in its world-building, and the setting is expansive if contained. It’s a semi-medieval world with some Victorian aspects thrown in, but it could appear to be virtually any time in the distant past. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, but then there are also some in the middle. I first read a C.L. Wilson book back in 2017 when I encountered this ridiculously spectacular cover, which meant that I absolutely had to read the book, which I then loved. Looking at this cover…let’s just say I never would have touched one of her books had this been the first cover I saw. It looks like someone just discovered Photoshop and now calls themselves a graphic designer. It does, however, tell you all about our hero, Rain. He’s the Tairen Soul, and that angry-looking panther is roughly what his head looks like after he shifts into that form. I imagine his tairen form to be sort of like a giant cat with wings. I, for one, want to know what happens to his clothes when he shifts. Why isn’t he naked when he changes back into a man? Oh, and he can also telepathically communicate with other Fey and with Ellysetta since she’s his truemate (that is, he’ll never love anyone else ever again for this is a bond of the soul, which goes much deeper than a bond of the heart).
At the beginning of the book, Ellie is “marked” by Den Brodson, the butcher’s son. I’ve taken marking in this book to be a hickey because he bruised her on the neck with his mouth. By so marking her, he has a claim to her hand in marriage, which is utterly barbaric and yet pretty much exactly as we used to do in our society and in other places today, I’m sure. Ellie’s family wants to avoid shame, so they say she will marry him and sign the contract. Now, in my not-so-humble opinion, it brings much more shame to your family to sell your daughter into a loveless marriage with a bully who just wants to use her for his own gain than it does to say, “No, he assaulted my daughter. That doesn’t make her damaged goods; it makes her a victim.” But anyway, sexism and misogyny rule around these parts.
So what Den wants from Ellie is her magic. He’s not sure what exactly it entails, and neither is she nor anyone else for that matter, but he wants to use it to help himself because he’s a selfish, greedy bastard. In so doing, after Ellie unwittingly calls out to Rain for help, becoming his truemate, Den enlists the help of a “sailor” passing through. This so-called sailor is obviously up to no good, and Wilson drops hints throughout the text indicating that there’s a bad race of people up north called the Mages of Eld, of whom this guy is one.
(Backing up for a second, Wilson has provided us with a handy-dandy interactive map on her website depicting the land of Eloran, where all this takes place. Ellie and her family live in Celieria to the east. Rain and the rest of the Fey are from the Fading Lands to the west. Then there’s Daneal to the southeast, Elvia to the southwest, Feraz to the direct south, and the Pale way up north — but these don’t really come into play in the series just yet.)
I’m generally against calling an entire race of people bad, ’cause there’s a word for that called racism, but this is a fantasy and somebody’s gotta be evil…I guess. Now, here’s the fun part. Remember how I said no one knows what kind of magic Ellie has? Rain thinks she has Fey blood, but we have to admit that there’s a possibility she’s a Mage since she was found in the woods and no one knows who her real parents are, which would throw Rain’s entire philosophy about the Eld on its head. Why? Because Ellie is the nicest person ever. She’s like a ray of sunshine in the middle of the Great Flood. Some people call her a Mary Sue; I disagree — partially because I disagree with the idea in general since you could have a male character fit the same description and be deemed totally fine and even cool, but also because she’s only seen as attractive by Rain and the Fey, she’s kinda incompetent, she’s not the brightest tool in the shed, and her special abilities aren’t necessarily different from others with magic. Naive? Yes. Too perfect? No. Ellysetta Baristani: nice girl, tries hard, loves Rain. (That’s how it goes, right?)
I liked how Wilson has little “meanwhile, back at the farm” moments to fill us in on what’s going on with the baddies. I also liked that there’s a buildup to the climax of the book and that the storyline goes on after the book ends. There isn’t really a cliffhanger because we’re left with a somewhat peaceful feeling despite loose ends and chaos right around the corner. It’s less “omg i need to read the next book NOW” and more “I could wait a little while before reading the next book, but I definitely want to get to it sooner rather than later.”
Judging from this first book in the series, the story seems like a well-crafted labor of love. I can tell a good amount of thought went into this book and look forward to continuing this series in the next few months or so.
- “Ver reisa ku’chae. Kem surah, shei’tani. Your soul calls out. Mine answers, beloved.” (42)
- She would not cringe from the possibility of trouble; she would meet it with steel. (131)
- He’d ridden the sky on broad, black wings, and she’d stood, earth-bound and wingless, aching to fly beside him. Not on him, but with him. Beside him, under the power of her own broad wings. (206)
- He’d take her before the court dressed as a peasant and expect them to treat her like a queen. And be furious when they didn’t. (255)
- Battered and bruised, but still fighting for dominance, his was not the selfish, petty pride that made bullies of lesser men, but rather the quiet, determined dignity that turned men into heroes and made heroes crawl back to their feet from the bitter dust of defeat and stand tall once more. (299)
- “And remember this, My Lady Feyreisa: being regal is a state of mind. Act like a queen, believe it in your heart, and a queen is what everyone will see.” (328)
- “Ah, gods, I know I am not worthy, but I will devote my life to becoming so.” (398)