I am currently reading Lord of the Fading Lands, C.L. Wilson’s debut novel. I came across this book by accident when I passed the new book shelf at the public library. The amazing cover is what compelled me to pick the book up. The blurb on the back was very short and did not tell me much about the book. But it looked very interesting and so I decided to give it a try.
A few days later when I finally got to opening it up, I was pleasantly surprised. The first chapter drew me in right away. It introduces Rain Tairen Soul, the King of the Fey (a race of magical humans with cat-like eyes). The Tairen are dying out (the Tairen are winged, cat-like creatures who have a crucial bond with the Fey. Each race’s survival depends on the other to survive), and Rain is not sure how to save them, and in turn, save the Fey. As a last resort, Rain touches a sacred object and appeals to the Gods, asking what needed to be done to save his people.
The Gods direct him to Celieria City in the land of Celieria, to one individual in particular — Ellysetta Baristani. Celieria’s inhabitants are mortal humans, ruled by a king and queen. Ellysetta (Ellie) is the daughter of a woodcarver. Her family is considered to be among the lower ranks of society. The nobles of Celieria are very particular about their social status. Ellie is about 24 years old and her mother and father are anxious for her to get married, as is the custom for women of that age. However, Ellie is not like most Celierian girls. She does not have the usual “Celierian look” and she’s tall, awkward and unattractive in the eyes of others in the city. So it would be very difficult for her to find a suitable man. However, the only man who is interested in marrying her is obnoxious and Ellie wants nothing to do with him. Her mother, serious about Ellie getting married, goes ahead and makes arrangements for Ellie to marry him, however.
Incidentally, Ellie is not her parents’ natural daughter. Her mother and father adopted her when she was a baby. They had been on a trip in Celieria’s northern cities and found her abandoned in a forest. There were a lot of strange magical folks in these areas, so the Baristanis had some doubts about taking in a strange child. Their doubts were heightened when Ellie started having nightmares about demons coming to take her, and even had periods where she felt possessed by evil forces. But the Baristanis still took her. They hadn’t been able to have children of their own. Once they brought Ellie home, their lives improved considerably and they had two twin daughters, Lorelle and Lillis. Ellie’s father’s woodcarving business grew.
OK, back to the story. So, word gets out in Celieria City that Rain Tairen Soul would be arriving soon. No one knew why exactly, but they were looking forward to it nonetheless. Centuries ago, Rain — anguished by the death of his lover, Sariel — scorched the entire world. That scorching has since become the stuff of legend.
When Rain arrives in the city, he immediately finds Ellie and claims her as his “truemate”, or “shei’tani” in Fey language. A truemate in Fey culture involves two souls who are mated, for life. It is the only mate that can produce children. Rain is the first Tairen Soul to ever claim a truemate. Ellie is now the key to the survival of the Fey and the Tairen. The two must have a child (at least, that’s my guess) in order to save the two species.
Well, much trouble ensues after Rain claims Ellie. She must accept the bond, but until she does so, Rain tries very hard to keep himself in check and to respect the culture in which she grew up. Ellie and her family are suddenly thrust into the ranks of noble society, and many Celierians nobles are not happy about that.
Meanwhile, in the nearby land of Eld, a High Mage by the name of Vadim Maur is plotting to attack Rain and to figure out if Ellie is the child that was stolen from him over twenty years ago. He uses his apprentice, Kolis, to carry out his schemes.
Much of the plot of this novel is devoted to character development. We get to know Rain, and his tormented past. Because he is immortal and a warrior, he has fought in many battles and has killed many soldiers in his day. The burden of those dead souls is now attached to his soul, and has caused him much torment and sadness. On top of that was the sorrow of losing Sariel, his first lover. Ellie is a breath of fresh air to him. She can heal him as only a truemate can, and make him excited about living again.
Ellie’s self-esteem is zero. All her life she has been told that she is ugly, unattractive and unworthy. The night demons and possession by mysterious evil spirits only added to her troubles. Her family loves her of course, but they do worry about her future and are desperate for her to marry, even if it’s with someone she doesn’t care for. So when Rain comes out of no where to claim her as his truemate — promoting her to the rank of Queen of the Fey — she barely has time to process this sudden turn of events in her life. She does not feel worthy of his love and of her status, despite his constant insistence that she is perfect to him just the way she is.
Overall, this novel feels like it is laying groundwork for the next novel in the series, Lady of Light and Shadows. I thoroughly enjoyed it! There is obvious Lord of the Rings influence, but I found that this book had a lot more in common with The Eye of the World, the first novel in the Wheel of Time series. There are severa parallels, especially the Eye that sees everything, and the concept of Rain scorching the world — in The Wheel of time, the Dragon Reborn does a similar thing (I think). Women have a stronger role in magic in both series.
Aside from its influences, I loved the world-building in this novel. C.L. Wilson did a great job of making the customs, clashes of cultures and the use of magic seem believable. I almost hope she writes other series set in the same world so that we can get to know more about some of the other races that live within it!
I have just a few general criticisms. The plot is a bit slow to develop. While that wasn’t a problem with me, people who are looking for action — intense battle scenes, love scenes, etc. — may be a little disappointed because they are lacking in this novel. Plus, some details are re-introduced several times within the novel, so it got a bit repetitive — it felt like maybe she wrote some scenes out of order and forgot which things were introduced when. Maybe a bit tighter editing could have fixed that.
Next, Ellie’s consistent expression of her low self-esteem can get a bit tiring. How many times does Rain need to tell her that she “brings honor to this Fey”? What needs to happen to make her finally realize her worth?
Finally — Ellie is a little “too good” if you ask me. How can someone who has gone through what she’s gone through still be so good at heart? I’m not saying she has to be evil, but it’s hard to believe that someone who has been put down all her life wouldn’t have a single bit of contempt in her, even if it’s very small. It doesn’t seem realistic. Furthermore, everyone in Celieria who doesn’t like Ellie or who is disrespectful to her seems overly bad; caricature-like. I’d hate to go as far as labeling Ellie as a Mary Sue, but if she doesn’t have any other faults besides low self-esteem, I may have to. Rain has plenty of faults, but Ellie is good as gold.
Well, that concludes my rather lengthy review. I LOVE this book, despite its shortcomings, and I greatly look forward to reading the next one in the series. It’s obvious that Lord of the Fading Lands and Lady of Light and Shadows are two parts of one novel. Can’t wait to see how the plot progresses now that we’ve been introduced to the characters. When I finish the second book, I’ll post a review here!