The Lady of the Sorrows by Cecilia Dart-Thornton

And so onto book 2, which pretty much continues where Book 1 (The Ill-Made Mute – see review) left off.

Imrhain is now no longer deformed or mute. Giving herself a new identity, Imrhain, now called Rohain, her voice returned (and how!) and her face now a vision of loveliness manages for the first third of the book to make her way rapidly (perhaps a little too rapidly) up the Kings Court ranks at Caermelor.

There are some interesting developments here. Whereas Book 1 was pretty much a quest novel, much of the story at first in Book 2 deals with political/courtly intrigue

Everything looks rosy, at first. Of course, things do not stay happy. The remainder of the book follows the quest scenario as Rohain attempts to rediscover her memories and past.

This is however a book of new beginnings and closures. Rohain meets people from her past and visits places from her past in order to understand her personal history. The interest here of course is that it is a very different person from that in Book 1, and now that her horizons have been broadened she does see things (and people!) in a different light to that previous.

With this in mind therefore the book does suffer a little from middle book syndrome – you really do have to know what happened in Book 1 here to appreciate whats going on (though there is a very good synopsis at the beginning of this book), and many of the events at the end are clearly there to set up the situation for Book 3. Whereas Book 1 concentrated mainly on Imrhain/Rohain and events in her immediate vicinity, there are wider issues more readily apparent here as Ms Dart-Thornton broadens her canvas. Though Book 2 still uses the lead character as the focus of the novel, other characters and situations are brought to the fore here. There is more to do with the uprising of unseelie creatures against the King, which no doubt will be concluded in book 3, and a major shift change in the last third of the book which partly explains Rohains origins.

Ms Dart-Thorntons broad use of vocabulary, as in Book 1, will continue to both be appreciated by some and found annoying by others. I found it quite pleasing to find words such as crepuscular, caldera, balderdash, carilloned and soughing in the book, though there is still rather a lot of information-dumping which can both fill in background and end up as a list and give the impression at times of prose that is overcooked, though it does help create this atmospheric world. A description of the volcanic nature of the island of Tamhania reads rather like a science book.

The book is still romantic, in the love-story sense. If I have any complaints here, it is that the two lead characters are too perfect. How such wonderfully perfect people have remained perfect is a marvel to me. It is interesting though that the tension here for much of the earlier part of the book is created by a case of absence making the heart grow fonder, Rohains in particular! When the two leads do meet each other again, it is unashamedly romantic.

Unfortunately, where Ms Dart-Thornton needs to tread with deft steps here to show the two lead characters love for each other, she does instead rather trample with hobnail boots. Let me give an example here, one of the slightly less purple prose examples possible:

Thorn stood in the open doorway..In Dainnan attire, straight as a sword he stood, and as bright. His hair and dusken cloak lifted, like shadowy vanes, in the breath of Winter that had entered with him. That cool current blew across the carpets a scatter of leaves from the gardens, leaves that chased each other and skipped like pagan dancers across the floors rich patterning. Rohains heart leapt painfully against her ribs, a bird battering against its cage. His beauty is perilous. I could die merely from beholding it. (Page 263)

What did strike me most here was how similar the storys style is to a lot of Victorian tales – the first third of the book had a somewhat Dickensian morality here, that I had not noticed as much with Book 1. Issues of politics, etiquette and social standing are all noticeable here, more so than in Book 1 (though they are there).

The change in the last part of the book is a little jarring and reminded me of the split in the narrative in Jan Siegels Prosperos Children. Rohain becomes Tahquil and then Ashalind. The story takes on a different perspective, which took a little getting used to but was ultimately rewarding.

In summary then, the book is an interesting development from the first in the series, and has much to recommend to those who enjoyed the first. The lyrical style and love of both myth and vocabulary are both pleasing. The criticisms made of the first however are still apparent and may not suit all readers. In my view however, it did make me want to continue with The Battle of Evernight, book 3 of the series.

Reviewed by Mark Yon

Leave a comment