And so onto Book 3.
The story here starts pretty much where Book 2 (The Lady of Sorrows – see earlier review) left us, with the The Ill-Made Mute Book 1 (again, see earlier review) becoming a lady of social esteem and prestige, a person with a mission and whose role in Book 2 was shown to be for the greater good as one of the Talith, the ‘beautiful people’.
The opening scenes of this book didn’t really suggest anything different either. Ashalind is still on a quest, hoping to help King Angavar (the King of the Faeran) return to his world, She also has to defeat the ‘baddie’, Prince Morragan of the Faeran, stop his evil plans of domination and the destruction of the world as she knows it, and save her betrothed Thorn, (also now known as King James XVI), in order to live happily ever after.
I thought that when I got to the end of Book 2 (The Lady of Sorrows) that I had pretty much worked out where Book 3 was going. There were revelations in Book 2 that as Imrhien/Rohain/Tahquil (now known as Ashalind) seemed to be pretty obvious in narrative. Clearly the ‘quests’ of Books 1 & 2 were going to lead to true romance and a happy ever after ending, right? The pain and injustice of life as a servant and as a social climber in the King’s court would eventually be shown to have been worth it in the end, right?
However, things clearly do not end like that. As perhaps in all things, as indeed as a running theme through the series of books, in order for ‘good’ to prevail there are prices to be paid. By the end of the book Ashalind does pay….
I have to say that I initially struggled with this book. Having read the first two books in quick succession, the density of Dart-Thornton’s lyrical prose was too much for me to take in as a third book immediately. The reservations I made earlier about Book 1 and Book 2 seemed to be magnified here and became very irritating. Characterisations (particularly minor characters) began to annoy, descriptive lists of obtuse language became tiresome. I had to put it down and read something else. Then after a while of reading other books, I picked it up again. This time it was much better. Whilst still recognising the annoyances of before, I was able to keep going. And then…..
Without wanting to give big spoilers away, the book does not end the way I expected. There are scenes here that are unashamedly ‘romantic’ (in the word’s wider sense) that both horrified me by their over-sweet sentiment (and I do have a sweet tooth!) but the book in the end won me over with a certain poignancy.
This once again shows that Cecilia Dart-Thornton is a writer of skill and depth, though it is clearly not for all. There are images here created in the narrative that are beautiful, the varied (if rather florid) language is still affecting, the myths and legends still used to good effect.
If, like me, you were feeling a little jaded at the end of Book 2, I have to recommend that you finish the series. Like many of the things in the books that you can only truly appreciate when you have finished the series, things are not always what they seem. I suspect that the books may benefit from repeated readings, though not all in one go. In the end I was sorry to finish the book – quite a feat considering my earlier irritations.
Despite my reservations, I look forward to Ms Dart-Thornton’s next work with interest.
Reviewed by Mark Yon