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REVIEW: Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson

Dear Ms. Wilson,

Lord of the Fading Lands first came to my attention when my blogging partner, Jane, sent all her co-bloggers an excited email after reading an ARC of the book back in the summertime. Soon afterward, Jane blogged about the book and since then, others have fallen in love with it, both here and elsewhere.

084395977001mzzzzzzz.jpgSince I often enjoy romantic fantasy and love a good epic romance, I have been wanting to read Lord of the Fading Lands for a while, and now that I have I can say that while the book was enjoyable enough that I wasn’t sorry I read it, I also won’t be reading it a second time.

Lord of the Fading Lands is the story of Rain Tairen Soul, an ancient and tormented fey who once nearly destroyed the world when he lost his mate. Now Rain’s people, the fey, are in grave danger, and Rain senses that to save them, he must find a red haired mortal woman whose image he sees in a prophetic orb called the Eye of Truth.

For the first time in a thousand years, Rain leaves the feys’ Fading Lands and journeys to the kingdom of Ceileria, where he senses the woman, Ellysetta Baristani, when she is injured while watching him in a crowd. He also senses that she is his soulmate — something that should be impossible for a Tairen Soul. Part of Rain is a tairen, a large, predatory cat capable of flight, and it is when Rain is shapeshifted into this form that he tries to come to Ellysetta’s rescue, and succeeds in frightening her and the Ceilerian spectators.

Ellie, as her family members call her, is the adopted daughter of a woodcarver and his wife. Since childhood Ellie has been plagued by strange and frightening dreams. She has terrible memories that she represses, but has also had romantic daydreams about the very same man who now claims she is his mate — Rain Tairen Soul.

Another man also wants Ellie for his wife. Den suspects Ellie of being capable of magic which he wants to harness for his own benefit. Ellie find Den repugnant and would rather marry anyone else, so even though she is afraid of the tairen in Rain and thinks that he will never love her as he did the mate he lost in a war a thousand years earlier, she prefers him to Den. But Den, of course, won’t step aside so easily.

Lord of the Fading Lands isn’t just the story of Ellie and Rain’s courtship; it also features many other characters, including Ellie’s kindhearted father; her mother, who fears any kind of magic; her two little sisters; the five fey warriors who guard Ellie at Rain’s behest; the king and queen of Ceileria; Den; a mysterious and evil man who is stalking Ellie; and Ellie’s friend whom that man is willing to use as a pawn.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. The breadth of this book’s scope and the large cast of characters are its greatest pleasures. Reading it, I realized how much I had missed reading books with multiple subplots, and between the excitement over this series and the popularity of J.R. Ward’s books, I wonder if others have also missed those big, thick books which contain a strong romance but focus on other characters as well.

I also found the world-building in this book superior; far more intricate and detailed than what I frequently see in paranormal romances. The development of that world that was one of the book’s strongest aspects. The writing style was nice as well and at first, I was really charmed by the spell that, much like your fey characters, you wove over me.

As the book progressed, however, Rain and Ellie’s courtship began to seem repetitive in that it pretty much consisted of Ellie thinking that Rain couldn’t possibly be attracted to a simple woodcarver’s daughter like herself, and being drawn to him yet afraid of the tairen inside Rain. There wasn’t much progress to the relationship, and because of the way their soul-mate connection was written, I never got to see them wonder who the other were or try to figure each other out as they got to know each other.

Another problem for me was that Ellie was so unfailingly sweet, kind and caring to everyone around her. The only time she ever got impatient and irritable was due to a supernatural event. Characters who are that good are not only a bit unrealistic, they also make me feel disappointed in myself, for being so much more flawed in comparison.

It’s not just Ellie who is good and kind. This is the kind of book where many characters have hearts of gold and almost all of the few characters who aren’t kindly, patient and good-hearted are at the opposite extreme — dastardly and villainous. For me, that made the world of this book a very comforting place to visit for the first few hours of my reading, but by the two-third point of the book, I was hungering for something with more social and psychological complexity.

Lord of the Fading Lands is also a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy in that it’s ultimately about how sweet, kind, patient but seemingly rather plain and average Ellie is one day rescued, swept away from a humdrum life by a very powerful and gorgeous man and rewarded for her sweetness, kindness and patience with the discovery that she is not plain or average after all, but possesses magical powers and the ability to win the loyalty of several powerful warriors who would consider it an honor to die for her.

There is nothing wrong with an old-fashioned Cinderella story — they can be very satisfying to read. But in this case, the wish-fulfillment aspects of the story were so pronounced that after a while, I became too conscious of them to enjoy them deeply.

Finally, I also became conscious after a while that much of the dialogue consisted of a character having something explained to them. That is, of course, how the details of the world-building were conveyed to us readers, but while it was enjoyable in its way, it also got repetitive, too, and I started wishing for dialogue where characters did not explain yet another aspect of their worlds to each other, but simply interacted and developed relationships.

I wonder if it is fair for me to make the judgments I am making about this book without having read the rest of the series, since clearly, Lord of the Fading Lands is not a finished story. It’s possible that the second or third installment of the story would show things becoming more complex than they have so far. Since I have only read the first book, that much is all that I have to go on.

Despite all that I have said, I did enjoy Lord of the Fading Lands. I loved its large canvas and though I wish the book had been more nuanced, I have to admit that its good vs. evil simplicity made for a pleasant escape from my shades-of-gray reality. While I wanted to see more progress in Rain and Ellie’s relationship, I also enjoyed the relaxing pace at which the rest of the story unfolded, the pleasing tone of the writing, and the charm of the intricate world-building.

I don’t believe I will read it again, however, nor do I feel an urge to read the sequel, which Jane recently reviewed, although it’s very possible that I will get to it eventually. I am not sorry that I read Lord of the Fading Lands, but I wish I shared Jane’s excitement and enthusiasm for this series. For me, the spell you wove was pleasant if not long-lasting, and I give the book a C+.

Sincerely,

Janine

This book can be purchased in mass market. No ebook format available.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

28 Comments

  1. Aoife
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 17:59:01

    I had written a response to your review, but I think the Internet ate it, so I’ll try again.

    I was beginning to think I was the only one who had a lukewarm reaction to LotFL. I wanted so, so much to adore this book, because it seemed to promise something totally different, and while it wasn’t the same-old-same-old, much of the world building seemed very derivative. In and of itself, I don’t usually mind that, as I read a lot of fantasy, but I just didn’t really like Rain Tairen Soul all that much, and Ellie, while nice, seemed to edge a little bit in the Mary Sue direction. I will probably read the next couple of books, but I wish I weren’t feeling so meh about this one.

  2. Janine
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 18:18:39

    Hi Aoife! Yeah, the internet must have eaten your earlier post, because I just checked our spam filter and the your comment isn’t there.

    I know that Jan, our manga reviewer, had a similarly lukewarm reaction to this book, but if that hadn’t been the case, I would have felt very alone. This is, I think, the third time this year that I haven’t fallen in love with a book that most people in blogland are very excited about, and in all three cases, I feel a little sad to be missing out on all that enthusiasm. I too genuinely wanted to adore this book, but no such luck. Still, I’ve had some great reads this year, so I can’t really complain.

    I don’t read a ton of fantasy so if the world-building in LOTFL was derivative as you suggest, I didn’t recognize that when I read it. I’d be interested in hearing which books it reminded you of.

    I didn’t dislike Rain at all, but I also didn’t fall in love with him. I liked Ellie, but I wish she’d had a little more human flaws. She was just so good and kind and sweet that I ended up feeling very flawed in comparison. I think a lot of readers love that type of heroine, though.

  3. veinglory
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 18:35:25

    I picked this one up a few times over the last few weeks (like the cover), but the blurb just sounded a little ‘been there, done that’.

  4. sherry thomas
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 19:39:57

    I think you liked it better than Mrs. Giggles did.

  5. Kristen
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 21:44:08

    Y’all are nuts. This is one of the most enjoyable, creative, fantastic reads out there.

  6. Dance Chica
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 21:53:31

    I understand what you mean. I did enjoy the story a lot, especially in the beginning, but towards the end the story started to lose me and once I’d finished, I didn’t feel all that inclined to buy the sequel–I DID buy it (couldn’t resist) but it’s still sitting on my shelf. My overall impression is that I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it.

  7. Ann Bruce
    Dec 03, 2007 @ 22:24:03

    Oh, thank, God, I’m not the only who didn’t love this book to pieces! It was a B- for me because I did move through it very quickly after I got through the first couple of chapters and I kinda want to read the sequel (but only if I can find a copy from the library).

    Like you, I enjoyed the well thought out world building, but I found the characters too extreme (either too good or too evil to be realistic) and Ellie was very much a Mary Sue (for the love of God, she’s so powerful she can cleanse a soul with a single touch!), but she’s absolutely entrenched in denial for so long that it got really old really fast.

    And did anyone else giggle when “umagi” was used during the sex scene? Wilson uses it to describe someone who is mind-controlled by the evil Mages from Eld, but if you change the m to an n, you have the Japanese word for freshwater eel.

  8. Meredith Duran
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 02:43:07

    And did anyone else giggle when “umagi” was used during the sex scene? Wilson uses it to describe someone who is mind-controlled by the evil Mages from Eld, but if you change the m to an n, you have the Japanese word for freshwater eel.

    No, but I kept getting tripped up on “shei’tan” and “shei’tani.” In Rain’s fey language these mean “beloved” (m/f) or “husband” and “wife,” but in Hindi “shaitaan” means “devil” and “shaitaani” means “wicked,” “devilish,” or “wickedness.” And it really kept tripping me up. “Say yes or no, wickedness.” “You are so beautiful, devil.” LOL!

  9. Aoife
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 08:42:26

    Janine, the world building follows familiar fantasy conventions rather than being obviously drawn from any specific fantasy books. For example, the stratification of the world based on magical powers, the “cost” of overuse or misuse of magical powers, the use of dreams as the doorway for evil, the “hidden child” with special, world-saving powers, the hero who has misused his powers in the past and in that way allows evil to gain a foothold, and so on. As I said, I have no problem with that, but it didn’t strike me as especially fresh, the way it struck some other readers.

    And I liked the fact that Ellie was “nice,” since I’m tired of feisty, smart-mouth and kick-ass heroines, but the tendency for every male in her vicinity to fall in love with her is a pet peeve of mine. I lost interest in Sookie for that reason, and I am hoping that Patricia Briggs’ Mercy doesn’t head in that direction.

  10. Janine
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 12:58:16

    I think you liked it better than Mrs. Giggles did.

    Sherry – I see what you mean! She doesn’t mince words, though the score she gave the book (69) isn’t that bad for a Mrs. Giggles review.

    I understand what you mean. I did enjoy the story a lot, especially in the beginning, but towards the end the story started to lose me and once I'd finished, I didn't feel all that inclined to buy the sequel-I DID buy it (couldn't resist) but it's still sitting on my shelf. My overall impression is that I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.

    Dance – My enjoyment level was higher in the beginning also, especially since at first it reminded me just a tiny bit of Sharon Shinn’s Archangel, which I loved. But later in the book my reading slowed down, and that was when I started noticing the things I mentioned in my review. Though a lot of readers found the book difficult to put down, by the second half I noticed that I was able to stop reading in the middle pretty easily.

  11. Janine
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 13:10:21

    Oh, thank, God, I'm not the only who didn't love this book to pieces!

    LOL. I was wondering what the response of readers would be to this review; if there’d be more people popping in to say that they thought it was wonderful, or others who didn’t fall in love with it.

    Like you, I enjoyed the well thought out world building, but I found the characters too extreme (either too good or too evil to be realistic) and Ellie was very much a Mary Sue (for the love of God, she's so powerful she can cleanse a soul with a single touch!), but she's absolutely entrenched in denial for so long that it got really old really fast.

    I agree about the characters (except for the queen) — they were extreme for my taste. Even Rain, who had this dark past, never made me doubt that he was full of virtues. In the beginning, there was something comforting about this, and I was lulled into a kind of relaxation of my usual standards for characters in books. But that effect wore off partway through, which is why I said that the spell didn’t last.

    The umagi thing didn’t occur to me.

  12. Janine
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 13:12:00

    I kept getting tripped up on “shei'tan” and “shei'tani.” In Rain's fey language these mean “beloved” (m/f) or “husband” and “wife,” but in Hindi “shaitaan” means “devil” and “shaitaani” means “wicked,” “devilish,” or “wickedness.” And it really kept tripping me up. “Say yes or no, wickedness.” “You are so beautiful, devil.” LOL!

    Ah, the perils of creating a language!

  13. Janine
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 13:28:29

    Janine, the world building follows familiar fantasy conventions rather than being obviously drawn from any specific fantasy books. For example, the stratification of the world based on magical powers, the “cost” of overuse or misuse of magical powers, the use of dreams as the doorway for evil, the “hidden child” with special, world-saving powers, the hero who has misused his powers in the past and in that way allows evil to gain a foothold, and so on. As I said, I have no problem with that, but it didn't strike me as especially fresh, the way it struck some other readers.

    I don’t have a problem with most of those either. Startification can make fantastical societies more interesting and also, realistic, since our own world is also stratitifed to some degree. The cost of overusing magic is probably necessary to putting some limitations on the characters’ abilities; otherwise they’d just be able to save or destroy the world in the blink of an eye and the book would be over before it began. Dreams as a doorway for evil is an interesting one — I have to give it some thought, since I never considered it before (but I don’t think I’ve encountered it before, either).

    The “hidden child” with special powers goes back to ancient myths like the Greek ones and others. I don’t really consider it an aspect of world-building so much as an aspect of plot and characterization. The hero who has misused his powers in the past is also more of an aspect of characterization. I didn’t see Rain’s misuse of power as allowing evil to gain a foothold — it had actually wiped out a lot of evil, but the evil began to come back because he had retreated into the Fading Lands out of grief for Sariel.

    And I liked the fact that Ellie was “nice,” since I'm tired of feisty, smart-mouth and kick-ass heroines, but the tendency for every male in her vicinity to fall in love with her is a pet peeve of mine.

    Hmm. I am also somewhat tired of feisty, smart-mouthed and kick-ass heroines, at least when they aren’t developed beyond that type. I certainly didn’t want Ellie to be more feisty, smart-mouthed or kick-ass, but what I wanted was for her to show that she had a human flaw, so that I could recognize her as a believable human being.

    I’ve yet to meet the human being who didn’t possess some kind of flaw. Now maybe Gandhi or Mother Teresa didn’t — but since I never met them, I can’t say with certainty. But usually I prefer reading about human beings to reading about saints. And in Ellie’s case, I felt that every male falling in love with her was part and parcel of her sainthood — it happened because they were able to sense the absolute goodness of her soul.

  14. Jan
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 17:46:22

    I can finally comment!

    You weren’t kidding Janice. We really did have a similar reaction. Except you were evidently able to handle to prologue better than I was LOL.

    I never did get around to reading part 2. You can read it first and I’ll know whether or not to.

    I didn’t think the world building was a problem. There are standard tropes throughout many fantasy novels. I mean, Joseph Campbell. Wilson made the world fresh and real to me. But unfortunately it was more fresh and real than the characters. I thought they were straight out of a Feehan novel.

  15. Ann Bruce
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 19:47:53

    I kept getting tripped up on “shei'tan” and “shei'tani.” In Rain's fey language these mean “beloved” (m/f) or “husband” and “wife,” but in Hindi “shaitaan” means “devil” and “shaitaani” means “wicked,” “devilish,” or “wickedness.” And it really kept tripping me up. “Say yes or no, wickedness.” “You are so beautiful, devil.” LOL!

    Oh, I can’t read the sequel now! I’ll just giggle throughout the book.

  16. Janine
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 19:59:16

    LOL, it’s Janine, not Janice (You know our pseudonyms are confusing when even we get confused, LOL). Yes, our reactions were very similar. But I also think that rereading your discussion of this book with Jane on our email loop helped me pinpoint some of the issues I had with this book better.

    It’s more or less correct that the prologue didn’t bother me as much as it did you. It was a bit difficult to understand but I didn’t let myself get too bogged down in that and just assumed my understanding of it would catch up with me later, which did turn out to be the case.

    Did you also have an issue with all the explaining in the dialogue, Jan? I don’t remember you mentioning that and I haven’t seen anyone else refer to it either, so I’m wondering if it only bothered me.

    I never did get around to reading part 2. You can read it first and I'll know whether or not to.

    LOL. I don’t know if I’ll be reading it that soon, either. But if I do I’ll definitely let you know my thoughts.

    I too liked the world-building. As for the characters, I have never read Feehan so I can’t comment on the similarity. I gather that Feehan and Wilson are critique partners. Do Feehan’s books also have characters who are either very good or very villainous?

  17. Jan
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 20:08:36

    Oh I can’t believe I used the wrong name! LOL. I’m sorry. I do know who you really are at least. ;P

    The explaining dialogue did bother me. I mean, find another way to get things across. It’s one of those things that works fine a time or too but it was a common tactic of hers. Plus you’re very right, it stood in the way of real character interaction.

    Oh my the Feehan connection explains a lot. Feehan’s characters are almost all like that, and they’re life-mates, so the romances are very similar to this in their development.

  18. Rose W.
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 20:19:37

    I actually enjoyed the characters and the world building. However, I read this one and the next back to back. Though I can see the Feehan comparison, I feel this female lead has a lot more to offer. The last 1/3 of the second book really helps the development of the female lead.

  19. Janine
    Dec 05, 2007 @ 10:24:38

    I actually enjoyed the characters and the world building. However, I read this one and the next back to back. Though I can see the Feehan comparison, I feel this female lead has a lot more to offer. The last 1/3 of the second book really helps the development of the female lead.

    Rose, I enjoyed the worldbuilding as well, and I think Jan did too. And I didn’t dislike the characters, though I did wish for more complexity in their personalities and a flaw or two in Ellie’s.

    As I said in my review, it can be difficult to judge an incomplete story. It is good to hear that Ellie’s character is developed further in the second book.

  20. In My Books » Enthralled by C L Wilson’s Tairen Soul Novels
    May 13, 2008 @ 14:08:34

    [...] Ana and Thea, Terri, Rosario and of course Katie have more good things to say, although Janine at Dear Author feels lukewarm about it while Curled Up has mixed opinions about both [...]

  21. Reader
    Jan 05, 2009 @ 23:44:59

    I felt the EXACT same way! I had the same problems with the novel- I too had been looking forward to a fantasy book that everyone ‘loved.’ But while the worldbuilding was intriguing and well executed, I could not finish the book- I found the hero and heroine to be absolutely cliched and lacking. True, the author may have been trying to fashion a more realistic heroine, one farther away from the resiquite “kick-ass, strong, beautiful, independent, talented” heroine standard but what I read on paper was a pale, fragile, utterly helpless, and yet magical, unfailingly ‘loveable’, plain yet somehow ‘beautiful’ heroine instead which I found to be much worse. Everytime he professed his love or expressed his passions for her, I felt like rolling my eyes. Please. It just did not come across as realistic in any sense and I felt like I was drowning in their unnessary, excessive emotions. The author’s writing is rich and vivid- I just had a major, major problem with the central characters and plot. I felt like I was in a bad romance movie. It is not often that I can not finish a fantasy book and I regret deeply that I could not finish this one simply because I did enjoy the world and other elements of the novel. I just felt that the romance, instead of adding and enhancing the novel, only hindered it. There is no need for such tell; I would rather be shown. I enjoyed Elizabeth Vaughn’s Warlord series for that reason- the world was intriguing and the budding romance developed at an exciting, well-paced level- there were hints of romance along the way that truly flowered into a powerful, long-lasting union. In this novel, I just wished the lord would grab her and take her away just so I would not have to listen to her inane thoughts.

  22. Lord of the Fading Lands by C. L. Wilson « Janicu’s Book Blog
    Aug 06, 2009 @ 19:24:23

    [...] gave it an A- The Good, the Bad, and the Unread gave it an A+ Dear Author – Jane liked it, Janine gave it a C+ The Book smugglers – Ana gave it a 10 and Thea an 8 Possibly related posts: (automatically [...]

  23. martine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 14:02:35

    See thats what I did NOT like about Vaughn’s books. The romance is totally unrealistic. Its so masochistic, that I can’t imagine it existing. If someone is hot and cold every other minute no rational person will want to deal with them.

  24. Martine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 14:04:02

    I think you are missing the point. Its not a question of has this been done before, but how well. This is the only romance I have ever read where I didn’t want to kill thr male lead within the first three chapters, and the female lead sooner. The truth is usually the heroines posses too many flaws. I like Ellie fine and I like kick ass action, but I hate smart mouther and game playing ones. And playing hard to get seems to be a must in these books. I don’t want to see the guy prove himself needlessly, because it makes no empotional sense. How can you respect a man who takes shit? But then how can you respect a woman who takes shit? You can’t. So that means they need to love each otherb pretty much very quickly.

  25. Janine
    Nov 15, 2009 @ 20:55:55

    The truth is usually the heroines posses too many flaws.

    I appreciate that you feel that way, but for me, heroines often come across as too perfect, or so spotless they are bland.

    How can you respect a man who takes shit? But then how can you respect a woman who takes shit? You can't. So that means they need to love each otherb pretty much very quickly.

    As long as I come to respect them by the end of the book, I’m okay. I don’t have to respect them from the very first page. Characters can grow and change over the course of a story into people I admire and that often makes it better for me. Just my two cents.

  26. Mayriss
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 14:37:17

    This book was entertaining, but I agree with the criticism. I couldn’t believe the BS when the bitchy Kissande girl talked a bit of smack to his fiancee, and the all-powerful fey king decides to throw her in the water. HUH? First, let me tell you what I think of any man that physically assaults a woman. I think they are scum. But here we have one of the most physically powerful, 1000yr old people in their world decides to attack a little blond girl all because she has a smart mouth? What a bastard! I HATE bullies. Thats what that makes him. If I was with a guy, and some women came on to him, or maybe dissed me, I might smack her. But if the man hurt her, Id tell him to go to Hell, and help her up.

  27. Mayriss
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 14:50:39

    This is in reply to the above. I did like the relationship between Ellie and Rain. What do you mean that people either have to be in love, or else they are giving each other shit? In normal, fun relationships, people like each other, even if you take away the attraction. Do you think people are unpleasant to all they do not love? If someone was mean to people, I wouldn’t love them no matter what. There is nothing worse then a person that treats others with no respect. Thats why a smart person takes into account how a persons exes feel about them. I am friends with people I date before and after we hook up. Thats what I want to see. And I don’t mean the best friend that waits in the sidelines kind of friend. I mean the kind of friend that is always fun, and isn’t waiting around for me. I couldn’t respect any other kind of man.

  28. Janine
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 18:32:15

    @Mayriss:

    What do you mean that people either have to be in love, or else they are giving each other shit?

    I’m not sure what you are referring to, Mayriss. I don’t think I ever said anything like that.

    If you mean my reply to Martine, I just meant that I don’t need characters to be perfect, lacking all character flaws. People in real life have strengths and weaknesses, and I like characters in books to be that way too. Some characters I respect from the beginning, others I grow to respect over the course of the story, as they grow and change into better people. Both kinds are fine with me, but in this book I felt that Ellie wasn’t real enough to me because she was so perfect.

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