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Today’s Fantasy Romance: Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile

A few weeks ago, I started reading Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L Wilson. It was sold to me as a epic fantasy meets romance tale. I was skeptical. I hadn’t ever read an epic fantasy + romance and frankly, I didn’t know that it could be done. Epic fantasy, at its core, relies upon complex world building, the quest, and a whole raft of characters, many of whom are in jeopardy and die (known as the Boromir effect). Romance really is ill suited to main characters dying off. The best example I have read of epic fantasy + romance was the “Chronicles of the Warland” by Elizabeth Vaughan and even that lacked the sweeping epic nature of say Elizabeth Haydon’s Symphony of Ages series or George RR Martin’s Fire and Ice series.

This is not to say that I think CL Wilson is George RR Martin, but I do think her Tairen series could give Haydon’s books a run for their money.

The first story in Wilson’s Tairen series, Lord of the Fading Lands, tells the story of Rain, the last of the Tairen Soul, a Fey who can shapeshift into a winged beast called the Tairen. The Tairen and the Fey are inexplicably intertwined and the Tairen are dying because of something that is attacking the eggs which means that the Fey will die as well.

Rain does the forbidden and touches the great Eye of Tairen, desperate for a solution. At great cost, Rain is give a glimpse of salvation in Celeria. Celeria is a city of non magical people and it represents the greatest loss Rain ever experienced. He was bonded to a woman thousands of years ago and lost her on the battlefield when the Celerian humans and the Fey were fighting the Elden Mages. He went mad and scorched the land.

The Fey retreated to the Fading Lands, nursing each other and bring Rain back to sanity. His absence, though, from the human world has allowed the Elden Mages to grow in power and they are once again poised to wreak havoc.

When Rain travels to Celeria, he finds salvation the form of a truemate. Ellysetta Baristani is the adopted daughter of a woodcarver, a commoner. She apparently has magic, great magic within her, that has been hidden all her life. In fact, she fears what is inside of her that has manifested itself through nightmares and terrors.

She is terrified of Rain but also in awe. She’s read Fay tale after Fay tale and Rain is the embodiment of those Fay tales. In order to accept him, though, she must learn to trust him, her magic, and maybe even forsake all she knows to be with him while fighting the evil Mages who are trying to take over the world. There are political battles being fought and the insidious evil of the Mages can be found in every corner.

I read Silver Master by Jayne Ann Krentz last night, a “first time in print” Harmony book. It was as good as her others in the series but something left me a little dissatisfied. I realized that my expectations of a good fantasy novel has changed. I’ve been exposed to tales with more ambitious and creative world building where the setting doesn’t rely in the change of a few words and the insertion of a few alien artifacts. The world building of today’s sub genre authors seems more sophisticated, rich in detail and characterizations which fit the fantasy setting. Today’s fantasy books, from high fantasy to urban fantasy, are offering readers something we didn’t have 20 years ago. Romance is growing and evolving and that’s a good thing.

I asked CL Wilson about fantasy and romance and why that was a good fit. Wilson said “Fantasy – in particular epic fantasy – brings high stakes and a sense of drama that can be hard to recreate in a contemporary novel. And it also brings the wonder and excitement of pure, limitless imagination to life. And romance drives those stakes even higher on a very intimate and emotionally intense level, all while making the story very personal and accessible to the readers.”

I asked her whether there are things that an author can do with characters within the fantasy construct that she can’t do in the romance construct? Or asked differently, if one genre was more limiting? Wilson replied “That’s the beauty of paranormal romance – imagination is king. There truly are no limits. What the fantasy (in particular the epic fantasy) gives me, as a writer, is greater scope. Because the books are longer – you have more time to develop main and secondary characters, deal with subplots that keep the story exciting, and generally enjoy submersing yourself in your fantasy world. . . . It’s unlikely your hero and heroine can raise and army and go to war to fight the minions of Darkness without rousing suspicion from local law enforcement, for instance. . . . For a good fantasy romance novel (or paranormal romance novel of any type), however, the one thing you cannot do is just take a romance story, sprinkle some magic on it, and call it done. The fantasy element has to be so integral to the plot and to the romance, that the story can’t possibly work without it. And the more tightly you can weave the fantasy world, the quest, and the romance together, the stronger and richer your story will be.”

I handed Lord of the Fading Lands over to a trusted friend of mine (Jan) and my husband and asked for feedback because Lord of the Fading Lands kept me up at 2 in the morning. Was my positive response a fluke? The result of too many late night readings? I admit to having struggled to get into the book in the first place, but in the end I was captivated and slavering for more. Friend Jan was enthusiastic about the world building and less enthusiastic in the portrayal of the romance – too romancey I think.

Ned, on the other hand, is just as engaged as I was. I asked him last night if I was turning him into a romance reader. He replied that all of his books had romance in them. It was just sometimes the romance didn’t end up happily. “Don’t tell me what happens in this book, though,” he warned me. I guess he hasn’t ever heard of the guaranteed HEA. But I asked him, if this is what romance was, would he continue to read them. His reply? “Sure.” With these covers? “You can buy them for me.”

I am interested in what the readers think of any book and in this book in particular because I wonder if readers are feeling that same growth of expectations. Is this book truly different or am I just not widely read enough in the genre?

Erin Galloway and Dorchester are putting their book to the test and have offered up 15 arcs to the first readers to send an email to this address [email protected] with this subject “C. L. Wilson ARC Contest” and their snail mail address. Sadly, all the ARCs are gone, but we’ll have more ARC contests in the future (Sherry Thomas’ Arrangement being one of them). The catch is, if you enter the contest, you must post your thoughts on the book – good or bad – somewhere. It can be here, at a message board, on your own blog but somewhere. (This contest is valid after 7 am EST – had to put this proviso in since I accidentally hit publish last night and it was floating out in the blogosphere before the official post time).

I’d be interested in the commenters’ thoughts on whether you feel there has been a shift, a growth in the fantasy/paranormal/futuristic novels since when you first started reading? Is it a good/bad shift? What do you want to see from your speculative romance fiction?

Update: I’ve added the entirety of the Wilson interview on a “next page” feature because I thought you all might enjoy reading them.

Pages: 1 2

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Mrs Giggles
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 06:35:38

    Dunno about the CL Wilson book (silly me, for a while I was thinking, “Wasn’t that Narnia fellow dead?”), but I read sci-fi/fantasy before taking up romance and I realized late in that phase that I was straying more and more towards the relationship-heavy fantasy stories especially those by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickmann. Their books were ridiculed by critics who were into more sophisticated/postmodern stuff, and while those books could be generic in some ways, I was enthralled by books such as the Rose of the Prophet trilogy. Those books made me realize that I was looking for fiction with more human aspects in those stories, and led me eventually to the romance genre.

    Oh the whole, the attempts by authors to meld sci-fi/fantasy with romance makes me cringe, especially when some of these authors apparently hadn’t read anything in the fantasy series since those Boris Vallejo-illustrated Conan-style bodice-rippers or dime-novel fantasy novels in the 1970s. All those cheesy barbarians and space cowboys!

    Susan Squires’ Body Electric was one rare example of sophisticated sci-fi/fantasy and romance hybrid – too bad she’s moved to those overdone vampire stories. But everything else is always too cheesy for me. Psychic virgin healers! Vampires! Mate! Destiny! Forever! Italics everywhere! Forget that we don’t even know if we like each other, our destiny is determined by the Bonding Ritual, Psychic Dreams, Innate Mate Recognition System, and other Shorthands for We Must Have Sex NOW! I love Catherine Asaro… until she writes for Luna and starts churning out slightly adult versions of My Little Pony/Carebear episodes. Do these authors think romance readers are only capable of accepting only pink ponies and magic ribbons in fantasy?

    Then comes Shomi and I’m blown away so far by how these books go all out to capture the whole post-apocalyptic/electric sheep android feel without throwing on me any cheesy stuff like dreams and destiny-ordained sexual congress. I hope Shomi sells very, very well and it will go on for a while, because I love how unapologetic the two books that are out so far are in embracing the more contemporary fads in science-fiction and fantasy. This is one series that don’t make me feel as if I’m reading something that came out in 1977. It feels fresh and modern and I hope this will be the new direction of sci-fi/fantasy romance.

  2. Betina
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 06:44:11

    Not sure what you mean my “speculative fiction”. . . is that fantasy/paranormal/futuristic fiction? I want coherence and creativity from my fantasy and paranormal, and from my futuristics I want imagination AND plausibility.

    I’ve been privileged to read both Lord of the Fading Lands and the sequel, Lady of Light and Shadows and I can tell you the story in the pair is nothing short of spectacular. This is the most inventive and compelling world building I’ve read in a long while. There is considerably more plot in the second book as Ellie comes into her own and claims her magic in a big way. . . not, however without some sacrifice. The love between her and Rain, (yes, a bit slow to develop in the first book), deepens through testing and experience. There is greater explanation of the world and of the special nature of the Tairen Soul bond. And when the character Galen emerges fully-developed into the second story, Wilson’s wit and writerly craft shine.

    This is a world so masterfully developed and a story so large that it can only be told in a series. And from everything I’ve read, C.L. has the creative chops to carry it off with ease. I can’t wait for the second half, coming next fall! And, no, I don’t work for Dorchester. . . lest you ask!

  3. Joy
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 07:24:17

    My easiest examples of good evolution: Demon Moon, Demon Angel, and Wired.

    Demon Moon and Demon Angel are complex fantasy novels with strong complex relationships. It took me a while to get into the first one because I ws not aware what I had signed up for but now I am hooked.

    Personally, I thought the romance in Wired was light (i would have liked more). For me, it was closer to just a fantasy novel and the quest was just happened to be romantic. But still, I loved it and stayed up late to finish it.

  4. Marisa
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 07:38:15

    I also had the privelege of reading C.L. Wilson’s Lord of the Fading Lands – I believe this was my first scifi/fantasy within the romance genre; so I too am not widely read in this sub-genre. However, I have to say , if this is an example of what I can expect, I’m going to be reading more. I was totally taken up in the world and the characters that C.L. created.

  5. Joely
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 07:39:41

    Oh, this is terrific news. As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed deep, rich epic fantasy and sought out the ones with stronger romantic elements–always wishing for MORE romance and not finding enough–and so I began writing this kind of story to satisify myself. I immediately put this book and the second in my Amazon cart!

  6. Diana
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 07:52:13

    I’ve read Tairen Soul as well (one of my all time favorite books), and I think the parameters laid out here are a bit limiting in terms of this particular book. You can’t compare it to something like Body Electric (great book, tho!), Shomi novels, or the work of soemone like Nalini Singh (I also love her books!). Those are books that, even if they are part of a series, have a love story complete within the 400-odd pages.

    TS is not a simple romance novel, in the sense that the love story here is not complete within one book. It’s epic fantasy in a Lord of the Rings sense — these aren’t the kind of books where each volume is complete unto itself. I gather that this is part of the reason Dorchester is releasing the first two in quick succession.

    CL Wilson’s world-building is truly extraordinary, and falls far more on the side of epic fantasy than the usual set dressing, or even the more involved, but still not otherworldly worldbuilding of, say, Nalini Singh or Susan Squires. Language and rich history sett his book far apart.

    It’s unique. I’d say it falls far more on the epic fantasy scale than on the romance scale, if only due to size, scope and detail of worldbuilding, but at the same time, the story itself, in structure, makeup, and focus, is undeniably a romance. I think for that reason, it’s more likely to be a crossover hit than if it were the scope of a romance with the structure of a fantasy. I think Ned’s comments bear that out. Fantasy readers will eat up the world, and romance readers will love the emotional intensity.

    I’m sorry if a lot of this post sounds like a fangirl, but I’ve loved this story for years and I can’t wait for others to get to read it as well!

  7. Keishon
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 08:07:09

    I’ve never read epic fantasy but have authors like Robin Hobb and Elizabeth Haydon sitting in my TBR pile nor have I read CL Wilson unlike many who’ve posted so far. Wow. Anyway, I can’t answer your question because I am not buying paranormal romances but I do have a criticism about paranormal romances of late. First, I’m all vampire and werewolfed out because there are so many of them hitting the market with nothing original to add either. Also, I’ve always thought and have yet to be proven completely wrong in that world building seems to not be as important as the development of the romance. Meljean Brook is the exception. I liked Demon Angel and have Demon Moon still unread but I love her worldbuilding. Her work could just as easily be shelved in fantasy. Anyway, that’s why I stick with fantasy from Catherine Asaro, Patricia Briggs, Wen Spencer and Sarah Monette to name a few. I need more going on besides the romance with world building that is just as intriguing as it’s characters.


  8. Kristen
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 08:14:26

    I love fantasy, so I’ll definitely be adding this to my “must buy” list.

  9. Jordanna Kay
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 08:25:40

    Venturing into the futuristic writing world myself, I definitely have an interest in this subgenre. I’m always fascinated by those who can world-build so cleverly and Lord of the Fading Lands sounds like the type of book I can really sink my teeth into. I’m very much looking forward to its release, as well as the sequel!

  10. Julie Leto
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 08:57:11

    Keishon, if it makes you feel heartened, I have a paranormal series coming out next year that is neither vampire nor werewolf. I agree that the definitive works in this genre has been done…everything else ends up sounding derivitive, even if it isn’t. (And I’m not saying authors are BEING derivitive…I’m saying it SOUNDS that way because others have already established such rich worlds, it’s hard for someone new to sound entirely original.)

    I’ve learned a lot about worldbuilding while writing these books…but some books, like mine, are in fact, romances, so the focus will be there. For books like this one, I think there is more of a balance, as it is being marketed as an epic fantasy and epic romance, which all indications say it is. I’m going to a workshop next month taught by CL Wilson on this very topic of worldbuilding and though I’m lucky enough to be a chaptermate of hers so that I hear snippets all the time, I’m looking forward to getting the whole enchilada from someone who clearly knows what she is doing.

    I haven’t read Lord of the Fading Lands except for excerpts, but I’ll be first in line to buy it when it comes out. Of course, I’ll be lucky that I’ll also get mine signed!

  11. DS
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:01:14

    SF is my favorite fiction. For a long time I avoided Paranormal romance like the plague because it was clear the earlier ones were written by people who had no idea about world building. It’s still hit and miss and I do my reserach before I buy new any more. Mrs Giggles is soooo right (but then she usually is). I cannot tell you how much my heart sank when I read the term Truemate. I was all set to go to Amazon.

    Uh, how bad is the cover?

  12. RfP
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:06:13

    I love Catherine Asaro… until she writes for Luna and starts churning out slightly adult versions of My Little Pony/Carebear episodes.

    I thought I knew what you meant about dated sci fi… but I rated Asaro low in Paula Guran’s collection, so maybe I don’t know. I thought Asaro’s and York’s stories were dated old-school sci fi.

    I read sci-fi/fantasy before taking up romance and I realized late in that phase that I was straying more and more towards the relationship-heavy fantasy

    I read sci fi/fantasy briefly as a teenager, and it was a natural gateway to romance. The sf/f was so intense–isolated people depending on each other in crazy situations, etc–it was the same emotional charge as romance. I got bored with sf/f and gravitated toward the romances one shelf over.

    Not sure what you mean my “speculative fiction�. . . is that fantasy/paranormal/futuristic fiction?

    I think it’s most often used like that. But I was taught in school that speculative fiction is like the old definition of science fiction: a variation on our world (or humans on another world)–it just has to have enough in common with us that it allows us to speculate about what we might become, or what might have been. So, more like HG Wells, Jules Verne, or Kurt Vonnegut. However… I think you guessed right on the more usual usage.

  13. Jane
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:21:09

    Mrs. Giggles – (It cracks me up to type that). I never read much sci fi or fantasy until a few years ago so much of the fantasy stuff is really new to me. It’s one reason I sent the book to Jan who has read so much in the genre. Interestingly enough, it was the world building that was the strongest to her (I thought that the world building would be old hat and too derivative as Leto was talking about). I think one reason that it is hard for quest based stories and romances to come together is because the main protagonist of the quest based stories are the underdogs, appearing to be outwardly weaker than everyone but having the internal fortitude to finish the task that the physically stronger do not have.

    Looking at Briggs, her main protagonist is Mercy. Mercy is probably the weakest of the paranormal creatures. While she has the resistance to magic, her coyote form is not as fast and certainly not as powerful as the vampires and werewolves around her. I think that is why we get upset when Anita Blake pulls new powers out of her ass. It’s ruining the idea of the plucky underdog winning the day. We have no reason to cheer for her then.

    In LoftheFL, Ellysetta is supposed to be that underdog. She is an adopted woodcutter’s daughter who is pretty but without the spectacular beauty of some of the humans with Fey blood. In order to be a romance, the hero could not be less than her in power and if Ellysetta is set up to be Queen of the Fey, only the King of the Fey is her right and true mate. To some extent, you do have to buy into the idea of the “truemate” theory. Wilson does add a twist though. Rain was in love before. In fact, so in love, that he scorched the land, killing millions. He turned with back on a “truemate” to have a “bond mate” instead. Much of the internal conflict is Rain coming to grips with the “truemate” v. “bondmate” meaning within himself. How much that works for you, will definitely depend on each reader.

    Susan Squires Body Electric is being re-released this winter. It was a revelatory book.

    As for Shomi, I have loved the concept of the books and hope for more from that line.

    Betina – I really don’t know what to name the alt universe romances. Someone told me speculative fiction. Not correct?

    Joy – you and I must be reader soulmates because I loved all three that you named. I thought that Wired had a good romantic component.

    Marisa – Did you get to read the second book?

    Joely – I hope you enjoy it.

    DIana – I will be very interested in seeing the romance community response. I do think its a decent cross over novel. It will depend, of course, on marketing.

    Keishon – I thought of you when I read this book, but I am uncertain how you would respond. It’s one I would recommend to you though given that our tastes seem to correlate well often enough.

    Kristen – I hope you enjoy it too (I am always reluctant to spend other people’s money through a “must buy” recommendation, but . . . what the hell).

    Jordanna Kay – this is one series that has to be read with the sequel. You are only getting half the story if you don’t. I think the second book was even stronger.

    Julie Leto – I can’t wait to read your paranormal books because you write such strong heroines. When are they coming out? NAL right?

    DS – You can wait to see what everyone else says or maybe read a chapter at the bookstore?

    RfP – I think we need a new term for alternative universe romances. Some brainstorming is needed, ladies.

  14. Diana
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:26:23

    I’ve actually discussed the “soulmate” phenomenon with Wilson, since it is something that is very prevalent in the market today. I think it’s a variation on an arranged marriage trope, a way to create the forced proximity that sets the stage for romance. When you are in one of these worlds where the idea of a soulmate/lifemate/truemate prevail, it doesn’t make it easy for you — not if it’s done well. What the recognition of that bond does is create a sense of duty, the way an arranged or forced marriage might. The real romance comes with the falling in love with the person you are duty-bound to be with.

    Poorly handled, it’s a shortcut, true. But if you do it right, you are looking at the same structure as an arranged marriage plotline (one of my all time favorites.) This comes into play, of course, with the plot regarding Rain’s former lover, etc.

    And the cover is FABULOUS.

  15. RfP
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:30:16

    I think we need a new term for alternative universe romances. Some brainstorming is needed, ladies.

    Outer Space Sucky-Face?

  16. Heather
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:41:17

    Epic fantasy meets romance can be incredibly good—my favorite example is Anne Bishop’s “Black Jewels” trilogy, although that’s really epic fantasy meets horror meets romance. It’s hands-down my favorite trilogy ever.

  17. Phyllis
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:44:02

    C.L. Wilson’s books sound intriguing. As a fan of both genres, I’m looking forward to reading an epic fantasy where the romance is apparently an integral part of the plot. The “truemates” issue doesn’t automatically bother me, although I have read some books where that concept just seemed kind of tired — I think it depends on how it’s handled.

  18. Jane
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:44:42

    Diana – That’s a pretty interesting comparison and one that I like but doesn’t really correlate well in my mind. An arranged marriage does not involve a mental or spiritual compulsion that the idea of the “True Mate” does. I think Wilson tried to make the “truemate” concept one that had choice, but it really doesn’t as evidenced by some of the couples in the series.

    Wendy, superlibrarian, dislikes the idea of the “soulmate” concept because it removes an element of choice. I like the idea of predestiny of some sorts, but agreed with her that there could be more than one “soulmate.”

    The “truemate” concept seems to take that one step further in that there is one person that is made for you to love and that once you meet that person, you can love no one else. In fact, to attempt to love someone else (at least in Wilson’s construct) is to suffer miserably.

    If you never meet that “truemate”, Wilson’s construct allows for a “love” or a “bond” to be made via choice. I would have to go back and re-read but one thing that strikes me now, if that is true, shouldn’t there be more “bonded” couples?

  19. Meljean
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:45:02

    When you are in one of these worlds where the idea of a soulmate/lifemate/truemate prevail, it doesn't make it easy for you -‘ not if it's done well. What the recognition of that bond does is create a sense of duty, the way an arranged or forced marriage might.

    I love this comparison — and I’m not a fan of the usual ‘mate’ concept. But you’re right; the exceptions I’ve found and enjoyed have been when it’s carried off in this way (and it helps that I’m a fan of arranged marriages in romance, too).

    I love the description of these books — and that second cover is just gorgeous. Pre-ordered.

    Regarding the hybridization of fantasy/romance: I think there has been a growth, and there are so many more choices out there for the reader who really wants a hefty dollop of romance along with the fantasy. From Abe’s historicals to Singh, Squires — or, maybe it’s simply that I’ve become much more aware of what I prefer, and seek out those books, so there just seems to be more options for the romance/fantasy lover. Either way, I’m content.

    I wish there were more available (but I imagine that holds true for every reader in a sub-genre — western lovers wish there were more westerns, suspense lovers more suspense) but when speaking of quality and variation, I haven’t been tearing my hair out … unlike, say, fifteen years ago, when every sci-fi romance was really just a barbarian romance in disguise. Not that I have anything against barbarians, but why in the world would you stick them on a spaceship?

  20. Jessica Inclan
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:47:47

    Okay, I am going to come out of the closet right now. I have a new trilogy coming out starting in Feb 08 that involves other worlds. I didn’ tmean it to happen, but suddenly I discovered where these slight misfits I was writing about came from. And it wasn’t earth. Now, theoretically, I have some world building skills because I have written “fantasy” romances, but this was something different.

    And I have to say I’m a little nervous about it.

    I was a big fantasy reader and sci fi viewer (film, tv) before writing romance, and when starting to write romance, it was what interested me the most. I think that Dara Joy does a pretty good job with her worlds, and I loved the funny situations here “aliens” fell into when arriving on earth. I’ve read around the romance field, and while I like many, many different types as a reader, as I writer, I like having the world as well as the relationship to build.

    Of course, it’s that world that leaves you a bit vulnerable. What’s worse, my people are, to a certain extent, afflicted with the “missing” half, the “partner,” the (sigh) soulmate. Mrs. Giggles has some good points about that phenomena, and I hope I’ve skirted the most egregious problems inherent.

    And as a reader, when the world seems wonky, the story can lose it’s momentum. So we shall see.

    Anyway, I loved reading about CL Wilson’s book here–and she’s one of my myspace friends and received an announcment about this very conversation here–so I will be ordering that book pronto.


  21. Diana
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:53:10

    Avoidance of suffering miserably seems like it would inspire a pretty strong sense of duty, to me! ;-)

    I’d like to avoid spoilers for the vast majority of readers here who haven’t read the books, so please skip this comment!

    You *can* make a choice. The culture of honor, and subsequently, honor death, is very important in that world. And why would there be bonded couples when most are waiting for the supreme reward of truemating? Remember also, what we learn that honor death signifies in terms of that bond and the potential for it.

    One thing that has not been discussed here is the fact that Rain, as Tairen Soul, did not HAVE the option of truemating. No Tairen Soul does — or at least, that has been the understood rule until the opening of the story. All they had the option of doing was creating the love bond. Which makes the story with his past lover especially poignant because she was giving up the chance to find *her* truemate by bonding with him.

    (I think I’m going to have to bow out of the conversation soon, since I am way to familiar with the subject matter. I feel like I could write academic papers on this book.)

  22. Kristen
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:59:23

    Woohoo! I just won an ARC of this!

  23. Jane
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 09:59:39

    I agree that we should avoid spoilers, but I would love to discuss some aspects of the book with you more. You clearly understand it on a deeper level and I think discourse would actually deepen my appreciation for it.

    Away, from the book, though,let’s go back to this idea of the arranged marriage. In wolf cultures, there is this idea of a “mate” (also with Swans – have you ever read the Juliet Marillier Daughter of the Forest trilogy?), seems to be biological. So on some deep level, there is one person that the wolf/swan/whatever otherworldly creature must have or cannot live without.

    What I hear you saying is that to meet that deep biological instinct is to fulfill duty and be honorable? Would the converse then be true? to turn away from it would be to forsake duty?

  24. RfP
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:07:50

    I think the “soulmate” phenomenon may be on the rise because romances have got darker. Maybe that bond reassures the reader that the two won’t rip each other’s throats out, and if there’s an external threat they’ll have each other’s backs–if only to save themselves.

  25. Jane
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:15:32

    RfP – do you you think that the soulmate phenomenon is just a label that paranormal authors get to use to describe (via shorthand) the same things that contemporaries and historicals try to convey when the heroine has never had a good orgasm before the hero or when the heroine is alone and down with a raft of bad dating experiences behind her?

    I guess what I am saying is that is “soulmate” the cornerstone of romance and it is just labeled as such in paranormals/spec fic?

    The one struggle that I have with the soulmate concept is the question of choice. It’s something that Stephenie Meyer touches on in her latest book, Eclipse, and even suggested that her theme in that book was that you can have more than one True Love. You have to choose which one is for you. I have to admit that concept wasn’t sold well for me in Eclipse.

    In LoftheFL, though, I really liked how Wilson used the truemate concept and it provided some unique tension and drama that might not have been there otherwise.

  26. Diana
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:17:57

    I haven’t read Marillier.

    I think a lot of cultural constructs are formed as a result of biological requirements — whether to promote them or protect ourselves from them. (Look at incest taboos or the commodification of virginity in certain cultures.) So when you have created a creature who has an actual biological reason to make a particular bond, it is going to give rise to a culture that promotes and values the creation of the bond. Right?

    So yes, I think the opposite would also be true — for members of that culture. Which Ellie is not. And that is not to say that even people of that society would not make a choice to turn away from the cultural construct if properly motivated, the way a woman in a culture that prizes female virginity may take a lover if she falls for him. And thus, you have etani. But it would be more rare than people who do choose to follow the dictates of the cultural construct.

    Feel free to email me if you want to talk about this more. I fear I could go on about this book all day. C’s gonna slap me, I can already tell!

  27. Julie Leto
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:22:56

    RfP, what a great point. The soulmate thing doesn’t bother me when I’m reading, if handled well…but then, we can say that about EVERYTHING in fiction. Done well, anything can work…well, maybe anything. But many things.

    I didn’t think I’d ever like any vampire romances since I cut my teeth on Bram Stoker and followed with Anne Rice…but then I read a few and liked them very much. However, now that I’m following a few series of vamps, I don’t want any new ones. My brain only has room for the worlds that are now in my head!

    Jane, the first of my NAL books comes out in April 2008. I’m doing edits now. I think you’ll like my heroine. She’s a tough cookie.

  28. Jane
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:24:39

    So I think what you are saying is that the cultural imperative that promotes and values the creation of the bond (like an arranged marriage) places the same emotional imperatives that a biological force would. Essentially the cultural norm could remove choice as great as a biological impulse would. I can totally buy that.

    I don’t think its spoilerish to say that Rain chose a bond mate a thousand years before he meets Ellysetta but wouldn’t you think that if the leader of the Fey went that route, more of his people would do? Because it’s a sort of tearing down the cultural norm? or redefining it?

  29. Jessica Inclan
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:34:11

    I think a lot of this is tied in with what we talked about last week–about true love. About being whole without love and being “fuller” with it. The soulmate thing works for me if that is the case as well.

    Determinism and free will both.


  30. Diana
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:47:40

    Or there is the possibility that the king gets away with stuff his people might not, purely by dint of being king. Henry the Eighth and all.

    However, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details of what Rain was BEFORE the war. He wasn’t the only TS then, I recall. Was he even the king? I seem to remember not…

    So perhaps etani-bonding WAS more common when there were lots of TSs around (I think Rain’s parents were etanitsa, right? Wasn’t his dad TS?), but if you were not TS, and therefore *did* have the option of sheitanitsa, maybe, someday, you should hold out for that. The way the quintet talk about their hypothetical sheitanis is so moving. It reminds me a lot of the way Norse warriors would only make Valhalla if they died in battle.

    Sadly, I must leave this conversation, and get back to work. :-( But this has all been fascinating!

  31. Jane
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 10:53:03

    Just wanted to interject that the ARCs are now all gone. carry on.

  32. RfP
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 11:06:36

    do you you think that the soulmate phenomenon is just a label that paranormal authors get to use to describe (via shorthand) the same things that contemporaries and historicals try to convey when the heroine has never had a good orgasm before the hero or when the heroine is alone and down with a raft of bad dating experiences behind her?

    I was thinking of the types of characters we see in paranormal romances. If at least one protagonist is half-feral or scarily powerful (vampire, wolf), how does the couple build trust? It could get abusive (if only one is powerful) or downright dangerous (if both are powerful). So I was thinking of the soulmate bond as a sort of safety feature–a muzzle, if you like.

    Back on your point–I do think the soulmate idea gets used that way. For example, there seems to be a trend toward allowing heroines to have some sexual history (though there are still plenty of orgasm-deprived widows). If the heroine is experienced, how do we know the hero’s the best she’s ever had? What if he isn’t? The author can guarantee that he is, by making him her soulmate.

    Take the Keri Arthur books. The heroine has spent several books looking for her soulmate among the werewolf population, and having chafe-worthy amounts of stupendous sex with everyone in sight. So many of her encounters are super-charged, I think Arthur’s run out of superlatives. If Wolf 1 is incredible, and Wolf 2 is breathtaking, and then there’s the horse who’s hung like, you know… she needs a soulmate connection to explain how one guy could ever stand out from the crowd. Much like the Regency rake who revels in loose women for years, but after one touch from the heroine says “It’s never been like this” and turns monogamous.

  33. Teddy Pig
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 11:56:49

    I agree with Mrs Giggles on the SF side. I liked the Shomi line so far although for a line purported to be cutting edge it is too bad they missed making eBooks available.

    I disagree though that definitive works have been done for paranormal. It is a hot market but Joey Hill just made a big splash with The Vampire Queens Servant. Everyone is crazy for how dark it is.
    In fact, I can say that really dark horror oriented paranormal romance has far too many trashy magic ponies and not enough solid sexy Clive Barkers.

  34. C.L. Wilson
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 12:21:33

    Jane – I’m so glad you enjoyed LORD OF THE FADING LANDS and I’ve read this morning’s discussion with great interest. Fantasy/paranormal and romance are my two favorite genres, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s take on what works for them.

    In refrence to the discussion about truemate (ie “soulmates”)…As I’ve constructed the world, the truemate bond is the preferred — but rare! — bond within the Fey culture. It’s the only bond in which girl children can be conceived, which makes it all the more precious from a continuation-of-the-species standpoint. And Diana is right – prior to the opening of the story, the Fey believe Tairen Souls have no chance for the truemate bond, so the love bond – e’tanitsa – is the only option available to them if they want the intimacy and permanence of a bonded relationship. And while Fey “choose” the e’tanitsa bond but the “shei’tanitsa” (truemate) bond “chooses” them, in reality if both the man and the woman did not, at some level, long to hear the call to their soul, they would not hear it.

    So the Fey – certainly the women, and even the men, though perhaps less obviously – have both choice and free will despite the pre-ordained nature of the truemate bond. The choices aren’t consequence-free, of course. All gifts have a price.

    PS – I can’t wait to read Julie Leto’s new paranormal romance series. I had the pleasure of reading an excerpt a while back and was definitely hankering for more!

  35. Carla
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 12:37:55

    From the above comments, I can see most everyone here really enjoys Fantasy novels. I, on the other hand, have read a lot of Romance, but not much Epic Fantasy. That said, I’ve been lucky enough to read Lord of the Fading Lands and though I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it, I couldn’t put it down. CL Wilson hooked me early on. The world she’s created is lush and the characters are unforgettable. The urgency of the Tairen’s situation melds perfectly with the captivating romance between Ellie and Rain, who became real people to me, not just characters, by the end of the book.

    If a great book is defined by how well it draws in its readers and excites them about the world/genre they’ve entered, then TS is the best book I’ve read in a very long time. Thanks to Ms. Wilson I’ve begun to check out other Fantasy fiction (is there a higher compliment?) and I can’t wait to read Lady of Light and Shadows!

  36. Jody W.
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 16:48:52

    I was like many of you and found myself drawn to the fantasy and sf that had the most romance, and sometimes that wasn’t quite enough. But so many paranormal romances didn’t have as much worldbuilding as I wanted. Many of the books I read on both sides of the genre fence were great books, but not the “perfect” read in the romance/worldbuilding balance sense. I can’t say dissatisfaction in this area drove me to write the books I wanted to read myself — that would be overactive imagination — but I do know it’s a (not care)bear to balance the two things. I have certainly enjoyed, the past several years, the growth of books that straddle the boundary and will definitely put this one in my Amazon cart!

  37. Kate
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 17:25:54

    I was lucky to get an ARC of this book and I am really enjoying the story. The writing is amazing and this new universe she came up with blows me away. I can’t believe she wrote 1000 pages originally!
    I know Christine Feehan has backed this series personally and I do find the whole truemates scenario in Wilson’s books is much like Feehan’s soul mates in her Dark Series.
    But overall, Wilson will be the one to watch for 2008 in the sci-fi genre.
    And since I am a romance junkie, I don’t mind the love story at all ;)

  38. melanie gordon
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 17:32:28

    I cannot wait to get C L Wilsons book Lords of the fading land . My mouth is watering

  39. DS
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 17:40:19

    The truemate/soulmate thing does not work for me because it smacks too much or predestination. I’m a free will kind of girl myself. I find it far more affecting to see people drawn together than instantly stuck together. Can’t say anything about this book in particular because I haven’t read it, but I like the bonding process as part of the story.

    Speculative Fiction was the term tossed around in the 60’s and 70’s (oh, the New Wave era) as SF tried to find s title that would give it some respectability. I don’t know if anyone still winces at sci-fi but it was considered really middle brow – arose out of hi-fi- at one point. Speculative Fiction still lives as an academic term I think– at least that was last how I saw it used, although I think it is quite serviceable.

    And that’s the history of sf terminology bite for today.

  40. RfP
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 18:36:19

    I know Christine Feehan has backed this series personally and I do find the whole truemates scenario in Wilson's books is much like Feehan's soul mates in her Dark Series.

    I got very, very tired of the “instantly stuck together” phenomenon in Feehan’s books, so I hope this book is different. The way the author described it above, I’m guessing there’s more free will involved, which makes a big difference.

  41. Nicole
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 19:00:32

    Oh I want this after reading all these comments. I read SF/F long before I ever read romance and I haven’t come across too many true fantasy/romance hybrids. Linda Winstead Jones did two trilogies that came close, though, which I liked.

    But what is up with Dorchester and no ebooks? Especially with the SHOMI line. us SFF geeks like our techy toys and whatnot.

  42. Angela James
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 19:01:35

    I don't know if anyone still winces at sci-fi

    Someone took great offense to this term on a yahoo group I’m on, just last week. Said it’s akin to calling romances “bodice rippers”. I never realized sci-fi was considered a derogatory term until that conversation but I must admit that the suggested “sf” in its place seems a bit cumbersome for every day conversation (as in spoken conversation, it’s no problem in emails/forums of course).

  43. Nicole
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 19:23:25

    Well, I’ve still never heard anyone use SF in actual conversation. And my first instinct is to say sci-fi, even though I know it has gone out of favor. I’d think that most of the people I work with and see on a daily basis would have no clue what I was saying if I used sf. Esseff just doesn’t roll off the tongue well. But I suppose I can make the change somehow.

  44. LinM
    Aug 14, 2007 @ 20:43:36

    I’m amazed at the number of posters who have already read this book, crabby that it isn’t available until October, and on the fence about whether or not I want to read it. Is this book more fantasy or more romance?

    Like many of the posters, I came to romance from fantasy (Sharon Shinn, Jacqueline Carey, Lois McMaster Bujold, Steve Miller and Sharon Lee). I love reviews by MrsGiggles but seldom like the same books (Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is about the only intersection); however, I agree completely with her opening comment – I moved from fantasy to romance because I wanted more human aspects in those stories. Now, I read both fantasy and romance, and have different expectations of each genre.

    In romance, I am looking for the development of a relationship – looking for the growth and compromises that allow a relationship to flourish. In romance, I’m now conditioned to expect an HEA although it wasn’t part of my original requirements.

    In fantasy, I am looking for world building, growth of the protagonist, a moral framework, and plot twists that make me re-evalulate my own world-view. I expect the protagonist to grow, never expect an HEA, accept that some of my favourite characters may die, and hope for an optimistic ending.

    So Fantasy-romance should be an autobuy. I love both genres. But the combination has mostly become “pass-on-by”.

    Jane asked do “you feel there has been a shift, a growth in the fantasy/paranormal/futuristic novels since when you first started reading?” Yes, but not enough to recommend the novels to me.

    Let me read:
    a) romance (I’m reading “Black Silk” and “Charlie All Night” which are old but the ebooks were just released)
    b) fantasy (I’m reading “Name of the Wind” and “The Harsh Cry of the Heron”, re-reading “Benighted” and waiting for “Mirador”).
    But fantasy-romance – so far, disappointing.

  45. Mrs Giggles
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 04:52:20

    Ooh, I won an ARC from the folks at Dorchester. I think I took the last one given how the email came so quickly after I submitted my email to them.

  46. DS
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 08:13:46

    I would have thought the fracus about sci-fi would have died down by now but it was passionate in its time. I don’t call science fiction esseffe when I talk, I just call it science fiction (or fantasy) but when I’m writing sf of sff (science fiction and fantasy) just seems a nice short cut to cover everything.

  47. Estelle
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 11:17:16

    To some extent, you do have to buy into the idea of the “truemate� theory. Wilson does add a twist though. Rain was in love before. In fact, so in love, that he scorched the land, killing millions. He turned with back on a “truemate� to have a “bond mate� instead. Much of the internal conflict is Rain coming to grips with the “truemate� v. “bondmate� meaning within himself. How much that works for you, will definitely depend on each reader.

    See, that worries me. It always feels to me as if the first choice was the ‘real love’, since the man bonded because he loved and appreciated the person. And let’s not forget that the guy felt so much pain at the death of his mate that he devastated all the land. After being told of this great love that’s the stuff of legend and that even has its own ballads and songs, I think that will make it hard for me to buy into the hero/heroine’s Truemate relationship, especially since my personal belief is that you can’t love that deeply more than once in your life. And I’ve never really understood all this ‘soul’ stuff or why it’s supposedly superior to loving someone with your whole heart.

    It’s a shame that the books have this as a premise because I was dying to read a good sweeping epic with strong romantic elements. I might pick up the first book all the same but I’m really not looking forward to reading about Rain’s angsting over is love for the dead Sariel and his new relationship with the heroine. Not at all my cup of tea. But the world building might just keep me hooked. Does anyone know if the books coming after these first two will focus on the same lead characters or if a new couple will be introduced?

    Back to the SF/fantasy discussion. One author who always delivers for me is Linnea Sinclair. She writes Romantic Science Fiction and, although her books are not sweeping epics i’ve always found them fun and statisfying.I was blown away by her lastest, Games of Command. Her world building is not usually as detailed and developped as some other pure SF/Fantasy writers but it’s no wallpaper either.

    I’ve been reading SF/Fantasy more and more these past few months because I actually find that the romance part is better handled than in the straight, mostly uninspired romance books on the market. While most romance books these days could be compared to a cold fastfood value meal, many SF/Fantasy books stick to your ribs and leave an impression on you long after you’ve finished them.

    My personal favorites are Linnea Sinclair, Sharon Shinn, CJ Barry, Meljean Brook, Robin McKinley, Sherwood Smith, Patricia Briggs.

  48. Jane
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 11:23:56

    I don’t recall alot of Sariel angst on the part of Rain. I tended to see that Rain had spent 1000 years getting over her. He was ready for his true mate.

    Sharon Shinn, Patricia Briggs (love her Hurog series as someone previously mentioned), Meljean are favorites of mine, but I wouldn’t compare Wilson to any of them. I can’t think of a good comparison for her work. The romance portions is like an early Feehan. I can see an influence there. Her fantasy world building, though, could be patterned more after a straight fantasy writer. I think its a book that you might have to try a few chapters of to get a feel of it.

    I will say that the first few chapters were rough going for me but once I was caught, I kept reading till the wee hours of the morning.

    The second book is actually a continuation of the first book and the third and fourth, I believe, will also feature Rain and Ellysetta. That said, the second story introduces some really interesting aspects of the truemate bond of a couple of other characters that will have to be worked out in future volumes.

  49. Emma
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 11:42:03

    A bit of a tangent. This is kinda like preaching to the choir, but I’ve got to comment on people who say they’re sick of the saturation of paranormals right now… because this lumping together of all speculative romance as one subgenre drives me crazy!

    Why is it that SF and futuristics, fantasy and urban fantasy, and paranormals — at least those that claim primary identification as romances — are still being lumped together (not necessarily here, but elsewhere) as a single trend in romance? As a corollary, while some people say they’re sick of the paranormal trend and that it must be peaking now or very soon, I won’t feel this trend has naturally peaked until I see these four very different subgenres separate out and give birth to distinct subgenres of romance. Grouping them all together as paranormals feels unnatural to me, because they’re all so very different.

    The book Jane’s discussing in her original post seems to be bona fide fantasy romance, set in an alternate universe, and therefore a novel with little in common with the urban paranormal romance of, say, JR Ward, M Liu and M Brooks, which in turn have very little in common with this-universe fantasy romance (contemp or no) like Kresley Cole’s, much less with futuristics like Linnea Sinclair’s. This is why I feel impatient with people who are complaining that all “paranormal romances” are starting to feel the same. In fact, I think we’re seeing much greater diversity and more *types* of speculative romance than ever before. And as someone who when she was a child raced through all the available books by Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike and LJ Smith (ah, the Vampire Diaries! They made my seventh grade so much fun), but also by Katherine Kerr and Melanie Rawn (Dragon Prince: original fantasy romance?), it feels like something I’ve been waiting for for a very, very long time. The vampire and werewolf stuff feels like a very small subset to me of the possibilities available in speculative romance… so I was very excited to see Jane’s post, and hope more fantasy authors (and urban fantasy authors, and SF authors) will jump on board.

    Okay, you know what? I have no idea if I should publish this post, because it’s not only OT, it’s probably just stating the obvious. But it felt nice to vent. :)

  50. Rebecca Goings
    Aug 15, 2007 @ 12:27:27

    I’m in the same boat, that I always wanted more romance with my fantasy. I grew up reading CS Lewis, Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan and David Eddings. There are some “light” romances in these books, but was was so dang mad when they closed the door! lol

    So I decided to write my own series. They’re definately not as epic as say, Melanie Rawn, but I like to think they’re a little more epic than your random “Legolas love story” that I like to call “Fantasy-lite”.

    A lot of fantasy authors have missed the “point” of fantasy… They’ve ignored the Sauron plot for a splash of Rivendell if you get my drift. So its kind of hard nowadays to find a real, meaty fantasy romance that gives you the “saving the world while making love along the way” feel. LOL

    As an aside, the first book of my fantasy romance is going to print from Samhain Publishing on August 21st!

    Thanks for posting this topic. I’m very happy to see more and more authors going down this route.


  51. Menage a Kat
    Oct 05, 2007 @ 13:40:45

    Lord of the Fading Lands by C. L. Wilson

    I won an ARC of this book via Dear Author, and it’s taken me a while to blog about it because I wanted to read it a few times to do the book justice. As someone who loves to read in both genres, I’m often frustrated by the short shrift romance gets i…

  52. Read for Pleasure
    Dec 04, 2007 @ 16:48:26

    C.L. Wilson: Lord of the Fading Lands

    • On Amazon• Author’s website• Excerpt (PDF)Erin Galloway of Dorchester Publishing was nice enough to send me an advance copy of Lord of the Fading Lands. I'm glad she did–Wilson has …

  53. Lord of the Fading Lands by C. L. Wilson - Book Thingo
    Nov 08, 2008 @ 04:10:56

    […] won an ARC of Lord of the Fading Lands via Dear Author, and it’s taken me a while to blog about it because I wanted to read it a few times to do the […]

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    Aug 06, 2009 @ 19:18:21

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  55. Sandy
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 15:39:50

    I like the paranormal romance genre, even if it has gotten a bit too big. But these books bother me. Particularly Rain bothers me. By the first book, I was questioning his character. The magically unstoppable, warrior, Rain, pushes little powerless Kissande into a river for talking smack to his fiance, and coming on to him? I don’t like men who physically attack women. I also don’t like bullies. That was very unfair. No matter if her words were mean. Then..he has killed millions of people. All because his GF died. Im sorry, but everyone dies. Its not fair. But at the time she dies, she was already like hundreds of years old. So, Im thinking this guy needs killing, not loving. And she wasn’t murdered. She was killed in warfare, while a participant in aiding soldiers to fight by healing them. People die in war. If you don’t like that fact, then surrender. Worse yet, he still wants every member of his enemies dead. Not defeated. Dead. And he can’t understand why the humans he is allied with want silly things like proof. Do you see my problem with the asswipe?

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