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