Rating: 3.75 stars
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Rilke is a Felan, sent to Earth to form a binding with a human and help him through a difficult time in his life. The Felan are “fairy godparents” of sorts, recognizing someone in need and stepping in temporarily to help out. This is Rilke’s first binding and she is full of confidence that her excellent training scores will make the job an easy one. Yet upon arrival she finds that she doesn’t know how to help Javier, the human to whom she is bound.
Javier is struggling in his relationship with his partner Robin. Javier wants to have children and he thought Robin felt the same. But now Robin is always busy at work and seems to be pulling away from him. Javier knows they need to talk about their relationship, but every time he tries, Robin puts him off. Javier has gotten more and more despondent, withdrawing from friends, and focusing only on his problems. Rilke desparately wants to help him, but she can’t figure out what to do, something incredibly upsetting as these bindings are the major focus of a Felan’s life.
Complicating matters is the fact that Rilke has been having strangely vivid dreams of one of her Felan ancestor, Gimle. Gimle was the first Felan to cross over to the human world over 2000 years ago. There he met a young farmer named Isa who was having problems with his father and trying to find his way in the world. Gimle felt drawn to help Isa, and in their time together helps him find the inner strength and confidence to stand up to his father and start to shape a life for himself that he really wants.
A Matter of Timing takes all three of these stories and combines them together, following the multiple narratives throughout the book. We get Rilke’s POV as she tries to figure out how to help Javier, seeing her self doubt as she feels like she is failing him. And we watch as she slowly finds her way, learning more about humans and about herself. She also discovers the true story of Gimle and Isa through her dreams/visions and how it differs from the origin tales the Felan pass down to each other. We also get Javier’s POV as he works through his relationship with Robin. Although Rilke’s initial attempts at helping him are sort of bumbling, she slowly helps him figure out what he really wants from his relationship. Javier also begins to realize how internally focused he has been on his own problems and is ultimately able to open himself back up and really work through his issues with Robin. And finally we get Gimle’s story as he comes to Earth looking for adventure and instead finds love and a way to bring happiness to someone he cares about.
I found this multiple storyline structure both interesting and a bit distracting. I liked the way the different characters’ experiences blend and reflect one another, and I think Stark does a nice job tying the three journeys together in a way that works. I found Isa and Gimle the most compelling, possibly because their story read like a more traditional romance. We also get much more detail on their developing relationship and a much better sense of each of them. Robin and Javier’s story is not as well developed and I never really felt a strong connection with them. Much of what we learn is through Rilke’s eyes, and although I was glad to see them get their happy ending, I wasn’t as invested in them as I could have been. I think I found Rilke the most frustrating. Through most of the story she is quite self absorbed, thinking of herself and her failings, floundering around and feeling sorry for herself. In some ways this is the point; Rilke needs time to find herself, to learn about how to really listen to others and figure out what they need. But I didn’t really connect with her much either.
This story is the second in Stark’s Binding series, following Someone to Depend On. I really liked the first story and was eagerly awaiting this installment. But the stories were really different in structure and this one just didn’t work for me as well. In addition to the issue with narrative structure, we don’t get nearly as much of the Felan lore and world-building that is done so well in the first story and the nature of the binding isn’t as well explained. So even though there are not overlapping characters (Rilke makes only a brief appearance in the first book), I think that it would really help readers to start with the first story in order to really understand the world building.
Overall I enjoyed this book, but just think that it had too many different plots going on and some of them just got shortchanged. But I continue to find the world Stark has created really interesting and I would love to read more books if the series continues.
Cover Review: Another gorgeous cover in this series. I love the wings and the beautiful imagery.