Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance
As a fae, Turlough knows that introducing faerie magic to the human realm is a serious offense. So when his brother, Oran, acts foolish and carelessly and loses a fae berry in the Forest of Dooros—a sort of bridge between the fae and human kingdoms—Turlough fears a severe punishment. His worry is proven justified when the king banishes Oran until he can convince a giant to protect the berry tree that now grows in the human world. Feeling responsible for Oran in their parent’s absence, Turlough takes this punishment onto himself to spare his brother.
Not long after leaving on his quest, Turlough meets a human named Niall when he saves him from an attack by assassins. Turlough is strongly drawn to Niall and he decides to accompany him on his journey to the sea. Along the way, both men succumb to the attraction they feel for one another only to find that it’s more substantial than mere attraction—they are meant to be bonded. But falling in love and forging their intimate connection is the easy part.
Niall reveals that he is actually Prince Niall, true heir to the throne of the region. His kingdom was attacked by a rival and his daughter, and Niall’s father was killed and Niall was gravely wounded. His brother, Colm, who was little more than a boy at the time, drew the ire of the daughter, a dark witch, and was cursed horribly and kept as a prisoner. Niall has returned to free his brother and reclaim his kingdom from the terrible rule. He and Turlough must part—both have obligations to rescue their family that they cannot ignore, no matter how much their hearts protest the separation. They vow to find each other when they have completed their tasks.
Turlough brings Niall to the sea—a rendezvous point with an ally—as promised and then departs. It is with a heavy heart that he finds a giant he eventually befriends and convinces to guard the tree in exchange for all the fae berries he can eat, freeing himself from exile and exonerating his brother.
Meanwhile, Colm, Niall’s brother, has been suffering under the cruelty of Fiona the witch, but he has also managed to find love. Enda, a shifter who takes the form of a robin, sees beyond the vicious disfigurement Fiona cursed Colm with, to the beauty of his soul. Enda recognizes that Colm is meant to be his mate and he vows to free Colm from the curse and keep him safe from Fiona’s retribution. He seeks help from his family and they tell him of the fae berry tree that now grows in his forest that could break the curse. Enda seeks the tree despite the danger of the giant who stands guard.
Fiona has also heard of the tree and vows to claim the faerie magic to strengthen her own power. All of their paths intersect at the tree and man, fae, shifter, and giant must find a way to work together if they ever have any hope of defeating the potent force of the dark witch.
I really wanted to like this book so much. I love me a good quest, and toss in some faeries (which are my favorite fantasy creatures) and it’s usually a fantastic recipe. Unfortunately, this one was pretty disappointing. There were flashes of brilliance among the rest of the drudgery, but all that did was make me even more disappointed. I wanted the rest of the book to be like those handful of passages.
The biggest drawback here was the writing style. It was incredibly choppy and there was little to no variation in syntax, which made it very difficult to read. After paragraph after paragraph of “Turlough went here. It looked like this. Turlough did that. It made him feel this way,” it all started to feel incredibly formulaic and while in most cases there technically wasn’t any “telling,” it certainly felt that way. It also lessened the impact of just about every phrase or sentence that wasn’t a direct action. Descriptive passages didn’t actually feel like they described anything and what little page space there was devoted to emotions didn’t connect with me at all.
This also bled over into the characters. Firstly, they didn’t really seem to have much differentiation in terms of personality. If we played the word association game and you gave me all four main characters’ names, I’m positive my answer would be “desperately in love” for all of them. That normally isn’t really a personality trait, but with this group it is. I guess you could say each of them had superficial qualities that made them unique, but mostly they were one big lump of star-crossed romance. And now that I’ve claimed that they were each unique in some way, I find myself frantically trying to come up with any example—and failing. Which I guess means that they really weren’t all that well-developed as characters and don’t actually have any depth beyond “my penis says this man is my soul mate.”
The one thing about this book that I did really enjoy was the plotline. I said earlier that I love a good quest, and the genesis of this one was inventive and interesting. I loved the way both storylines intersected in the final conflict, and even though the villain was pretty cliché and predictable, I found myself really enjoying the big battle with her. It’s really the only emotionally satisfying element of the story and though I’ve read things that were similar in some ways, it did feel really creative.
So, if you’re like me and you just love faeries and fantasy quest stories, you might enjoy this one just for the interesting plot if you can get past the sketchy writing and the frankly disappointing romance element. If you’re a reader who can read a romance novel and ignore the romance, I’d say give it a shot, otherwise I’d give it a pass.