Wil Calder was born with a Gift. A Gift that has left him hunted, tortured, and possessed with a desperate desire to be left alone. But both the Brethren and the Guild are after him and they are relentless in their pursuit. After a short respite in the town of Putnam, Wil ends up witnessing a murder. Though he is innocent, Wil knows the killing is merely another the sign that either the Guild or the Brethren has found him and he flees.
Constable Dallin Brayden is a well-educated, straightforward man. Dedicated and good at his job, he knows how to unravel a mystery and discover the truth. But Wil Calder is one mystery he can’t seem to solve and he is drawn to the man, both out of duty and something deeper, something he cannot fully understand. Once he captures Wil, they are are forced to trust one another in order to survive. But greater forces are at work and both men must accept that their paths are entwined and that they have a shared destiny, which is bigger than either of them.
Aisling is the first book in the wonderful Guardian trilogy by author Carole Cummings. I will be reviewing another book by this author in the next few days, but Guardian was my introduction to her work and the novel that made me an instant fan. There is nothing simple about Guardian or the series as a whole. There is a moderate amount of world building, but an extensive philosophical and religious scaffolding, while complex, works with the narrative to create an epic fantasy. The pacing is solid and while it is easy to occasionally get bogged down, it’s worth the extra effort to take your time and fully immerse yourself in everything that happens. Untangling everything can be a little confusing and frustrating as the reveals are slow and readers are often given information in tiny drips. But the main characters capture your heart from the start and it is they who make Aisling work so well.
Wil is a man with brittle emotions, but a relentless determination to survive. His name is stolen and he has never known another. Since the age of six he has been the tortured pawn of religious fanatics and kept drugged while he is manipulated into doing terrible things. Though he finally escapes his captors, he is forced to live a half- life, always running, often with little more than the clothes on his back. Wil has known only pain, but is a kind, quiet man. He can be brutal when forced, but is an inherently good soul. His confusion, desperation, and pain all come through with absolute clarity. He is never made to seem pitiful or weak though. His strength makes him amazing and once he meets Dallin, you realize Wil finally has someone to trust, if he only will allow himself to do so.
Dallin is Wil’s opposite in many ways. Despite a tragic childhood, he has made a name and a life for himself. After years in the military, he now serves in the constabulary and is a solid, capable and determined lawman. That he is ultimately willing to sacrifice his connection to the law and make himself a target in order to protect Wil, speaks volumes about his idea of right and wrong and protecting the innocent. He resists the belief that he and Wil might be destined for something, but only because he does not have the facts to render a well informed decision. His insistence upon practicality is rather charming and makes him relatable. Like the reader, he is a man without answers and trapped in a situation that defies explanation.
Overall, Aisling is an excellent start to a fantastic series. There are moments of complexity and confusion that require a measure of patience on the part of the reader, but the end result is an excellent plot that draws you in with every page. This first installment ends somewhat abruptly, but hopefully this makes you want to read the next book even more. I definitely recommend this one!