Two hundred years ago, Gareth Kendrick lost the love of his life and he hasn’t yet recovered. Niall was a human who was kidnapped by the Unseelie and taken to the Faerie realm. Gareth is the last of the true fae bards, and he lives his life mostly in the Outer World as lead singer for his band. He is still full of pain and anger from the loss of his lover and it has led to some estrangement from his brothers.
As it turns out, Niall was not actually kidnapped after all. He was instead imprisoned by his tyrannical father, and it is only Niall’s brother ascending to the Unseelie throne that has led to Niall been released. But Niall knows that Gareth will not forgive his lies — he never told Gareth he was part human, and Gareth despises the Unseelie — so he doesn’t believe reconciliation is possible. But when Gareth mistakenly believes Niall has amnesia and doesn’t remember what happened to him, Niall sees it as a chance to get close to his lost love once again. He doubts Gareth will ever forgive him, but at least they have a little more time together.
Unfortunately, as the guys are rekindling their relationship, things are falling apart in Faerie. The ceremony to unite the Seelie and Unseelie realms has gone wrong and Faerie is on the verge of destruction — with Gareth’s brothers Alun and Mal caught inside. Gareth doesn’t want anything to do with Faerie, and Niall knows to tell the truth about his past and what he knows would leave Gareth hating him. But the fate of the world — both Faerie and the human realm — rests on Niall and Gareth restoring the balance, and they will have to put their differences aside and work together if they are going to succeed.
Bad Boy’s Bard is the third book in E.J. Russell’s Fae Out of Water trilogy, and it is a series I have been really enjoying. The books each focus on one of the Kendrick brothers and we have learned bits about Gareth along the way, so I have been really looking forward to his book. The series also has followed the overarching story about the events in Faerie, and Russell does a nice job pulling things all together here, giving us an exciting climax and rounding out the three books nicely.
The world building is one of the hallmarks of the series for me, and Russell continues to keep things unique and creative. I love how Gareth’s status as a bard plays out in the Outer World as a rock star with an ability to totally draw in his audience. The aspects of Faerie also continue to be interesting, particularly the exploration of the different social classes of fae, as as well as the underworld that we see in this story.
I have to admit, this story was enjoyable, but it didn’t work for me as fully as the first two. Partly it was because I found myself kind of confused with some of the plot points, especially early on. I got the basic premise, but the relationship history between these guys is kind of complicated, made more so by the fact that they are keeping some things from one another. But there were other little things that left me confused. Niall has some connection to the ethera in the Outer World and they sort of guide him, and they teach him things. But I wasn’t totally clear why he had them or how they worked or what they were. He appears human at first, but says when he heals from his wounds, his true fae self would be revealed, and again I was unclear why. There is also an added element of voices that Gareth hears, that sort of pick on him and make him feel badly about himself. It just felt a little over complicated to me and at times I was really confused. I also didn’t get why if time passes differently in Faerie and our world, in both places Niall was imprisoned for 200 years. Or at least no one mentions any different time frame. In reality, he should have been gone for a much shorter time in Faerie or probably over a thousand years in our world, but it was never presented that way, which was confusing given the way time works in other aspects of the story.
I also had a hard time warming to Gareth and Niall, both individually and together. Gareth is still filled with a lot of pain and anger and he is mean to his brothers and brothers-in-law and has a lot of misplaced hostility. For his part, Niall is lying about his past and his current amnesia. Both have good reasons, and Gareth comes to see the light, but it made it hard for me to connect with them at first. Also, I missed the playfulness and the banter of the first two books. I loved the way the other couples interacted, the way they pushed one another and snarked and there was a level of humor to their stories I really enjoyed. Things are just heavier here and I wasn’t wild about the tone shift.
That said, I do think this story wraps up nicely and really pulls the series together well. The ending gives us an exciting climax that resolves things for our heroes, as well as for Faerie. I liked seeing both of these men overcome their pasts and find a way to make things work together going forward. And I must say, I really loved this series overall. So despite this one not being my favorite of the three, I can definitely recommend the Fae Out of Water series and really enjoyed it.