Janet Lee Carey
Wow. Just wow. I had no idea going into this book that it was going to suck me in so thoroughly. I even went out of my way to read the back of the book and the inside flap and I was still completely unprepared for what I encountered. One of the blurbs from the back of the book calls this “fantasy at its best” and I’m here to tell you, they’re totally right. There are magic and fey, will-o’-the-wisps and huntsman, witches and witch hunters, crusades, dragons, and my personal favorite…the Pendragons. They’re not your usual Pendragons by any means, but you will see the names of Arthur, Merlin, and Uther fly under your eye. I say fly because I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I read this book in a single day. At page 300, I forced myself to go work out and then to come home and write at least 400 words, (pathetic, admittedly) but it was complete torture because all I wanted to do was sit back down and re-open this book. I needed to know. I thought I had an inkling of where the story was going to end and though I wasn’t wholly wrong, I totally didn’t see a good chunk of that coming.
Wilde Island is not at peace. The kingdom mourns the dead Pendragon king and awaits the return of his heir; the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is strained; and the regent is funding a bloodthirsty witch hunt, hoping to rid the island of half-fey maidens.
Tess, daughter of a blacksmith, has visions of the future, but she still doesn’t expect to be accused of witchcraft, forced to flee with her two best friends, or offered shelter by the handsome and enigmatic Garth Huntsman, a warden for Dragonswood. But Garth is the younger prince in disguise and Tess soon learns that her true father was fey, making them the center of an exciting, romantic adventure, and an ancient prophecy that will bring about peace between all three races – dragon, human, and fairy.
Once again an author gives you a frame work of our reality within which to work, adding depth and authenticity to the tale. There are dates and countries (England and Ireland to name a few) and crusades and our mythology. A tiny part of my brain spent the whole story trying to remember if there really is a Wilde Island. (Turns out there really is one, but it’s in northern Saskatchewan.) Yes, most of my brain accepted that this is a work of fiction that exists in a fictional place, but the prince left for the Crusades (yes, THE Crusades) and what country didn’t suffer through a bout of witch burnings. Admittedly, the realism is somewhat tempered by the dragons, the fey, and the will-o’-the-wisps, but not in a deleterious way.
And the characters… the characters! Carey draws them with absolute honesty. I never once doubted their actions, which is refreshing. The lead character, Tess, is kind of amazing. It’s astonishing that after living through a childhood filled with abuse, she stands tall and wants nothing more from life than the ability to provide for herself. It’s nice to see the cycle of abuse shattered into a million pieces. And I haven’t even gotten to the huntsman. I’m not sure what it is about Huntsmen in general, but I’ll totally admit to being a complete sucker for them. For some reason, this doesn’t extend to reality at all. I live in Kansas and have yet to meet someone who shoots animals who I’ve liked (or even respected on a basically human level), though I’m sure one exists somewhere. Anyway, Garth is kind of awesome. He borders really close to the trite strong male lead of a romance novel, but Carey does an excellent job of stopping short of that. He’s not dreamy, he’s more real than that, which speaks to Carey’s mastery of character actualization. I read this book so quickly because I cared about the characters so very much, which as you all know is the best ways to suck me into a book.
In the end, it’s a fast paced story that will get your knickers in a knot and won’t let go until the Very. Last. Page. If you enjoy fantasy, this book is for you.
5 ink bottles.