There was, without a doubt, many moments during this novel that I wanted to take Alberon aside and smack him upside the head. Between him and his fathThere was, without a doubt, many moments during this novel that I wanted to take Alberon aside and smack him upside the head. Between him and his father I'm honestly not certain who has less sense. If Razi hadn't already said that he didn't want to be King (and proved as much time and again) I'd urge him to stay far away because it appears the royal family loses all sense once given power.
I, like probably most of the readers, had been looking forward to when Razi, Albi and Wynter would be reunited. It was obvious that neither Razi nor Wynter accounted for the changes in their childhood playmate, but Razi was realistic. Wynter wasn't. Despite everything to the contrary she kept fast to the idealistic belief that once they were together again things would be back to the way they were before. Any wrongs would be corrected, any misunderstandings cleared up.
Kiernan juggled a lot of developmental things in this book. Before Razi, Wynter and Chris treated each other as more or less equals while traveling. They accepted each other and ignored the rest. Once with Alberon however those differences in station and treatment became very apparent. Razi was still a Prince, Wynter was still a Lady of the Court and Chris was...nothing. Almost worst then nothing. Alberon held to the station differences, but I think he also felt like Chris was intruding on something. He was as much an idealist as Wynter, though in a different manner.
Its not strictly true to say that there's a climatic showdown between Alberon and his father. Kiernan stuck to what she wrote best--character driven plot with a little bit of action. You can almost feel when 'childhood' falls away for the last time from the three friends, when they realize that no one is perfect and their parents lest of all.
The ending was amusing and fun. It gave the reader a chance to see what everybody could be like in peace. Its an uplifting one, if a trifle sad when you think of what it cost to bring about. As a conclusion to a historical fantasy such as The Moorehwake Trilogy was, it fit perfectly. ...more
The Crowded Shadows picks up almost immediately after where The Poison Throne left off. I strongly suggest if you haven't read Book 1 you shouldn't reThe Crowded Shadows picks up almost immediately after where The Poison Throne left off. I strongly suggest if you haven't read Book 1 you shouldn't read this review (because its inevitable a spoiler will pop up and ruin things for you. Not even the synopsis will spoil you for certain things.) I warned you.
We come upon Wynter as she is hiding from a group of men traveling along the forest path. Wisely she hides whenever she hears others approaching--just one of many tricks her father taught her about traveling alone, but her curiousity gets the better of her just once. And that once presents enough problems.
She does meet up with Chris and Razi and from there onwards the book is the adventure the three of them are having. Razi has the same idea as Wynter--to find his brother's camp, get some answers and then hopefully convince his father to lay off the crazy juice. Razi and Wynter are certain there is a reasonable explanation; Chris is more skeptical and freely admits if Alberon did set the assassin (from Book 1, yes the one who gave Wynter the clue as to where Alberon's camp is) to kill Razi, then he's as good as dead.
Two pieces of information change the game; one is who Alberon is calling to arms as allies. The woods are filled with brigands, mercenaries and the sort that Alberon's father worked his entire life to keep out of his Kingdom for one reason or another. The second is that Razi is reported dead, Wynter is considered a treasonous whore for murdering her father and sleeping with Razi and Lorcan died. Obviously Razi isn't dead and neither is Wynter a treasonous whore. Those two facts however are important going forward as they meet potential allies of Alberon's.
This book was much heavier on the action and cultural influence. Technically only Razi and Wynter are of Jonothan's Court, and at that Razi is half-Arabian and was raised partially thus. Chris is an adopted Gerron, a race of people who they meet up with later in the book (to varying degrees of displeasure).
There is one factor of the book I found unsettling and distracting a bit. Kiernan has two important people--Lorcan and Simon de Rochelle (a supporter of Razi's) die off-screen. The reports are given to Razi, Wynter and Chris. Lorcan I more or less expected, Simon not as much. He seemed poised for bigger things in the first book--though whether they were helpful or dangerous towards Razi's interests I couldn't tell. He was opportunistic, a scavenger and sly fellow--I didn't trust him. But neither can I believe he would be caught so unawares. Its suspicious and not even subtly so.
Emotionally speaking things run high in this book. Though Wynter is still only 15 (almost 16?) she is treated like an adult given her stature as a Guild carpenter. Her and Chris make progress on their relationship, but he became increasingly fitful and distant. Not in words or emotions, but in deeds. At one point Razi all but creates the perfect opportunity for them to be alone together for a night--Chris cries off. Part of this is because of what happened to him--he is abducted for a short time by the Loup Garous (and I do mean a short time), but a secret is revealed about his heritage that is unsettling on many levels.
Razi also, though 20, is almost as innocent as Wynter in the ways of love and relationships. The poor man tries his best, but a cultural misunderstanding erupts--not just on his side, but also on the side of his paramour's. 'A simple flirtation' she says. 'He will forget me soon enough'* Ha! I felt bad for them both. And it only continues to get worse.
By the end of the book we are so close to Alberon's camp, but promises were made that may turn around and bite them all in the end. The more we learn about Alberon's supposed followers camp the more uneasy I am becoming. I honestly do not know whether I want it all to be a big misunderstanding blown way out of control or if I want Alberon to have changed so drastically. On the one hand I want to protect the characters from the pain if Alberon is such a vile scoundrel. On the other, I feel like it would be a cop out, especially after Jonothan has been shown to be not as lunatic as he may have appeared (he still was crazy, but perhaps with good reason). Then also, what could have happened to Alberon in the 5 years since the three of them (Razi, Wynter and Alberon) had been together?
Book 3, The Rebel Prince is due out in October. Which is too far away in my opinion! ...more
More appropriately this could be considered historical fiction with fantasy overtones I suppose, but talking cats, infuriated ghosts and magic tends tMore appropriately this could be considered historical fiction with fantasy overtones I suppose, but talking cats, infuriated ghosts and magic tends to make think 'fantasy' so fantasy it shalt be called. Also this is considered Young Adult by the author and most places I looked it up, I suppose since Wynter is 15 years old, Chris is 18 (I think) and Razi is 19 that makes sense, but I'll warn you for content regardless since it feels like there is more of the following than I normally read in YA. There is violence, torture and no small amount of sexual innuendo happening.
Onto the book itself! There is a lot to recommend this novel for fantasy fans; its a medieval setting, royalty is the main seat of power, court intrigue and political machinations saturate this novel as well. We start out with Wynter Moorehawke and her father Lorcan Moorehawke returning home from 5 years in the North (keeping the peace for King Jonothan). But things aren't working out how Wynter, or Lorcan I imagine, thought they would. From the odd reception at the front gate, to the fact that the court seems suspended with a level of tenseness neither remembers, events begin adding up to a to create an upsetting picture.
As I said Wynter is 15 years old, but circumstances and life make her seem much older. She has to bear up under some stressful situations. Her father's rapidly deteriorating health, her one friend banished and the other keeping secrets, the knowledge that her beloved cats were all killed, and turbulent feelings over Razi's new friend Chris. She had uncertainties, fears and doubts that plagued her and made her act out in impulse instead of reason. But beneath it all there was a core of steel built not only from her own willpower and determination, but also from years in court life.
The 'action' of the novel comes in segments with long interludes of conspiracy and maneuvering as players began their gambits. Kiernan doesn't let any of her characters fall into one category; King Jonothan (the 'bad guy' of the book, for various reasons) is shown to be cruel and merciless at times, but with Lorcan (an old friend and the Lord Protector) he is all doubts and pleas to understand. Razi, a Doctor and the second in line to the throne (he is the bastard son of Jonothan and an Arabian mistress) is fiercely loyal to his friends and to his brother (the rightful, but banished heir Alberon) but his loyalty is at a cost as he slips further away in his efforts to keep them safe.
The truth of what is going on is murky and changes depending on who you ask. Jonothan is certain his rightful heir Alberon is plotting a coup with a machine Jonothan swore would never see the light of day again. Razi thinks Jonothan is off his rocker and making a huge mistake. Wynter can't believe that her childhood friend Albi, who idolized Razi so much throughout their childhood, could be such a vicious fellow now. The court is certain that Razi is the bad guy, that Jonothan is bewitched and Razi is trying to usurp Alberon's place. What I found fascinating is how quickly a mass of people, who have known Razi all their lives, are willing to turn on him when their expectations are tested.
This book ends in heart-breaking decisions. Decisions that were as hard to read about as they were for the characters to live. I don't know if I could have been strong enough to do what Wynter does. Or to live with myself if I could.
Book 2: The Crowded Shadows is available now (review coming soon) and the third and final book, The Rebel Prince, is due out in October. It can't come quickly enough! ...more
I've read Elliott before, I had an old battered copy of Jaran for the longest time (before it got lost in the Great Book Loss of 2001 aka we moved andI've read Elliott before, I had an old battered copy of Jaran for the longest time (before it got lost in the Great Book Loss of 2001 aka we moved and they lost my box of books), but I haven't read much of her since. Not from lack of wanting to, but from lack of having her other books around. I haven't even read all of the Jaran books! This tends to happen with me however so I don't give undue thought.
The start to Elliott's new Spiritwalker trilogy held me captivated. To the point where I forgot to go to bed on time (my alarm kept beeping at me and I kept swatting it away until finally I shut it off entirely). From the start Elliott weaved clues and hints as to a larger picture, one none of our characters understood or saw. There's a key plot point involving Cat that is very, very misleading. Actually several, but there's one slightly more important than the others. As it unfolds a new sort of dread stepped in to chase away the feelings of unease.
In many ways this felt like a story about growing up. Neither Cat nor Bee--cousins, born only a few months apart--could be called spoiled, but they are so used to viewing the world one particular way that it astounds them constantly that their view was so narrow. Bee especially surprised me with how strong she became when confronted with the truth. I didn't expect it of her, but Elliott had laid out the foundations for the strength early on.
Cat's journey is harrowing. Ill-prepared for the life she was thrust into, by a contract she had no say in and that she was obligated to see through, she's even less prepared when the worlds spins again. The knowledge she learned from her father's journals serves her well and also acts as a way to confirm her instincts. When she is troubled or feeling indecisive she remembers a quote from his journals and feels reassured.
This is an altered history fantasy. The Empire of Rome lasted until 1000, there doesn't seem to be USA (at least not in the way we know it), trolls (not the kind you are thinking of) are common and no one thinks twice about magic. The Industrial Revolution is being opposed by the Mages, but if any of them are to be believed, its for good reason. Parts of the story grew confusing for me, since we are reading from Cat's first person POV we know what she knows. And it constantly is being changed. Alliances, friends, enemies, even cold hard facts changes from moment to moment so that my head was reeling.
The only surety in the entire book is this: Bee and Cat are bound by bonds of love, trust and friendship that nothing can sunder. The lengths these two go to, to help each other and be each other's strength, is nothing short of extraordinary. Only the briefest of doubts crosses Cat's mind about her cousin, but its immediately dismissed. They know each other, each other's quirks and habits. How to push each other's buttons and comfort when no words are spoken. It seems like such a rare thing honestly, to read about two girls' friendship that way. The last book I can think of is Sarah MacLean's The Season.
My only complaint is that Cat will often repeat things--traits other people have, cultural things or historical facts. Things she has mentioned at least once, probably twice and more than likely thrice. It got to be a little annoying, but not enough to aggravate me for long.
The next book is called Cold Fire, though I have no idea when its due out (according to a recent journal entry she hasn't finished the first draft yet, so I'm suspecting not until next fall at the earliest) and book 3 is currently titled Cold Steel (originally that was the title of book 2, but it was switched around). Can't. Wait. ...more