Series: COURT OF ANNWYN SERIES
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—3; Sensuality—4; Humor—1—3
Publisher and Titles: Sourcebooks Casablanca
The Outcast Prince (7/2013)
Lord of the Hunt (1/2014)
"The Changeling Soldier" (novella, 5/2014)
NOVEL 3: To Love a King
Needless to say, this book is all about the rocky romance between Felan and Jacqui. Seven years ago (in mortal Earth time), Jacqui and Felan broke up after a series of traumatic events: When Jacqui became pregnant, they were both ecstatic, but then Felan disappeared into Annwyn for eight weeks (which amounted to only a few days in Annwyn time). When Felan finally showed up at Jacqui's door, he had no way of knowing that during the time he was gone, Jacqui had nearly died from pregnancy complications that resulted in the death of the baby. Jacqui's mother—who hated Felan—simply told him that the baby was gone, and he assumed that Jacquie had terminated the pregnancy. When Felan walked away after learning of the baby's death, Jacquie felt that he had deserted her in her time of greatest need. During the ensuing seven years, Jacqui went through a long period of in-patient psychiatric treatment and heavy medication because she told her parents that Felan was a fairy—and they reacted just as you would expect by assuming that Jacqui had lost her mind. Meanwhile, Felan was back in Annwyn dealing with his grief over the baby's death and his break-up with Jacquie, the vicious deeds of his psychotic mother, the arrival of winter, and all of the events of the previous books.
Now, the situation in Annwyn is dire. Gwyn has given Felan less than two weeks to bring a pregnant human woman to Annwyn as his consort. The story line focuses on Felan's attempts to convince Jacqui to forgive him and marry him (under all of the conditions stated above) and Jacqui's conflicted, repetitious interior monologues that replay the events of seven years ago in between worrying that Felan loves Annwyn more than he loves her. Even though Jacquie has gone through some major Felan-related trauma, she still comes across as whiny and somewhat immature.
While the romance is limping along towards the finish line, Felan's rival, Sulia, is already pregnant and has presented her sleazy human consort to the court. Sulia is determined to become the next queen so that she can continue the evil ways of her mentor—the former queen. Unfortunately, Sulia is a stereotypical villain—a paper-thin, predictable character with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Although Husk paces the story briskly, much of the action is either repetitious or predictable. Felan goes back and forth from Annwyn to Earth to woo Jacquie; Sulia makes attacks on Felan and tries to harm or kill Jacquie; and the two competitors for the throne have a major showdown at the end. Once you read the book's title, you already know who wins.
If you are a regular reader of this series, you won't want to miss this book because it covers the death of Annwyn's old regime and the beginning of the new one. To read an excerpt from To Love a King, click HERE to go to the novel's amazon.com page; then click on the cover art at top left.
In Welsh folklore, Annwyn is akin to Heaven—a land of never-aging, beautiful people who live with an abundance of food, merriment, and wealth. The fairies of this world are not the sparkly Tinkerbelle fairies of children's stories. They are the cold and haughty fairies of pre-Christian folklore. Although they have a variety of magical powers (including glamouring), they do have two weaknesses: running water and iron, which acts likes a poison to them. Although certain charms can be created that prevent the fairies from harming a person, they are generally quite powerful against humans. Bargaining with fairies is very dangerous, because they will expertly twist the situation in their favor, frequently making a human's soul the pay-off if the bargain is broken or unfulfilled.
The fairies in this world cannot breed with one another; they must go to the mortal world to breed with a human. “The fairies sneered at humans unless they wanted heirs; then they used magic to lure and seduce the unfortunate human to their bed. Fairy men took human woman, and fairy women took human men. It was the only way fairies could breed and usually the children were born in Annwyn, ensuring continuation of the line." (The Outcast Prince, p. 24) Life in Annwyn is one never-ending party, but it is also a life filled with back-biting rivalries and vicious conspiracies. Each fairy lives only for his or her own pleasure and has no qualms about destroying a fellow citizen.
The fairies of Annwyn live by a strict set of rules, and if they break the rules they can be banished to the mortal world—a fate worse than death. In the mortal world, they are called Greys, and they begin to lose their powers almost immediately. "A fairy banished from Court became a Grey; cut off without access to the magic, they began to lose energy. Some chose stature and lost their looks, becoming skeletal ghouls of nightmares. Some chose to remain beautiful and became the tiny imps or pixies of children’s tales that could shrink to magnificent nothing over time. Others chose power and became ugly, small, and spiteful boggarts….Brownies, however, either chose not to live at Court, or they had been exiled to the mortal world, which was a social death instead of actual death." (The Outcast Prince, p. 27)
In this series, the fairies of Annwyn live under the strict rule of the Fairy King Gwyn and Queen Eyra. As the series opens, the royal pair has been in power for centuries, growing to hate each other more and more over the years. Even though they lead separate lives, they must maintain civility because they share the royal power. Their son, Felan, the Crown Prince, believes that it is time for him to take the throne, but first he must figure out a way to get past his mother's power-mad political machinations and then find a wife to rule at his side. Although he has never had a wife, the crown prince does have a son, a changeling (half-human/half-fairy) who has been raised in the mortal world by the child's human mother and her human husband.
Husk has also written the SHADOWLANDS TRILOGY: "The Summons" (prequel e-novella,2011); The Goblin King (2011); Kiss of the Goblin Prince (2012); and For the Love of a Goblin Warrior (1/2013). A lengthy excerpt from The Goblin King is included at the end of The Outcast Prince.
As the story opens, Caspian finds an antique fairy-made mirror at an estate sale. Even though everything fairy makes him uncomfortable, he feels compelled to buy it. Unfortunately, that mirror is being watched by a Gray named Shea who was banished for having an affair with the Fairy Queen. Shea is searching for a magical mirror that is the last existing portal to Annwyn. When Shea discovers that Caspian has psychometric powers, he forces Caspian into a mirror-finding bargain that changes Caspian's life forever.
Caspian has just been hired to assess the contents of the Callaway House, an old Charleston mansion that has a colorful, scandalous history. Back in the mid-20th century, Callaway House was a place for wealthy men to park their mistresses—a mistress hotel. It evolved into a house of perpetual parties, all presided over by Madame Callaway, the grandmother of the current owner, Lydia Callaway. Lydia's Gran has just died, and she can't afford to keep Callaway House, which needs many expensive repairs. With a broken heart, she decides to have the house and its contents appraised and sold. As Caspian spends more and more time at Callaway House with Lydia, two things happen: The couple falls in love, and they realize that Lydia may have the magical mirror. Shea is not the only one who wants the mirror. The Crown Prince needs it as part of his plans to take over the throne.
The story follows Caspian as he attempts to meet the terms of his contract with Shea, gets dragged away to Annwyn for a forced meeting with his father, and risks his life and his soul to keep Lydia safe. In a secondary story line, Lydia finds a trunk full of her Gran's intimate diaries, which provide unexpected information about her parentage.
This series has a fresh and inventive mythology, and this first book introduces a cast of well-developed characters. Although we learn only some basic details about Annwyn, we get enough to understand the culture and are promised more depth in the next two books, both of which feature full-blooded fairies. The romance between Caspian and Lydia is one of those lust-at-first-sight relationships that flourish in paranormal romance fiction. Caspian makes a fine hero, with his ambivalence about his fairy heritage, his desperate attempts to live a "normal" mortal life, and his willingness to make a huge sacrifice to protect his lover. Lydia is not as strong a character; she comes across as kind of bland and dependent, although she does make the very first move to get the romance going.
I'm interested enough in the characters and the series story arc to keep reading, and I'm looking forward to book 2, which features Verden, Lord of the Hunt, who is tasked with tracking down fairies who break the laws of Annwyn and bringing them before the Court for their punishment. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from The Outcast Prince.
NOVEL 2: Lord of the Hunt
Verden ap Hollis ap Lorcyn is the Lord of the Hunt (aka Hunter of Annwyn), and in that position he serves as the chief law enforcement official for Gwyn, the fairy King. Verden grew up on a farm on the outskirts of Annwyn, but left as soon as he could because he wanted more than the farm could give him. He has worked his way up to his current position by learning to play and win the political games that consume the lives of the Court fae, and the last thing he expects is to fall head over heels in love with Taryn merch Arlea, a young fairy girl who has come to Court to save her parents' lives.
Taryn's parents are the Brownies assigned by Prince Felan to watch over his son, Caspian (the hero of book 1). Years ago, Taryn's father was banished from Annwyn by the King, and Taryn's mother, who was a member of the King's Council, left with him. Ever since then, Gwyn has refused to allow them to return to Annwyn. Now, Gwyn's reign is nearly over, which is causing an outbreak of illness and environmental devastation on mortal earth. In Annwyn, it means that winter is approaching. When Gwyn's reign ends and winter arrives, all fairies living on mortal earth will die. Taryn has come to Annwyn to beg the king for a pardon for her father so that he and her mother can return to Annwyn before winter comes.
As we saw in book 1, the King and Queen are bitter enemies. The transition of power from King Gwyn to Prince Felan, can take place in one of two ways. Felan can overthrow the king, which will mean bloodshed and civil war, or the king can voluntarily and peacefully cede his crown over to Felan. The problem is that by the laws of Annwyn, a king must have both a wife and a Hunter, and Felan has neither. Unfortunately, Felan's story will not be told until the third novel, so this second novel serves primarily as a transitional story—a bridge between books 1 and 3.
Lord of the Hunt is a love story with very little action and not much of a plot. Taryn and Verden fall into that insta-matic lust/love we often (too often) find in paranormal romances. They have to keep their budding relationship a secret because the King is using Taryn as a beard—a fake mistress—in order to make an emotional strike at his Queen. The Queen has her own diabolical tricks, though, and Taryn and Verden soon find themselves right in the middle of a huge, messy, and dangerous political maneuver.
For me, this book is a disappointment, primarily because of its transitional nature. Generally, paranormal romance plots have two distinct branches: the romance and the action. This one is heavy on romance and extremely light on action. Mostly, we see scenes involving Taryn's attempts to maneuver her way safely through Court politics alternating with Taryn and Verden's secretive trysts and their angst-filled interior monologues about their star-crossed love affair. The only action comes at the very end of the book when the Queen's treachery results in life-changing outcomes for each of the primary characters, and even that action is closely tied to the romance.
Also disappointing is the sloppiness of the copy-proofing/ The book is filled with homonym errors, missing words from sentences, auto-fill errors, run-on sentences, and wrong-word errors that must be caught by human eyes because they don't get picked up by spellcheck. Here are a few examples:
"Then what are playing for if you aren't here to vow support?" (p. 34, missing the word "we" between "are" and "playing");
"After giving Taryn a close inspection, Cerela had invited her in, the rest of the traveling party was taking the time to look at shoes and ribbons and cloth." (p. 128—run-on sentence);
"…we just never expected it to be quiet so fast." (p. 224—spell-check error—"quiet" should have been "quite");
"…if he made this deal, it would be that last one he made." (p. 295—probably an auto-fill error; should have been "the" instead of "that").
These are just a few of the many text mistakes that should have been caught by Sourcebooks staff before the book was published.
Although you could read Lord of the Hunt as a stand-alone, I recommend that you read The Outcast Prince first because there are a number of references to characters and events from that book. This series was originally billed as a trilogy, which would make the next novel the final one, but the author's web site now calls this a "series," so maybe there will be more books. In any case, she has a novella scheduled for June 2014 that will introduce a new pair of lovers and (probably) an update on the political situation in Annwyn. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Lord of the Hunt.
NOVELLA 2.5: "The Changeling Soldier"
Now, on to the story: Eletta merch Arawn (aka Ella Aaron) is the daughter of the old Lord of the Hunt, but she has been living in the mortal world for three centuries. Currently, she is a dress designer for the stars, adding a bit of magic to the clothing she designs so that her favored customers get some luck along with their red-carpet fashions. As the story opens, Ella has an appointment with a low-level starlet named Melody Riley, who would give anything to be famous. Yes…she would give anything, and she proves it by the end of the tale.
Melody's brother, Isaac Norton, has just returned from Afghanistan where he was a medal-winning soldier. Now, he works as a guard on an armored truck and serves as Melody's bodyguard and escort when she attends various social events. Isaac has always felt like a misfit. He has a different father than the rest of his half-siblings, and he doesn't even know his father's real name. All his life, he has had "hunches" about future events that always come true. His buddies in the Army nicknamed him "Psychic Isaac" because he almost always knew when an ambush was coming. As soon as Ella sees Isaac, she realizes that he is a changeling—half-human and half-fairy.
For years, Isaac has been having a dream in which he is a soldier in a battle on a snowy field. The other soldiers are all dead—bleeding blue blood. Each time he has the dream, a new detail is added. The latest new dream detail is a beautiful woman who looks just like Ella, so Isaac believes that his dream will be coming true very soon. Isaac believes that the soldiers are fairies because he has seen fairies at various times during his life, although he has learned not to tell people about this because they all think that he is crazy. The only one who knows his secret is his sister.
Ella and Isaac learn the hard way that Melody really, really wants to be famous, and no one is going to stand in her way—not even her brother. As usual, the Ella-Isaac love affair is instantaneous. There's not much action, but there is plenty of betrayal and cold-blooded greed. This story relates to the series story arc in that Ella's fairy powers are growing weak as winter settles over Annwyn. She plans to head back to Annwyn as soon as she finishes Melody's dress. "All the fairies she knew in the mortal world had gone home, if they could. Those who were in exile were preparing for death. Unless she planned to join them, which she didn't, she needed to cross the veil and go home." (chapter 3) Will Ella go home alone? Or will she have a partner?
This novella is even more transitional than the second novel. There is a huge action gap between the end of chapter 10 and the epilogue in which an entire battle is fought entirely off the page. I can only assume that that battle will take place in the third novel, but it makes for an awkward ending to this novella. One of the most dissatisfying aspects of the story is not learning what finally happened to Melody. There is a huge build-up about how humans never win when making deals with fairies, but there's no payoff on that because we never get the full details on Melody's fate. Click HERE to read an excerpt from "The Changeling Soldier" on the novella's amazon.com page. Just click on the cover art at top left to read the first chapter. If you click the "Surprise Me" icon, you'll be able to read additional pages from further on in the story.
This e-novella contains excerpts from the first two novels as well as the deleted prologue from To Love a King, in which we get some back story on Prince Felan back when he impregnated his human lover, Jacqui, who then lost the child and turned her back on him. To read an excerpt from "The Changeling Soldier," click HERE to go to the novella's amazon.com page; then click on the cover art at top left.