Series: CELTIC WOLVES
Plot Type: Soul-Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—2-3
Publisher and Titles: Ace/Penguin
Celtic Moon (9/2013)
As usual, this book has two related plot lines: the romance story and the action story. The romance between Cormack and Elen is complicated by the fact that for the previous 300 years, he has been been unable to shift into human form. For all that time, Elen was his constant companion, the only one who treated him like a sentient being. In his furry form, he even slept with her in her bed every night. Elen is a healer who has earned a Harvard medical degree and completed an apprenticeship under Maelorwen, the healer for Castell Avon (the setting for most of the action in Summer Moon).
When Elen (SPOILER ALERT) ripped the life from a Guardian in the previous book and gave it to Cormack, he was then able to shift into human form, but he had no idea how to be a human—how to use his new body. Embarrassed by his inability to speak, to read, to use his hands, and—in general—to behave like a human male, he stayed away from Elen until he felt that he had mastered most of the skills of being human. At one point, Cormack muses that "his ineptness during those first few weeks as a man hadn't been something he wanted Elen to witness." Of course, Cormack's rejection hurts Elen's feelings, and she jumps to the conclusion that he hates what she did to him—tearing away someone else's life and forcing it on him (even though the life she took was one of villains and even though she knows deep down that he always wanted to be human).
In Autumn Moon, the two don't really get together and talk out their fears until midway through the book. And that's only because Dylan finally decides that enough is enough and assigns Cormack to be Elen's personal guard after Pendaran, the evil-to-the-core leader of the Guardians, summons Elen's spirit from her body and tries (unsuccessfully) to coerce her into bending to his will. Pendaran knows all about Elen's powers over nature, and he wants to use those powers to maintain and strengthen his position among the rest of the Guardians.
After Pendaran's unsuccessful spirit-world ploy with Elen, he concocts an even more diabolical plan and successfully kidnaps her and chains her in the depths of his dungeons. Cormack and Elen's brothers then set out to rescue her and punish Pendaran. The story plays out in a swirl of betrayal, magic spells, blood-based curses, beheadings, and—ultimately—the requisite defeat of the villain and HEA for the lovers. However, the conflict with the rest of the Guardians is still unresolved, and several new romances are hinted at, all of which will be attended to in future books.
DeLima weaves a slender story thread through the main plot, one that involves the fear and dislike that Dylan's non-shifting villagers (aka Hen Was) show in their interactions (actually, their avoidance of interactions) with Elen. They now know that she has immense powers, and so they are afraid of her and have stopped coming to her medical clinic. When Dylan asks Elen to represent him at a village party, Elen muses that "she felt like a fruit fly hovering over their pink punch: harmless—most of the time—but they still wanted to bat her away." Eventually, Dylan is forced to deal with this issue. (Remember, back in book one, these same villagers treated Dylan's wife, Sophie, very badly. They may be on the side of the good guys, but sometimes they are not very nice people.)
Taliesin mopes through a few scenes that are mostly filled with anguished interior monologues about the fact that every time he tries to keep bad things from happening to his friends, he causes them more trouble than if he'd just let things play out on their own. His role in this mythology is to keep the world in balance between good and evil, and even though he yearns to contribute to the "good" side whenever he has a vision of future violence, he has to keep himself from doing that. It's a hard-knock life for Taliesin.
Merin (mother of Dylan, Elen, and Luc) plays a significant role in the story and begins to make peace with her children after all these years. I'm sure that we'll be seeing more of her, perhaps as a romantic heroine at some point.
If you love to read anguished, passionate paranormal romances with a touch of action, you'll probably like this one. Because of the ongoing story arc (i.e., the escalating violence between the American shifters and the Guardians), I recommend that you read this book in the context of the first two. Click HERE to read an excerpt from the first chapters Autumn Moon. Click HERE to read the scene in Autumn Moon in which Elen and Cormack finally start getting back together.
Other Guardians currently exist outside the Council, but they all must meet certain strict criteria: They must be descendants of Originals, be able to shift into wolf form, and be aligned with all Council policies. Unfortunately, over the centuries many of the descendants have lost the ability to shift, and the Originals despise them for this weakness, calling them Evil Bringers and either enslaving or executing them at will. Over time, many non-shifters escaped to America and settled there, where they have lived peacefully for centuries.
The second and third novels contain a "Glossary of Terms and Characters." Click HERE to view an on-line version of that Glossary.
The good guys of the series are the American shifters, who are scattered across the country in clans. The series begins with the group in Maine under the leadership of Dylan Black (aka Dylan ap Merin). Dylan's brother, Luc, and his sister, Elen, are members of his clan as are a large group of non-shifters who have sought sanctuary from the cruelty of the Originals. Dylan has a core of shifters, and they serve as his security force.
Here, Dylan explains the traits of his people to his human mate: "We are not allergic to silver….Nor are we compelled by the full moon. However, some of our elders still shift on the night of the dark moon to honor the goddess Ceridwen. I would not be surprised if the werewolf legend began with an unknown witness to a ritual, thousands of years ago." (p. 64) These shifters can be killed only by decapitation or by the removal or destruction of all of their internal organs (i.e., generally by fire or explosion).
Here are the starring couples for the first three books.
NOVEL 1: Celtic Moon
As is usual in paranormal romances, the plot has two primary strands: the romance and the action. In the romance story line, Sophie and Dylan must learn to trust one another and to talk through all of the anguish of the past fifteen years. One big problem for me is that the author chose the name "Sophie" for her heroine and then made the romantic theme all about choices, obviously a direct reference to the iconic novel and film, Sophie's Choice. This is like beating the theme into the reader with a blunt instrument. After many, many situations in which Sophie requests, demands, and eventually gets to make various choices—and to make absolutely sure that we get the point—Dylan actually says to her, "It's a choice, Sophie." (p. 276) This seemingly minor detail actual became distracting to me, and it could have been avoided just by naming the woman Alyssa or Susanna...or anything else but Sophie.
Dylan's role in the romance plot is to come to grips with the fact that his own behavior was partly responsible for Sophie's escape from him. Back then, he believed that his people were treating Sophie well and refused to see that just the opposite was true—that many of them were being very cruel and insulting to her. He has to learn (from Joshua) how to maneuver Sophie back into trusting him and believing in him. (Naturally, he also has to learn to give her lots of choices.)
The romance plot also includes Joshua's introduction to his father and his successful integration into the shifter culture. Sophie is a fierce protector of her son, and she will do anything—even make nice with Dylan—to keep Joshua safe and happy. Joshua is a great character—a smart, funny kid who knows how to take care of himself and his mom.
The action plot revolves around Dylan's attempt to gather together the other leaders of the American shifter clans and prepare for possible attack by the Guardians. The real action doesn't occur until the very end of the book, but when it does, it is quite violent because beheading and organ destruction are the only ways to kill these shifters.
Obviously, the series story arc will continue to involve the rivalry between the American clans and the Originals. Two mysterious characters play a part in this friction, but in this book we get only a few hints as to their roles. Taliesin (aka Matthew Ayres, aka Sin) poses as a friendly neighbor as he protects Cait from danger, but historically, Taliesin's friendship usually results in death or tragedy for the one he protects, and that plays out in this book. Another sketched-in character is Merin, mother of Dylan, Luc, and Elen. They remember her as a cruel and heartless monster from whom they had to escape, but apparently she is working behind the scenes on some mysterious task.
This is a fresh take on shifter romance, particularly with the inclusion of the Celtic mythology and the way the wolves draw their power from nature. What's not new is the one-note malevolence of the ancients, who seem always to be the villains in every paranormal series. I just finished reading the latest book in Chloe Neill's CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES SERIES, and it's the same situation there. The old guard is corrupt and power mad and they want to control the youngsters. (Even if Dylan and his siblings are a thousand years old, they're considered young to the Originals.) All in all, though I enjoyed this first book and am looking forward to the next one. Click HERE to read the first chapter of Celtic Moon.
The novel begins in the aftermath of the battle that ended book 1, which resulted in the death of Math, Rosa Alban's villainous Guardian husband. Just days later, Rosa is planning her escape from Castell Avon, the New Hampshire island fortress where she and Math guarded four Walkers, former messengers of Ceridwen who exist in a coma-like state and who have lost their power to walk between worlds. The Walkers are entombed in stone chambers where they pull energy from the earth to keep themselves barely alive. This power drain has turned Castell Avon into a dead zone, with no living plants or animals—just mud and dust and dead trees.
Luc is deeply conflicted about his lingering feelings for his long-dead human wife, Koko, and his newly aroused feelings about Rosa, resulting in a number of anguished interior monologues. The primary barrier in the Luc-Rosa relationship is Luc's refusal to cut his emotional ties to Koko, manifested by Luc's refusal to allow his huge chest tattoo of an owl (Koko's totem animal) to fade away and his refusal to run as a wolf with Rosa (because he promised Koko he would always run alone). An interesting aspect of the Luc and Koko story is the fact that Koko left an illustrated diary in which she proclaimed her love for Luc, grieved about their lack of children, and worried that he would forget her after her inevitable death. DeLima scatters samples of Koko's illustrated diary entries throughout the book. The diary is a welcome innovation on DeLima's part. We know that the primary romantic relationship in a romance novel is always impeded by some type of problem, but this is the first time I've seen a dead-wife-diary approach—an innovation that is fresh and interesting. Click HERE to read an article in USA Today in which DeLima discusses the role of Koko as an antagonist in Summer Moon. Click HERE to read on-line excerpts from Koko's diary with full-color illustrations.
The action part of the plot involves the Guardians, who want to take back control of Rosa, Castell Avon, and the Walkers. Additionally, they still want Elen (Luc and Dylan's sister) for her ability to manipulate nature. As the story plays out, someone new (named Audrey) turns up at Castell Avon—yet another person the Guardians want to get their hands on. The book ends with the requisite showdown between the Guardians and Luc and Rosa's allies.
Also playing a larger role is Merin, the mother of Dylan, Luc, and Elen. Although her children believe her to be as hard-hearted and cruel as the rest of the Guardians, there have been hints that Merin is working behind the scenes on some kind of scheme against the Guardians. Her plans begin to play out in this book.