Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
As Fall of the Fair Isle is actually a three book omnibus, I decided I'd break the review down into 3 separate parts, 1 part per book...
Imoshen, namesake of the first Empress, is the last pure-blooded T’En woman, left behind when her kinfolk went to die in defence of their homeland. The savage Ghebites, barbarians from the warm north, have conquered Fair Isle, and their general, Tulkhan, claims her as his right of conquest.
Proud and fierce, trained in arts of war and possessed of extraordinary healing gifts, Imoshen must choose to submit to the barbarian soldier and save her people’s heritage… or to die in a futile gesture of defiance.
The last T’En Princess would bow to no one.
In light of my ever fading sanity, and my need to preserve what’s left of it, I’ve decided to tackle this behemoth in three parts divided over the three books within The Fall of Fair Isle.
The first book, Broken Vows, is quite the introduction! Daniells has successfully written what I like to think of as knife’s edge fantasy, everything teeters so precariously that it only takes a soft breeze for everything to topple into the mire. I think I may have had a glean of sweat on my brow through some parts, simply because destruction is always so close to the surface.
Imoshen is one strong young woman. Every sacrifice she can make to keep her life and those of her people safe, she takes on with a force of will that would make most cower at even the thought. Intelligent, cunning and self reliant, yet tender, ingenuous and fearful. Her powers still unknown to her, now quickly burgeoning, are a source of constant worry, that not only affect her sense of self, but sow seeds of fear and disgust in the invading forces.
Tulkhan, the general of the invading force, is also all of those things, but his human power comes from the determination to conquer, invade and maintain a new Kingdom for his people. His worry, is Imoshen.
Imoshen and Tulkhan’s relationship is so volatile; slamming from passion to hate, trust to doubt, from one moment to the next. It’s actually quite frightening in places. There is a bubbling rage in Tulkhan that clashes constantly with Imoshen’s strength and defiance that causes rash action and violence. It’s not really pretty, though on the occasions they do meet in the middle, it’s strangely tender. It’s terribly abusive, yet it’s incredibly interesting to watch play out. I feel somewhat gritty about that fact! This is definitely not for people with trigger issues, or anybody under legal drinking age!
The pacing was nicely done, the wordery strong yet supple. There are a few jarring moments in the flow as we flick from Imoshen’s to Tulkhan’s point of view, as it sometimes occurs without warning and in strange points in the narrative. It can take a few seconds to realise who’s eyes we’re looking through. But generally, the characters are well defined and developed, though there isn’t much to see beyond the two main POV. I would have liked to see some more development in the characters that bolster those two (Wharrd and Kalleen) just to broaden the scope a bit more.
The real theme of Broken Vows is passion. Whether it’s between the two main characters or the character’s drive for their ultimate goals, it’s all done with such vehemence, I constantly worried they might burst a fuffle valve and bleed out from their force of will.
Would I like to be friends with them? Probably not. Did I love reading about them? Yes.
It is a fierce read, definitely not for those looking for farm boy with latent powers fantasy, or happy go lucky romance. Definitely for those that are looking for something that will keep you on the edge of your seat and that will accept this war is blood red ardentness.
Imoshen, one of the last of the T’En—legendary for their magical powers and their ethereal grace—carries the Ghebite General Tulkhan’s child, but she must still battle to defend both her position in his new kingdom and her people’s lives and futures. Tulkhan himself, bewitched both by her fierceness and her country’s ancient heritage, fears and resents her even as he grows to love her.
And something else threatens Imoshen’s safety in this new world. For there is one other living T’En – Reothe, a prince of her people, and once her betrothed – who means to reclaim his country and his throne once more; and Imoshen besides…
Dark Dreams is a great progression from Broken Vow, and I can see now why these books have been collected into one volume. It was a good move in terms of creating flowing narrative! It starts to show the Fair Isle in a more complete picture, with the different factions and culture becoming much richer. The things that were sorely missing from the first book are now becoming a force in Imoshen and Tulkhan’s lives. It has made the whole plot feel three dimensional and gives an extra point of conflict that bolsters the tension. And the tension is now off the richter!
With the constant pressures of trying to rule two nations with conflicting cultures, the volatility of Imoshen and Tulkhan’s relationship continues to soar. Add in the bonus of Imoshen’s former betrothed Reothe not understanding the word no, every trust leaves an extra two doubts in it’s wake. The time bomb ticks and ticks and.. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens!
I can genuinely see a clearer picture of why both main characters act as they do, whereas before it felt just felt like they were skating the surface without too much depth. It’s gone from individual differences to great hulking chasms between races. Seeing the extent to which the T’En have been hounded for centuries and why, as well as how thoroughly the two cultures (Fair Isles and Ghebite) clash, brings a whole lot of hazy misgivings into clear focus.
Reothe, who simply seemed be a thorn in the side third party, now has the groundwork for motivation, and his obsession for Imoshen makes much more sense. I still find him intolerable, but I understand his reasoning now he has been given some flesh, and in turn why Imoshen can’t quite let him go. His actions don’t seem quite so malevolent, even if they are by the end, unforgivable.
There still seems to be a problem with point of view changes. There is one particular section that had me thoroughly confused as it threw back and forth almost every paragraph. I didn’t even have a real sense of what they were doing, let alone who was doing it. I hope some good formatting decisions makes this a bit more intelligible. I think the arc is making already difficult scenes worse, so hopefully things will sure up a bit. Getting a handle on these sections would have made the experience 5 star.
Generally speaking, this is a much more complete and convincing volume, and I definitely can’t wait to see how this plays out in the last book of the omnibus! Daniells surely is a master of creating a fractious atmosphere!
Fair Isle has found a new ruler, and a new way of life. Tulkhan, the Ghebite General, has long severed ties with his brother the King, and is forging a new country, bringing the best of his people—their ferocity, courage and passion—and the people he has conquered—their culture, sophistication and egalitarianism—together in a nation that will change the world.
His bond-partner—never a Ghebite “wife”—Imoshen, last of the pure-blood T’En women, with her wine-dark eyes and silver hair, rules by his side. What began as a political alliance has blossomed into love, for one another and their newborn son.
But even as differences still cause trouble between the Ghebites and the people of Fair Isle, Imoshen’s past tears her in half. For Reothe, once her betrothed, once so great a threat to them and now crippled by her powers, still seeks to draw her away. And the lure of the mind-touch—the magical intimacy that she and Tulkhan can never share—is one she cannot ignore…
I have extremely mixed feelings about Desperate Alliances. It basically came down to my enjoyment of the book as a whole vs. my dislike of some of the plot points throughout the book. And the ending, but I’ll get on to that in due course. It was satisfying to see that the writing was actually more cohesive in this third of the omnibus than in the previous books. I never had that sense of being jolted out of the narrative and backtracking to try and figure out who was talking, or what they were saying. I didn’t have to keep wondering if I had just misunderstood something, so it flowed in a rolling, natural way that was thoroughly pleasing.
The dialogue was still smart and snappy, the action and adventure beautifully presented and the pacing (up until the end) nicely mastered, as it has been throughout the series.
All that being said, to be absolutely honest, this books storyline grated on my nerves. Due probably, to a combination of things, but they all centred around Reothe and Imoshen’s relationship. There are some things you can only push so far before it becomes offensive, and by the end of Desperate Alliances, I was teetering on the edge of being insulted.
I had been quite patient, I’d been understanding. However, that just puts me in a foul kind of mood. Maybe I’m not savvy enough with the machinations of love or something, but my goat was definitely got by the end, and honestly, it creeped me the hell out.
I actually got excited at the prospect that they might die! I feel hinky about that, because I had grown to respect Imoshen in the previous two books, but that’s how much I had come to dislike the situation. I certainly wasn’t understanding, nor patient at that point.
The ending was pretty trite in comparison to the rest of the book. There was 11 minutes of the book to go (according to the trusty kindle timer), still in the middle of the major end game battle, and I was thinking that there must actually be a fourth book not included in the omnibus! Surely all of this (about 850 pages) can’t be wrapped up in 11 minutes!
But it was. And I ground my teeth at it. After everything we went through.. All the angst and the drama! It seemed like the fun police stormed the party and told everybody to wrap up and go home. I was ultimately dissatisfied. I probably would’ve preferred “they all fell in the battle, and Fair Isles fell with them. Fin.”.
Not all the mysteries were revealed though, so maybe there might be another trilogy in the works? (Maybe from the children’s POV?) I hope one of them (hopefully the daughter, who I am taking a stab, would end up as Empress) turns out evil, because that would make my day!
Generally speaking, it’s a better book; better structured, more succinctly written, the plot more clear and concise. However, I didn’t find myself enjoying it as much because the storyline felt demoralising on a much grander scale. Even the ending, which seemed victorious for Imoshen, was still foreboding in all the nasty ways I’d come to dislike during Dark Alliances.
This sort of conflict between my love of the book and my dislike of certain elements (always involving ‘relationships’) of it has come up a few times recently. I won’t be basing my rating on my subjective response, especially since this is an adult book and most adults usually have a discerning mind. But it should probably be noted by those who have issues with sexual manipulation triggers would be better to steer clear.