In the second volume of Karsner’s (Highland Healer, 2015) romantic fantasy series, a vendetta between powerful beings threatens the MacKinnon clan’s hard-won peace.
It’s the mid-18th century, just after the Battle of Culloden and several months after she thwarted the foul desires of Cmdr. Campbell and Lord Warwick, and Caitlin the Healer is beginning her new life with the MacKinnons. Originally hailing from the Isle of Skye, she joins the four brothers (Alex, Jack, Hector, and Ian) in their lodge on the Scottish Highlands. There, she wants to marry Alex and expand her knowledge as a Healer. Yet some people, like Jack, call her a witch because of her elemental abilities, bequeathed to her as one of the Creator’s Called Ones. Although she has hopes for her future, Caitlin, formerly a loner, must now deal with being surrounded by people, including Lady Millie Sinclair Warwick, whose baby she helped deliver. The Healer is also unaware that the jealous Drosera—who failed to woo Alex in the past—has insinuated herself into the MacKinnons’ lives, just in time for the wedding. Caitlin copes by visiting the nearby circle of Druidic stones, within which she can feel a presence calling to her. For the second installment of her series, Karsner creates an elegiac battlement on the first novel’s foundation. The narrative’s strongest theme is family; for example, as Alex kneels at his Mam’s grave, he thinks, “Everywhere we look we still see yer touch, and yer name always brings a smile to our faces.” It uses its fantasy elements sparingly, though it also depicts them beautifully, as when the wizard, Uncle Wabi, uses “time weaving,” moving “at a speed that had stars melting...and the colors of Aurora Borealis racing across the sky.” Readers may find a climax in the story’s midsection to be jarring; it’s a moment that could have ended the story, but Karsner instead continues weaving her plot. As a result, it gives the later events an episodic feel, rather than that of a single, grand arc. Nevertheless, a savage finale tests the clan and should rivet readers.
A sprawling cast and deep family history invigorate this sequel.