A tempestuous fantasy debut, the first in a trilogy, adapts the legend of Tristan and Isolde.
“I hate and I love.” Lady Branwen—lady-in-waiting, elder cousin, and best friend to Princess Eseult—is ruled by love for the land of Iveriu and its royal family and loathing toward Kernyv, whose pirates murdered her parents. So why does the Otherworld nudge her to save a shipwrecked Kernyvman whose true identity endangers both kingdoms? Debut author Pérez captures an alternative Ireland and Cornwall rich in authentic medieval details and steeped in Celtic myth. From the Queen who mystically embodies the Land to the princess whose petulant selfishness courts disaster, the female characters are vivid, powerful, and passionate. Branwen especially burns with loyal devotion for her unworthy cousin, near-instantaneous lust for her erstwhile foe, and rage, bitterness, grief, jealousy, and ecstasy as she gradually surrenders to the Otherworld’s purposes. However, Tristan, whose “bronze” complexion (a legacy of African forebears) contrasts markedly with the pale skin of the others, serves mostly as a blandly idealized love interest; the other male characters are all villainous or negligible. The prose wavers between poetic and purple, clogged with metaphor and symbolism. The unrelenting barrage of violence, tenderness, horror, and wonder becomes so exhausting that the heartbreak of the climactic cliffhanger is almost a relief.
A thrilling roller coaster for readers craving “the feels”; a melodramatic slog for the rest. (Fantasy. 12-18)