1801, wild magic has returning, freeing the Rowankind, who
are distinguished from “normal” people by their
faint woodgrain patterns in their skin, from bondage and returning
their magic. This has shaken society enough for good conflict,
but the problem goes still deeper. The wild magic is bringing
terrifying creatures of legend into conflict with humans,
to the determent of both. And dark forces are at work to end
the conflict, but the endings planned mean suffering and death.
A summoner witch and a wolf shapeshifter would like nothing
better than to hide out in a quiet pocket of calm, but they
quickly lose that option. Corwen, the silver wolf, must return
to his family, the last place he wants to go. This book combines
two things I tend to shy away from: historical fiction and
romance, since even with a dash of fantasy, I often find them
too predictable and prone to becoming enmeshed in slow moving
detail. This book is nothing like that. The story is strong
and the characters are wonderfully realistic. Both Corwen
and Ross are multifaceted people with strong personalities
who are well able to exist separately, but prefer to be together.
They complement each other well. And the fantasy elements
never feel tacked on as the wild magic slips smoothly into
this fascinating world. I love how the Rowankind are used
to look closely at the English class system of the time, and
it's hard not to love a good nefarious secret society. Every
character is given real thought and development, making it
easy to slip into this world and care for its inhabitants.
And as a huge fan of strong female characters, I couldn't
help but admire Ross. Though I didn't read the first book
in this series, after this one, it's likely I'll read the
next -- it won me over.