The Fire Lord’s Lover
Imagine if England had been invaded, not by the Spanish in 1588, but by otherworldly Elves with magical powers? Kathryne Kennedy’s book is alternative historical fiction with a heavy helping of the fantastic. England has been conquered and divided among seven immortal Elven lords, each with a magical emphasis. The Elven ruler of the London region, is Mor’ded. His magic is focused upon fire, and it manifests itself in curls and licks of flame. They hold the country in thrall, and threaten the people’s children’s welfare if they disobey.
Like the lusty gods of the Roman era, these Elven lords are full of vices and mischief fueled by boredom. They breed many children, some of whom inherit some measure of their father’s powers. It is one of these half breed children that this story centers around. Dominic is Mor’ded’s son, and general of his army. Soon after Dominic wins back the king of England from one of the other Elven lords in battle, he is commanded to marry Cassandra, a daughter of the British aristocracy. Unknown to him though, she is also a member of the Rebellion, dedicated to freeing the people from Elven dominion. Will she be able to sway her new husband to her cause? Or will his Elven blood blind him to the riches found in marriage?
Kennedy does a good job of world-building. She does not fall back upon the rich tradition of faeries, Tuatha de Danu, the Hunt, or Queen Titania in order to describe the Elves. Instead, she creates a history and homeland rich with unexplored possibilities. Her descriptions of magic were imaginative and consistent. I appreciated that she created physical rules (explicit even though they were not stated) governing magic. This consistency lent realism to fantastic situations.
The characters were varied and complex. Dominic’s emotional distance was well explained to readers; he became a tragic figure rather than a heartless bastard. Cassandra was perhaps less relateable. Her dedication to the Rebellion was confusing as she was privileged, and isolated from a young age from the harsh consequences of Elven anger. She also acted TSTL at times, and had a touch of the Disney princess about her as everyone fell in love with her. The dragon, Ardor, was unexpected but not unlikely. I liked how he was a foil to Mor’ded; he was more of a father figure to Dominic than Mor’ded ever was.
The pacing of the story was slow though; the Hero and Heroine don’t even meet until 35 pages into the story. So much time was spent explaining the world and characters that the plot lost momentum. The challenges the H/h face to receive the reward of their love are weaker than expected, and their solutions more elementary than the build up led us to believe. I don’t want to ruin the ending for anyone, but suffice it to say that the same solution is found in one of Aesop’s Fables.
I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories about elves or magic. It might be a good transitional book for teenagers used to the Forgotten Realms series.
Read-a-like authors that combine elves and romance include Laurell K. Hamilton, Karen Marie Moning, or Kim Harrison and Allison Weir or Phillipa Gregory if you prefer the historical fiction aspects.