Pros: No second-book slump here!
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Inquisition is working their way westward, turning the barons who rule the land against the witches, the Fae, and even their own women. Women can no longer publish books. Women must be obedient. Women must not be allowed to enjoy sex. The Inquisition has set its sights on the western barons next–but they’ll have a harder task ahead than they realize. In the west, the Fae never abandoned their witch relatives. Aiden (the Bard) and Lyrra (the Muse) realize they’re going to have to give up the eastern Fae mistrust of the western Fae if they want to save the lives of the witches–and any woman with an ounce of independent spirit in her.
Anne Bishop’s Shadows and Light is the second book in her Tir Alainn Trilogy, after The Pillars of the World. Thankfully, there’s no second-book slump–if anything, this installment in the series is more tense, more driven, just… more. The cast of characters has increased a bit, but I rarely had trouble keeping track of them.
Shadows dives straight into the relationship between Aiden (the Fae Bard) and Lyrra (the Fae Muse). Fae don’t tie themselves down to one partner with oaths and promises, but that’s exactly what Aiden and Lyrra want to do. They just need to keep it a secret from the other Fae, because they’re having enough trouble making themselves heard. They’re traveling to and from the Fae enclaves warning them about the thing that’s been destroying both the mystical roads that lead to their realm, but also pieces of the realm itself. Unfortunately helping out would require the Fae to do things they don’t care to do, and that’s enough to turn the other Fae against Aiden and Lyrra.
We do get to see some of the main characters of Pillars–they just aren’t the central characters this time. As usual with Anne Bishop books I love the characters and the interactions between them. Relationships turn out to have unusual twists; characters have extra dimensions they don’t reveal up front; feelings between people are both strong and strained. The reader largely ends up following two groups of characters, with occasional time out to take in the point of view of the Inquisitors. In Pillars the amount of room devoted to the Inquisitors and their actions left me with a sense of dread greater than I was comfortable with, but Shadows seems to space them out better. They’re certainly still quite dark–Bishop doesn’t pull punches. I also enjoy the way the point of view shifts from person to person so we can learn more about each one. Each town or village or enclave we see has its own unique collection of characters, making each one new and different.
I kept getting a little teary-eyed at the emotional stuff, which means it was easy to get wrapped up in the characters’ emotions. That’s always a good sign. I also got invested in the life and safety of the characters, leaving me on the edge of my seat whenever things got dangerous.
If anything this book is even better than the first in the series. Time to go read the third book!