Damn you, Ian, and I was this close to letting this series go unfinished. But now you've put me in a position where I want to see how it ends!
Iason Olympus, Ian for his friends, is one of the two candidates to replace the current Oracle of Aelynn. Gifted with the ability to read stars and the will of the gods, as well as the minds of those not of his race, he sets out on a journey in our world, to find the Chalice of Plenty. His timing could be bad enough since the French Revolution is about to break out - but not all is lost, since not only does he find where the Chalice is, he also meets his amacara, the one fated to be his soulmate, as chosen by the gods. Problem is, Chantal Deveau is more than just a Crossbreed with the ability to use music to her advantage - she could also be bearing the symbol of chaos on her body, and this is the last thing Ian needs when he's trying to secure his place as leader of his people.
I always find the one I like the most from the male leads in a series. Something in me just needs it, I don't know. So Ian was the one guy who clicked. Scholar-like types are a weakness of mine. And Ian was adorable in his attitude, an arrogant know-it-all one moment, and a curious child the next. He was delightfully lovestruck when it came to Chantal, and yet kept his manly charms if the need arose to seduce her. And unlike a certain sailor brute *glares at Trystan* Ian made as much effort as he could to respect his amacara, not force or manipulate her (OK, he failed there, but he takes A for the effort!), and to try to learn her rather than just order her around. A man with brains, brawn, and charm, seriously, Ian, where have you been all my life? And did I mention he also had enough sense to understand what his people needed despite two very irritating and powerful women yapping his ears off?
Chantal was at times a bit annoying. The only thing that excused her was the fear of the times she lived in - up until she acted ignorant, really lady, the ostrich act is outdated, grow up! But when she embraced Ian and all that he was - although the poor guy had to nearly die for her to finally get it - her feisty nature became a pro against all cons. I think what kept her behind from understanding sooner was her father - sorry, dear old man, but your own prejudice was insufferable, despite you talking a good game of fair justice....
With new light being shed on Murdoch and his reason behind most of his actions, I have to admit I really want to see where this is all going. I know, I know, it's that bitch Lissandra as the female lead in the next book, but what the hell, I'm curious now and I need to know!!!! DETAILS, WOMAN, I NEED MORE DETAILS!!! AND ANSWERS!!!!
***I was given a review copy from a LibraryThing Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. The opinion stated in this review is solely mine, and no compensation was given or taken to alter it.***
The Chalice of Plenty has been stolen from the Mystic Isle and the gods are demonstrating their unhappiness with volcanic unrest and meteorological unease. (i.e. The volcano is rumbling and the weather is bad, bad, bad.) Iason (Ian) Olympus is a member of Aelynn’s ruling family and a powerful Sky Rider: he sees prophecy in the stars, telling him he must least the Mystic Isle in search of the Chalice and the woman destined to be his soul mate. Chantal is a widow who gives concrete meaning to the phrase ‘the power of music’. Her voice can calm a crowd or rouse it to violence, a useful skill in the Paris of 1791, where working class anger at the aristocracy is about to erupt into armed revolution. Can Ian and Chantal give up their individual expectations, follow their hearts and combine their fates to discover a new future together? It’s a romance story, so of course they can! But the joy is in the journey, so read on.
Mystic Rider is the second book of the Mystic Isle series by Patricia Rice. One of the aspects of this series that I appreciate is that the author doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of page space introducing characters for future stories at the expense of developing the relationship of the main characters in the current novel. For this reason, the books work OK separately, though starting the series with Mystic Guardian (book 1) will certainly give a fuller understanding of the world of Aelynn. That being said, I definitely enjoyed Mystic Rider much more than the first book, almost entirely due protagonists that were far more appealing (and less irritating) to me.
What I liked: 1. Chantal. The first description we get of Chantal is from Ian’s vision: “Cylindrical blond curls framed high cheek bones flushed with pink.” Wait, that’s Shirley Temple. No, no, … that is indeed Chantal. No worries, though, she overcomes this unfortunate comparison to the little darling of the big screen to emerge as a practical, self-aware and self-confident woman who is enormously appealing. She has the compassion of the truly empathetic person, one who observes humanity without judging and thus achieves a deeper understanding of and sympathy for those around her. It is an empathy that leads to wisdom as demonstrated in this passage: ‘“There is nothing wrong with ambition,” Chantal objected, watching Murdoch ride away. [Ian responds] “Not when it is tempered with an awareness of the public good instead of selfish greed. That is a hard lesson to learn for someone who possesses nothing.” [Chantal:] “That is a hard lesson for people who have everything.”’ I love that last comment; it demonstrates how Chantal sees the larger picture more clearly than Ian. I also love her wit as in this exchange when Ian remarks to Chantal: “He tells me that your families are very important to you, and that we should not disregard your ties to them.” And Chantal responds with: “You have to be told that? What do you do in your country – throw your relations down the mountain when you tire of them?”
2. Murdoch. I admit, the bad boy, the man with the tortured past – that is literary catnip for me. We learn a bit more about Murdoch in this book and I can’t wait until he gets his own. Banished from Aelynn for causing the death of Ian’s father, he still sees more clearly than do the islands’ inhabitants: “You have the power to command kingdoms, bring peace and prosperity to multitudes. Instead, you selfishly cower behind the walls you erect to keep the rabble out and cling to your wealth like dragons hoarding gold.” Yep, I love me some Murdoch.
3. The background story of the Chalice and Aelynn. Aelynn is a closed society that has perhaps become too rigid in its isolation. I love the way Aelynn’s story is mirroring the revolution in France, though in a much more peaceful way. Ian and the ruling class of Aelynn are analogous to the aristocrats – arrogantly sure of their own superiority (though Ian and his people are not actively evil, subjugating those of lower social standing simply to retain and increase their own wealth and power.) (See Murdoch’s quote above.) Murdoch represents the people outside of the ruling powers. The question will be whether Murdoch will learn to temper his anger so it doesn’t devolve to the excess of rage that makes the revolution and The Terror as much an atrocity as the misrule which preceded it. Good stuff!
Which leads me to what I didn’t like about the novel: 1. Aelynn and the world-building. Yep, I do know I just got done describing why I liked the world of Aelynn, but it also makes this list because the actual world-building is rather weak. We get the broad outlines of the world, but little actual knowledge of its social and political structure or the daily life of the people who live there. It’s hard to be fully invested in the fate of the island when one knows so little about it. One example: early in the book Ian talks of why the ruling family never leaves Aelynn. “If he died, it would mean more than just his death, for he carried the souls of his ancestors. Should he die in the Other World, those souls would be lost in a place that did not recognize them, rather than on the island where his blood was revered.” This seems a pretty important fact – but it never comes up again. It niggled at me through much of the book and definitely in the ending (which I won’t spoil by explaining further). I wanted more about the world view hinted at here. Does he really carry the souls of his people or is this a symbolic belief, analogous to the ancestor worship/reverence tied to physical location that has been common in many cultures around the world?
2. Ian’s use of deception. At one point fairly early on, Ian tricks Chantal into repeating vows that carry enormous significance for both of them, essentially tying her to Ian for the rest of her life. There is a reason for it, but though he feels some guilt, he never has to atone for this. He never even really has to explain himself. I wanted some serious groveling – this was a huge deal for me, punching one of my big red literary buttons. I was disappointed in Chantal over this too – she never calls him to task. It is analogous to the ‘boys will be boys’ excuse for behavior, which I have always detested and never accepted. Unfortunately there are a couple of instances of this in the book – Ian’s behavior makes her furious, with reason, and there is never a confrontation or even discussion about it. Ian gets a pass for everything he does. Chantal is clearly a saint; personally, I’d have some words to say….
3. Ian’s character growth. Throughout the book we are clearly meant to see that Ian grows from his initial absolute belief in Aelynn’s status quo to an understanding of the need for change. Unfortunately this personal journey never really felt fully actualized to me. This is minor quibble I admit, but it made it hard for me to connect with him as the hero. I kept wanting Chantal to run off with Murdoch. Hmm, Murdoch….
4. Inconsistencies in plot and character. There were several instances where inconsistencies and/or a lack of follow-through on a plot point pulled me right out of the story. See the whole discussion of Ian as the Keeper of Souls, or maybe not. Another example: when Chantal first meets Murdoch, her gift for reading character from a person’s voice tells her that Murdoch has a “strong honor and idealism”. Not a few pages later she’s thinking: “her frightened her in ways she did not understand” and speaking about her distrust of him, with very little reason behind a fear that seems contrary to her initial reading of him. It would have been more in character for her to trust him in spite of all logic and the evidence of his actions. Of course this may just reflect my own pro-Murdoch bias… Hmmm.
5. The end. All though the book there is a reason that a long term relationship between Chantal and Ian is challenging, having to do both with Chantal’s desire for her home and the life she has established and Ian’s responsibilities on the island as well as the political structure of Aelynn and the bias against those not born there (i.e. Chantal). But suddenly all the conflict just … goes away. Poof. Great political upheaval and the changing of a system that’s been in place for living memory? Accomplished in a few pages with little fuss. There isn’t even a deux ex machina to explain it. “Ian’s path had been carved from birth. Aelynn was his destiny.” Until it wasn’t. The end. I felt cheated at the easiness of it all. A whole story arc about the huge difficulties inherent in their marrying just … vanished.
For all the list of dislikes, ultimately I ended up spending a lot of time thinking about this book after I finished it. The whole analogy between Aeylin, Ian and Murdoch and the early 1790s revolution in France was fascinating and I’ll keep reading just to see where this goes. And then there’s Murdoch …
Due to his visions the Gods assign Sky Rider Ian Olympus to travel to the outer realm in order to find and return home with the sacred chalice of Aelynn. He also knows that French revolutionary musician Chantal Orateur Deveau, who possesses the chalice is his soulmate; having seen her in a vision and kept that lovely sight in his dreams.
Ian arrives in dangerous Paris where the Revolution has taken hold. He finds his woman who quickly reciprocates his attraction. However, before he can return home with the chalice and his soulmate, someone steals the cup as the streets turn deadly and bloody. Afraid for Chantal's safety Ian must choose between the quest and the woman he plans to marry although he fears his people will reject her as his "amacara"
The second Mystic Isles tales (see MYSTIC GUARDIAN) is an engaging romantic fantasy in which French Revolution plays a powerful perilous backdrop to the encounter between the lead couple. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Ian knows who Chantal is, but though she reciprocates struggles to persuade her they belong together. Readers will appreciate this entertaining quirky tale of love amidst the quest for the chalice while revolutionaries are shouting off with their heads.