The Lotus and the Gathering Storm
W. Dale Jordan
* Review copy provided by the author *
I was first introduced to Jordan’s work through his contribution to the horror anthology, Worst Laid Plans, and was very impressed. With that in mind, I was thrilled when the review copy of this novel (his debut and book one of the Eagle and Heart Trilogy) appeared in my inbox. I was a bit apprehensive, though, because it is nowhere near the same genre that “Deep in the Heart” is. Romance/fantasy has never been on my radar really, so this was an adventure for me as well, albeit a very enjoyable one.
Throughout the pages of the book, I met a multitude of characters, all of whom live in the delightfully magic-infused realms of Avalon. In this tale, Avalon (ruled by one of the main protagonists, High Prince Altair of the Throne of Nights, and accompanied by his better half and Consort, Prince Whelan of the Realm of Waters) is under a constant threat from an unknown force. Assassination attempts in the early section don’t help the cause, but the two main goodies find plenty of time to assess those situations, without sacrificing time in the bedroom.
The characters are the driving force for this book, and they are fleshed out very well. Most are elves, but centaurs, merfolk, and even a giant wolf show up from time to time. As more individuals are introduced, you begin to see how each race of elf is connected, while still maintaining a certain degree of separation. Picking a favorite type of elf is tough, because they all play a very important role; not only in the story, but in the land itself. From Plains to Fire, Night to Blood and everywhere in between, all elements of the world are represented.
Each character has his or her own form of magic that their kingdom relies on. Water Elves control every form of H20, including traveling to and floating through clouds, which I thought was a clever addition. The ebony-skinned, red-eyed Blood Elves heal, and the green-shaded Forest Elves nurture the land by connecting with seedlings in the ground to produce trees and other needed flora. While Altair’s knack for opening portals to anywhere in the world came in handy on more than one occasion, I found that Whelan’s particular talents were the most enjoyable. With a swipe of the hand, great halls turn to beautiful forests, and crystals sing when touched.
The storytelling is, for the most part, very well handled. The characters are interesting, and the world is gorgeous and whimsical in all of the right spots. I enjoyed the dialogue, as well. Each character has their own unique personality, without going too far in opposite directions, resulting in a fully believable society and kingdom. Jordan has a knack for distinct language, and when tragedy shows, you feel it. Without seeing their faces or hearing their inflections, you understand every heart flutter and stomach jump that they go through.
The relationship between Whelan and Altair is incredibly romantic, leaving no doubt that the two care for each other deeply. Their conversations do border on being a little too over-the-top lovey at times, but this is forgivable, given that they are essentially in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. What doesn’t work for me at all are the overly ambitious sex scenes. They are well written and impeccably visual, but seem of a different style, and change the vibe of the book entirely for a few moments. The overall feel of the story is that of romance and impending doom and could have fit in any fantasy list, if these scenes were not written as they are. The love-making, which only focuses on Altair and Whelan, is incredibly graphic, vulgar and seems to come from nowhere. Had that been the style Jordan was attempting throughout the entire work, great. As it is, it just simply doesn’t fit, and clashes with the rest of the story.
The only other complaint I have is the overuse of certain words. When describing another’s mate or spouse, for instance, they are most generally, “lover.” When referring to the garments that the elves wear, the term rovhai is used each time, when robe or even poncho would work just as well. This results in those terms showing up several times on a single page, interrupting what would be a very nice flow. It’s a small thing to focus on, but it’s one that stands out to me.
The overall theme of the book is solid, however, and generally keeps up the momentum for the entirety of the tale. The ending seems a bit rushed, but given that this is only book one of the series, I’m sure it will all level back out. There are real-world themes included therein, as well, but I will not dive into those for fear of spoilers.
Romance, magic, sex and tragedy fill the pages of Jordan’s first novel, and they do so well. Only a couple of instances slowed my enjoyment while reading, but that was easily forgiven as the rest is very good. The characters are fantastic, unique and relatable, and the world is diverse and beautiful. I look forward to eagerly devouring the rest of this series.