Saturday, February 22, 2014
The Forester by Blaine D. Arden
Author: Blaine D. Arden
Buy at Publisher: Storm Moon Press
Buy at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Nathie
Length: 18,600 words
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf,
Kelnaht, a cloud elf, is a truth seeker caught between love and faith. Worse, a murder committed ten days before Solstice reveals an illicit affair between two tree elves he desires more than he can admit: Kelnaht's former lover Ianys, who once betrayed him, and the shunned forester named Taruif, who is not allowed to talk to anyone but The Guide, their spiritual pathfinder. When Taruif turns out to be the only witness for the crime, Kelnaht has to keep Ianys from sacrificing himself and losing his daughter, while at the same time realising he'd gladly sacrifice himself to end Taruif's loneliness.
This short piece (novella?) packed quite a lot into the slender word count. We are introduced to the society of elves, who have a hierarchy and rules that cannot be bucked, and members of their society who cannot stay within the strictures.
Kelnaht is our POV character—he’s working with clandestine information and evidence detected by observation, magic, and deduction to find the killer of another elf. Suspicion falls first on Taruif, who has some scandalous tragedy in his background that caused him to be placed on the furthest fringes of this society. He’s an easy target—too easy, and Kelnaht refuses to be lured down the obvious path. The blend of magic and forensics was interesting: no wand waving and poof! the answers appear, but thought and legwork were also required to solve the murder mystery.
The elves’ society is extremely conservative and has tied itself in knots regarding the practitioners of certain specialties: the elders want to punish and ostracize, but they can’t do without the skills, and make proviso for getting the outcasts to keep serving the community. I found this very vexing, and the Guide, who knows all, sees all, talks to everyone, and says nothing about those conversations, seemed to be a good guy but definitely is helping the society have things both ways.
The coming together of Kelnaht, Ianys, and Taruif is complicated by personal history and by convention. Kelnaht has reason not to trust Ianys, and no particular reason to trust Taruif, and lusts after him more than actually knows him. It’s tough when one partner isn’t actually supposed to speak to anyone. The relationship is at its earliest stages here and will be developed further in the second volume of the series, which I plan to read soon. The three of them together are lovely, and the author isn’t reaching for too much, too soon, or too easily for them.
If I have issues with the book, one is the same problem the characters have with the way their society is structured: perhaps I am meant to chafe as they do. I’m still scratching my head over Taruif’s explanation of the crime for which he’s shunned. Where was the truth seeker then? This felt like a real gap in an otherwise well-knit plot. Kelnaht seemed a little absent in his own work—almost all the actual work got done by his apprentice.
I applaud the author for giving us a lot of worldbuilding in a tight space, and for showing us three lovers-to-be without pulling an HEA out of thin air. I’m looking forward to the next book. 3.75 marbles