Sunday, 25 September 2016

A Triad in Three Acts: The Complete Forester Trilogy by Blaine D. Arden

309 pages

Copy received from Cayendi Press through Netgalley

Buy links:      Amazon         Amazon UK    ARe

The blurb:

"Your Path is muddy, Kelnaht, but don't think avoiding the puddles will make it easier to travel."
Kelnaht, a cloud elf, is a truth seeker caught between love and faith, when a murder reveals an illicit affair between two tree elves he desires more than he can admit. Kelnaht's former lover Ianys once betrayed him, and the shunned forester Taruif is not allowed to talk to anyone but the guide, their spiritual pathfinder.

The guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.
Then a stripling goes missing from the tribe, and heavy rainfall hides all traces of his whereabouts. With days creeping by without a lead, it's hard to keep the tribe's spirits up, more so when Kelnaht's own future depends on the elders. Taruif has been shunned for almost twenty turns, but now that a possible forester's apprentice is coming of age, the elders consider reducing his sentence. Taruif could be set free.

“I have great responsibilities, but my path ahead is as foggy and blurred as the path behind me.”
Later, when several children fall ill with more than a summer bug, truth seeker Kelnaht is assigned to investigate. What he finds is deadly and threatens the life of every underage child in the tribe, including Ianys' daughter Atèn. Then a wounded traveller is found in the forest, left to die after a vicious attack. 

"There is always a way."
Kelnaht, Taruif, and Ianys are meant to be together, but old promises and the decree of the elders prevent them from claiming each other openly at Solstice. Kelnaht can investigate murder and foul play, but he can’t see how he can keep both his lovers without breaking the rules. But if he believes in the guide's words and trusts his faith in Ma’terra, they will find a way to clear the fog and puddles from their paths.

My thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A fantasy featuring elves, bringing us three mysteries in need of solving, as well as the touching and hot story of three men finding a way to share their love and lives despite the odds being stacked against them; what’s not to love? Especially when all of that comes in the form of a well written, perfectly balanced, not overly angsty, but very gripping, sexy, and touching tale.

While the three separate stories in this trilogy all bring their own mystery for Kelnath to solve, the overriding arc is the tale of how he, Taruif, and Lanys eventually end up being able to live and love openly despite all the obstacles in their way. When the story starts Taruif has been shunned by his community and lives in public isolation, with Kelnath longing for him from afar. Lanys used to be Kelnath’s lover until trust was betrayed. Now all the three men want is to claim each other and live out their lives together, as a triad, but between Taruif’s shunning and the promise Lanys made to his now deceased wife, such a union appears impossible.

I was impressed with the world building in this book, it felt spot-on. We learn about elves—both of the flying and the non-flying variety—and the society they live in, without ever having to work our way through an information-dump. We get the facts as we need them, always in the context of the story and woven into the narrative. And the picture painted is one of a world I slowly fell in love with. Not because it appeared to be a perfect world, but because it felt like a place where people wanted to do what was best for all rather than just look after selfish interests.

The same is true for the characters; we get to know them better as the stories unfold and it is clear that while all three of them have good hearts and the best intentions, none of them are perfect. Which of course only serves to make it very easy to relate to them and to get lost in their tale. Since the story is told from Kelnath’s perspective we end up knowing him better than the other two. And while I completely get why the story was told in this way I am kinda sorry I didn’t get to spend at least some time in the head of the other two. I would have loved a better insight into Taruif’s state of mind while he was shunned, or into Lanys’s, no doubt very confused, feelings when his daughter falls ill.

I was sorry when I reached the end of the third story. Not because the story felt unfinished or because the ending didn’t satisfy, quite the opposite in fact. I’d gotten very comfortable in the company of these elves and could happily have spent more time with them. But, it seems to me there’s scope for more stories set in this universe, and I for one hope those tales will be told too. In the meantime all that remains for me to say is that if you enjoy fantasies you really ought to pick up your own copy of this book.

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