Friday, June 10, 2011

REVIEW: Aisling Book One: Guardian by Carole Cummings

Although the story is firmly grounded in the fantasy genre, complete with a little bit of magic and some glimpses of a deeper mythology, it almost reads like an old-school story of frontier justice, given new life through the elements (if not the setting) of a more contemporary police procedural.  It’s a mingling of genres that could be problematic, but which actually works very well. The first time we move from a contemporary good cop/bad cop interrogation, to an old fashioned western bar brawl, to a contest of magical wills and religious prophecies, it’s jarring, but in a way that’s fresh and unique.

One of the things I loved about the book was the sense of mystery that Carole allows to pervade the story, feeding us tidbits of information through the characters, rather than overwhelming us with long-winded asides. As each new element of the fantasy genre falls into place, and is better explored, the story becomes more and more interesting.

The characters here are wonderful as well, although some readers may be put off by the lack of a traditional hero/villain dynamic. For me, that just added to the mystery. Wil and Dallin are great characters who immediately engage our emotions, but it’s not entirely clear on what side of the dynamic they’re fall. Depending on how the story develops, they’re have the depth and complexity to potentially be either hero or villain.

Very much a tortured soul, Wil is a character who not only elicits sympathy, but who also aggravates us almost as much as he does Dallin. As for Dallin, he’s partially the typical warrior-enforcer, but he’s also an outsider – for multiple reasons. The two play off each other very well, creating a tense relationship rides a fine edge, but smartly avoids devolving into the cliché of a mismatched ‘buddy’ partnership. As readers, we naturally long to see their adversarial nature turn to friendship, but I appreciated the fact that Carole avoided the standard plot device of a crisis even to suddenly resolve the situation.

It’s definitely clear that both men are gay, further fuelling our desire to see them come together, but it’s handled very tactfully. Being gay is a part of their characters, but not a driving element of the plot, and not a vehicle for titillation. Personally, I would love to see something more intimate develop between them in further instalments, but the story definitely doesn’t rely on that as a tease or a hook.

A wholly fulfilling story, with a lot of potential, I definitely can’t wait to see where Carole takes us next.


GIVEAWAY: To help celebrate the upcoming release of Dream (book 2 in the trilogy), Carole has kindly offered to provide a copy of Aisling Book One: Guardian to one lucky reader!  Simply leave your name and email address in the comments section below to be entered to win! We'll be drawing the winner Monday, June 13th.

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