Kelley Winslow is living her dream. Seventeen years old, she has moved to New York City and started work with a theatre company… Kelley’s about to step into the role of Titania the Fairy Queen in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Faeries are far more real than Kelley thinks, though, and a chance encounter in Central Park with a handsome young man will plunge her into an adventure she could never have imagined… Wondrous Strange, Darklight and Tempestuous blend gripping plots with fully-believable characters, fascinating ideas and just the right amount of romance to create a story that is vivid, thrilling and engaging.
NOTE: I’ve already written a review of sorts of the first two books in a post on Shakespeare inspired YA fantasy, so you can check that out if you’d like to know a bit about what’s gone on previous to this one. The family entanglements and plot threads are legion; even I had a bit of a time remembering what was happening and I just read Darklight last fall.
Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So I just really loved this book. Is that good enough? Can I sign off now? [Pretends she doesn’t hear the chorus of “yeses” and continues regardless.]
It’s been a long, strange road with this series for me—well, that’s a bit melodramatic. It hasn’t been that long. It has been “wondrous strange” though. The first time I heard about Wondrous Strange was when a friend in highschool asked me if I’d read it. When I finally figured out what the title was, it stuck with me. Cut to three (four?) years later when I saw it and the sequel, Darklight, at a thrift store. I remembered the recommendation, and, on the strength of my own interest, and perhaps somewhat less on the strength of my faith in my friend’s taste (not that I had no faith in it, I just had hardly any experience with it, and we had been out of touch for years by then) I picked them both up. It was a good thing I did—I really liked the urban fantasy elements tied in with Shakespearean ones. Only thing I didn’t like was that Darklight ends with a cliffhanger of sorts and I couldn’t find the third book. (Hello, 17-year-old me, have you never heard of an inter-library loan?) Anyway, long story short, I have now read the finale, Tempestuous, and I kind of loved it.
In Tempestuous, I appreciated how both Kelley and Sonny are continually learning more about themselves and each other, making mistakes along the way. When Kelley makes an executive decision about Sonny’s safety and carries it out without his consent, she gets called on it even before it proves to be ineffective. Part of the reason why Sonny gets stuck having to relearn things about himself is because of Kelley’s meddling—which predictably does not bode well for their relationship. But neither does it become the focal point of the entire book’s drama. This is not primarily an angsty romance novel—it’s primarily a fantasy-adventure novel with a romantic sideplot that hits a few bumps. Bumps that are directly tied into the main plot, by the way. And that’s the way to do it, in my opinion.
The subtle emergence of Fenn as a potential third wheel in the Kelley-Sonny mutual appreciation club is another element that was done well, continuing from the second book. Though never reciprocated by Kelley, Fenn’s interest sparks tension in the relationship dynamics as he continues to be a friend to both Kelley and Sonny. He and Sonny have some of the best reluctant-allies-oops-we’re-friends-now banter. (Although Sonny’s jealousy of Fenn is a bit over the top, given that, like I said, Kelley never reciprocates or even gives an indication that she might reciprocate Fenn’s feelings.) Where Fenn’s interests diverge from those of Kelley is where he turns unpredictable and dangerous. I personally like Fenn as a character, but one of the reasons I like him is that he isn’t colored as better than he is by some kind of emotional manipulation on the part of the author—he can do good and bad, like anyone else.
While we’re on Fenn, let’s talk about the other Janus guards, shall we? The Janus is the guards of the gates to the other world, dealing with threats and unsavory creatures coming through either way. Mainly, they protect the human world from faerie threats. And they’re going rogue. I really liked how, even though they tend to get little development besides the main few (Sonny and Fenn are Janus), there is enough distinction between them that they get some logical progression and fitting fates—Godwyn getting song sucked by a siren was as satisfying a moment as it was horrifying. How it tears a person apart to have to fight one-time allies and friends is also treated with the gravitas it deserves, though it isn’t dwelt on excessively. And Fenn’s fate… while I didn’t like it, I respect it. It was foreshadowed somewhat so it didn’t feel out of nowhere, it was just the circumstances were a bit cheap in my opinion. (On reflection, the tendency to make all the endings happy-happy is something I see some issues with—exes and affairs don’t always end up amicable.)
I like the elements of mystery to the antagonist, which, while never entirely unexpected, is revealed in a way that is different, and more complex than you might expect. Also, the revelation of what is slowly poisoning the winter king Auberon was a shocker—did I mention messy family dynamics? Basically, Kelley and Sonny are both required to step up and take responsibility for their actions, and the powers that may have unwittingly caused harm to others. The reasoning for people’s actions in general was fairly believable and understandable—however, that never excused the bad, even if they were unforeseen, repercussions of those actions.
On a less relevant note, I like the continued integration of other (non-British Isles) legendary/folkloric traditions, with the appearance of a Valkyrie cab driver in Central Park and a minor Greek river god just chillin’ at the New York harbour. It was a good reminder that these tales are all related, and there’s more than one side to a myth.
All in all, this is a fun, sparkly, winged beast of a tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously but still has some heavy elements. It concludes the series in a way that is both satisfying and unfailingly entertaining.
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