by Karen Nilsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Tapestry Lion / 978-1-456-32822-1
When Karen Nilsen first sent me her novel "The Witch Awakening" for me to read and review, I was delighted to find an "alternate universe" historical fiction / courtly romance novel where the action was interesting, the romance was realistic, and the magic was fascinating without being overpowered. I was immediately pulled into the saga of the Landers family, and was delighted to receive "Tapestry Lion", to find it a strong and worth sequel to its predecessor.
When we last left our fiery lovers, Safire and Merius, they were headed for a provincial assignment, hoping to hide the fact of Safire's pregnancy from prying eyes back home. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems, however, and Safire's witch talents are soon ferreted out by a covetous local queen, who collects witches in her court against their will in order to use their powers in her political intrigues.
One of the things I liked most about "The Witch Awakening" was Nilsen's uncanny ability as a writer to thoroughly flesh out all her characters as realistic people, and "Tapestry Lion" continues that tradition admirably, although sometimes into unpredictable waters. Safire and Merius were established in the first novel as fiery-tempered and stubborn - traits that served them well when their romance was being opposed by outside forces, but now comes the far harder task of making their hard-won marriage actually work. For all their passion, it's sometimes intensely clear that the two are incredibly young and inexperienced with making relationships work through difficult times. It's heartening to see an author acknowledge that "fairy tale" romances take a lot of work to sustain, and if Safire and Merius are sometimes frustrating as main characters, it's all for the best because they allow the always-scheming and eminently-practical Mordric and Eden to quietly steal the show behind the scenes.
Like the first novel, the writing is wonderful here, and it's almost impossible to not get deeply sucked into the story from the get-go. I generally don't like overly complex plots, but this is the second book where Nilsen has managed to weave a wonderfully tangled web of a story, and yet hold my interest until the final page. It's difficult to maintain suspense as an author, since the remaining pages at any given point serve as a reminder that it can't be time for a resolution yet, but somehow Nilsen's winding adventures manage to keep up a near-constant tension because it's never certain just what might happen next.
"Tapestry Lion" ends with the promise of a sequel, and I definitely look forward to the next installment of the Landers family. I liked seeing Merius and Safire grow as characters in "Tapestry Lion", although I do hope that a touch of Mordric's practicality will sink into the couple before the next novel (Safire in particular is going to need to learn the difference between "lovely free spirit" and "recklessly suicidal" sooner rather than later), and I *definitely* can't wait to read more of Mordric and Eden.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through the author.
~ Ana Mardoll
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