Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Strands of Sunlight by Anya Bast

TITLE: Strands of Sunlight
AUTHOR: Anya Bast
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 67k)
GENRE: Fantasy erotic romance
COST: $5.95

Indentured when she was orphaned, Rhiannon has always known she was a little bit different. Her mother was a Healer, with magic flowing through her veins. But in the peasant society Rhiannon lives in, magic is seen as dangerous, driving her to suppress her own natural abilities. Tristan, the Prince-Successor of Galland, arrives out of the blue and buys her servitude, explaining that he is taking her back with him. What he doesn’t tell her is that she is supposed to fulfill a prophecy to kill his greatest rival, but it doesn’t take long for the attraction that simmers between them to shape the future neither can escape…

Ah, Anya Bast. I suppose it’s better to admit upfront that while this is my first review of one of her books for this blog, it was not the first book of hers that I had read. Her Berkley books are autobuys for me, and have been since Witch Fire. I’ve slowly been delving into her Ellora’s Cave stories, and I know this came out last September, but my TBR list is so insane at the moment that I only just recently got a chance to read her latest work there.

The world Bast paints in this novel is not necessarily a pretty one. The Dawn of magic has given a lot of people new gifts, gifts that scare some, thrill others. People are killed for being different, including Rhiannon’s mother. Rhiannon is raised in that same peasant society, with only a crippled neighbor as sanctuary, indentured to a woman who beats her. So when a mysterious man of obvious rank arrives and buys her servitude, with only the provision that he is taking her back to his homeland, she is naturally suspicious. It’s not until they’re far away that Rhiannon learns he’s the Prince-Successor, and that she’s essentially being freed from service. Her reactions at first are quite believable. She’s resistant to Tristan’s attractions, even though she’s hungry for it, and she refuses to believe the best. This attitude prevails after she arrives, but all too quickly, she adjusts to a lavish lifestyle very different from the one she grew up in. I loved Rhiannon at the start, and thought her strong and determined, but her swift turnaround later in the story wasn’t nearly as believable. She also has a few moments of TSTL that strain my liking of her, but those come later in the story and to provide details would spoil too much when the book thrives on twists and turns.

There are actually two potential heroes in this, with a couple ménage scenes as well, though the overall HEA is definitely not a threesome. Tristan is the dark and brooding man of rescue, while Gareth is his blond, sunny dispositioned best friend who falls in love with Rhiannon all too easily. Rhiannon is attracted physically to both, and her seesawing between them provides a large part of the romantic tension for a while. I liked both men, but for different reasons, though neither would be my ideal romantic hero. Tristan is dark and dangerous, willing to take and seduce and hurt Rhiannon when he feels he has to. Gareth treats Rhiannon like she’s something precious, which she actually needs sometimes, but that attitude, too, becomes grating after a time. It’s never enough to make me dislike either man, though, and my interest in seeing the romance resolved remains fervent for most of the book.

The common bond that drives everything forward is the prophecy Rhiannon does not want to fulfill. She is destined to kill the man who ordered the death of her father, but since she considers herself a Healer, the entire notion of murdering someone in cold blood is antithetical to everything she believes in. She struggles for a long time against this desire, and the contrast to Tristan’s desires makes for some delicious interplay between the pair. It did feel like several points in the latter half of the book got glossed over for the sake of advancing the story, like some of Rhiannon’s changes of mind. She flipflops a little bit too often to be entirely consistent, and the shifts detract from the overall excellent flow to the book. And while the whole fated-ness of the ending is a little too pat for my liking – especially with the lack of any real explanation as to why – the story in its entirety left me satisfied. The romance is erotic and moving, the drama thrilling. There’s a reason why Anya Bast is favored by so many people. Strands of Sunlight is just further proof of it.


9/10 – Swift and engaging


8/10 – Sometimes the tortured vibe gets to be a bit much, but I still loved him


7/10 – I loved her in the beginning, but her luster dimmed as the story progressed

Entertainment value

8/10 – Solid romance with an interesting world

World building

8/10 – I was left with some questions that marred my enjoyment of the story



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