Author: Blaine D. Arden
Publisher: Cayendi Press
Length: 140 Pages
Category: Fantasy, Mystery, Polyamory
At a Glance: The romantic payoff at the end of this trilogy was worth the five years it took to get it.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: “I have great responsibilities, but my path ahead is as foggy and blurred as the path behind me.”
With forester Taruif freed, Kelnaht has claimed him openly at Solstice before tribe and Ma’terra as his partner, but with their third, Ianys, bound by an old promise, their triad is still incomplete. Sneaking around puts the most strain on Ianys. He and Kelnaht must keep their relationship a secret or he will lose his daughter, Atèn.
When several children fall ill with more than a summer bug, truth seeker Kelnaht is assigned once more to investigate. What he finds is deadly and threatens the life of every underage child in the tribe, including Atèn. Then a wounded traveller is found in the forest, left to die after a vicious attack.
With Taruif and his apprentice on the hunt for a cure, Kelnaht focusses on the attacks, but the clues are few and more children are infected. Nothing seems to connect until both the traveller and Atèn dream of the same grey-haired elf. Driven by fear for his daughter, Ianys pulls away from his lovers. Kelnaht can only pray Ma’terra will guide him to a solution that brings them all together and keeps Atèn safe from harm.
Review: I’ve been following the Tales of the Forest trilogy since the first book came out back in 2011, and have waited a long time for the payoff for Kel, Taruif, and Ianys. I suppose I can sum things up for this triad, now, with third time’s the charm—Blaine D. Arden has delivered what I’ve been waiting for, for years.
Where some higher fantasy can often leave me feeling as though I need an encyclopedia of terms and characters, the world-building in this series spares readers from excess minutiae while still offering enough detail to sink us into the otherness of its elven realm. There is an order to the society which gives a certain realistic tone to the storyline, an entire population—children, parents, elders—and within the village, there is a working community, though there is never a moment that the fantasy of place is overshadowed. It’s the mystical elements that serve as the reminder that you’re grounded in an alternate world, and the village, in spite of its idyllic setting, is not without its imperfections. There are crimes which Kelnaht, as truth seeker, is involved in solving. And, of course, as you would expect with this sort of woodland fantasy, magic serves a place in both the crimes and their investigation.
The mystery in this novel serves as a catalyst for change in the romantic relationship between the threesome. There’s a fair bit of their history doled out over the course of the trilogy, so the books need to be read in order to fully appreciate the progression of their bond—first Kel and Ianys, then Kel and Taruif, and finally the burden the three of them share in a promise Ianys had made to his dying wife, and the way that vow affects and strains the love the three elves feel for each other. When children in the village begin to fall ill, Ianys’s daughter, Atèn, among them, it serves to drive an even greater wedge between Ianys and the men he’s been denied spending his life with.
One of the things I love about the society built within the series is the lack of censure in the makeup of its families and partnerships. Polyamory is a part of the structure of this world, alongside couples, though rather than it being made a point to juxtapose one family to another, it’s merely another layer of world-building and diversity within its structure.
There’s a poignant streak a mile wide that Arden has capitalized on with these characters and the heartbreaking restraint of their love for each other. However, there’s also a romantic payoff at the end of Full Circle, as the title alludes to, that the author delivers in a most satisfying way.
You can buy Full Circle here: