Bridger's Last Stand

Every Little Thing

Madigan's Wife

Secret Agent Sheik

The Sun Witch
by Linda Winstead Jones
(Berkley, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-425-29940-1
Sophie Fyne is a witch. She lives with her two older sisters, Isadora and Juliet, in the kingdom of Columbyana; she believes she is not as skilled in witchcraft as they. A wizard put a curse on the Fyne women three hundred years ago. “No witch cursed with the blood of the Fyne House shall know a true and lasting love.” Isadora, the eldest, was married, but her husband died an untimely death, and she still grieves deeply. Sophie knows that marriage is not for her, but she wants daughters so she intends to take a succession of lovers.

Kane is a rebel soldier, one among the force fighting to overthrow the Emperor Sebestyen. His family has been killed, his sister Liane taken by the Emperor’s henchmen. He does not know his sister’s fate; only his brother Duran still lives. Superior imperial forces ambush a small group of rebels. Kane sees Duran and the others killed; fighting for his life, he tumbles off the ledge of a steep ravine.

Seriously wounded, he finds his way to a forest pool. Bathing there is a lovely young woman, Sophie. She has dreamed of him three times so knows they’re fated to be lovers. Before he goes on his way, she casts a spell over him.

Liane has survived as Sebestyen’s favorite concubine. He has debased her through the years. He lives in isolation; palace intrigue and corruption swirl around him. Liane is one of the few he has contact with; she wields her position of power but intends one day to kill him.

A year later Kane returns to find the woman he knows only as “Angel.” Due to the spell, he has forgotten much about his painful past and has had a run of extraordinary luck. He locates the pool, and there he spies Sophie with a baby, Ariana, his daughter. Kane wants to marry her, but she discourages him telling him she is a witch, that she does not intend to marry one man.

Kane goes to a nearby town where the villagers speak ill of Sophie, confirming that she and her sisters are witches. Sophie has the power of fertility. When the spell is removed, Kane remembers everything.

Galvyn Farrell is a successful merchant in town. He is trying to court Sophie, but she is uninterested. When he realizes that Sophie and Kane are lovers, he is enraged. He knows that Sophie has powerful connections she is unaware of. He abducts Ariana and heads to the capital city. Determined to recover their daughter, Sophie and Kane follow.

This thin synopsis covers the first half of The Sun Witch. A reviewer usually tries to limit a plot synopsis to the first quarter or third of a book, but that wouldn’t do this book justice because half the book is only one-quarter of the plot. The story doesn’t really hit its stride until Sophie and Kane start pursuit. The first half of the book doesn’t drag, but the pace is leisurely and doesn’t teem with action.

Sophie and Kane are sweet, sincere lovers, and the conflict keeping them apart – Sophie fears that anyone she loves will die – doesn’t come across as overly contrived. But the more intriguing romance – if that’s the right word for it – is the tempestuous relationship between Liane and Sebestyen. As the story progresses, Sophie and Kane start to take a diminished role, and Liane and Sebestyen become more prominent. In the battle between good and evil, it’s something of a drawback if evil is the more interesting.

Readers should be aware that there are some very dark, disturbing elements in this plot. The R-rating encompasses more than just the graphic sex scenes.

The Sun Witch is the first in a Sisters of the Sun trilogy. Sophie has an encounter in this book that gives a hint into the next installment. Furthermore, there are some unresolved threads at the end.

The uneven pacing and the weaker primary romance thread keep The Sun Witch from receiving a recommendation, but fans of fantasy romance may find this a good choice.

--Lesley Dunlap

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