Powerful Magic

Soul Magic by Karen Whiddon
(LoveSpell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52594-1
Alanna of Rune, a Fae (fairy) princess, knows that the magic of her people is fading. Once, Alanna was betrothed to powerful Darrick Tadgh of Thorncliff Keep, and their love promised a bright future, both for Alanna and for the future of Rune. Then Alanna was attacked and raped, and she broke their engagement rather than face the shame of what had happened. She also never told Darrick about the attack, letting him believe that she deserted him in an act of faithlessness after one night of passion together.

If all this sounds too, too familiar, you’re right –and it’s an admittedly flimsy basis for a separation. Now Alanna needs Darrick’s help. The child Alanna bore, a small son named Caradoc whom she loves dearly, has been kidnapped and Alanna needs Darrick’s help to get him back. First, she must convince him to help her, since he now distrusts her. So she must leave Rune and travel to the world of men, back to Darrick’s home at Thorncliff Keep.

When Alanna arrives at Thorncliff, it is under siege from Morfran Mortimer, Darrick’s uncle – and enemy. He’s also the man who attacked Alanna five years ago. Now Morfran has enlisted a renegade wizard to kidnap her son, whose fledgling magic is powerful. Morfran holds his own sister, who is Darrick’s mother, hostage in the same keep, and his men are about to overrun Thorncliff. Alanna, using nearly the last of her magic, turns the tide of the battle. Darrick is furious at her interference at first, then reluctantly agrees to help Alanna, mostly to get his own mother back. His friend Geoffrey and several of his men accompany the party as they set out. Geoffrey deeply distrusts Alanna, and he’s not much fonder of her cousin, Sarina, another fae who accompanies them. Geoffrey and Sarina provide a secondary romance.

As the title implies, there is plenty of magic in the story, even a dragon. The action turns to the road, where Alanna and Darrick will spar and bicker before rekindling their romance. Along the way, they have plenty of obstacles to deal with.

It’s all done well enough, but it’s also familiar ground. The initial premise – that Alanna can never, never tell Darrick of her shame at being brutally attacked – just didn’t work. It makes a mockery of her belief that they were soul mates. Soul mates, yet she can’t trust him with something traumatic that was no fault of her own? Then, of course, once she and Darrick are back in close proximity, it’s a love that never died, etc. Yeah, unless the child had never been kidnapped, in which case Alanna would never have contacted him again. Some soul mates, Alanna.

For all that, the magic was entertaining enough, and the plot takes place mainly on the road, which helps the pacing. Small lapses into purple prose are thankfully brief and don’t detract from the story. Soul Magic isn’t a bad read, it just breaks no new ground. If you enjoy romance with plenty of magical elements, it’s an entertaining read for a lazy afternoon.

--Cathy Sova

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