Book Review: Lord of the Fading Lands

Disclaimer: I honestly would not have purchased this book had I realized its genre, paranormal romance.

You see, I was at Dragon Con one year, strolling through the aisles of the vendor area, trying to find some fresh new fantasy or steampunk books. When I found a book to purchase from a vendor who was representing many different authors, she told me there was a buy-two-get-one-free special, so I could pick out a free book. Assuming they were all fantasy like the two I had purchased, I plucked Lord of the Fading Lands somewhat at random, because I wanted to experiment with an author I’d never heard of.

Now, I am pretty particular on what genres and sub-genres I prefer to read, and romance, even if it includes fantastical elements, is most definitely not a genre I like. Even if the sex isn’t graphic, there is just something about romance novels that makes my skin crawl from second-hand awkwardness.

So, when I finally cracked open Lord of the Fading Lands a few weeks ago, I began to read it with the understanding that it was the first installment in an epic fantasy series. It wasn’t until I got to about chapter three before I started having my suspicions about what I was reading.

For example, lines like “something warm and hungry unfurled within her as their eyes met” gave me pause. Was I seriously reading something so overtly sensual in an epic fantasy? After encountering a few more such descriptions in the following pages, I finally flipped the book over, inspected the fine print on the spine, and saw the words ‘paranormal romance.’

Well no wonder!

But, I had already begun reading it, and to be fair it wasn’t a bad story, so I decided to finish it.

Lord of the Fading Lands tells the story of Ellysetta ‘Ellie’ Baristani, a homely young woman in her early 20s, living with her humble little family in the fantastical nation of Celieria. Poor Ellie is unlucky in love, being one of the last of her friends not to be courted, when one day the king of a mythical race of shapeshifters, Rain Tairen Soul, literally swoops down from the skies and claims Ellie as his ‘truemate.’

From there, the story blossoms into equal parts romance and political conflict, as the nation of Celieria battles to keep evil forces at bay. It is the romance, however, that takes center stage, as Ellie prepares to wed the Rain Tairen Soul, and the reader is forced to bear witness to their over-the-top physical attraction.

I won’t mince words here: the romance elements really made me uncomfortable. Call me a prude, but I just don’t want to read about “the liquid heat gathering in (Ellie’s) loins.” That’s about as explicit as it got, but still, I just hate being beat over the head with something when leaving things to the imagination would have been so much more scintillating. Then again, I suppose those sorts of in-your-face descriptions are exactly what the romance genre is about.

All told, it was a decent read. The plot was somewhat predictable, and some of the characters felt flat. However, if the purpose of a paranormal romance novel is for the story and magic to take a backseat so that the juicy romance elements can have a stage, then that’s exactly what this book did.

In the end, I can say that, while I am glad I gave it a chance, I will most certainly not be picking up more paranormal romance novels again any time soon.

Tell me, have you read Lord of the Fading Lands? Do you read paranormal romance books? If so, what do you enjoy about them?

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10 comments

  1. Oh god, paranormal romance.

    The Anita Blake books used to be a guilty pleasure of mine. For the first five or six they were essentially Dresden Files paranormal mysteries with a lot of superviolence and a mini love triangle between a chick, a vampire and a werewolf.

    The minute they turned into paranormal romance they became unreadable because every single mystery became something that was introduced in the first chapter and solved in the last with nothing between them except really awkward descriptions of sex written by someone who seemed to have a physical aversion to using actual scientific terms for anything. It’s a real shame because she wrote good action sequences and actually had some clever twists in the mystery portions, but every book there was less of that and more romance.

    I think my biggest problem with it as a subgenre is that it kind of subsists on spinning its own wheels. You very rarely get a happy couple actually working well together, it always needs to be some kind of love triangle, horrible abusive relationship, being torn apart by supernatural forces or some combination of the above, so every series becomes a will they/won’t they dance and they blend together into one giant horrible stew. It reminds me of high school relationship drama but in characters who are supposed to be mature adults who should be more worried about whatever horrible monsters lurk in the shadows of their settings.

    All that griping aside I have read some good ones. I really, really like the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Her love triangle is solved in under a book and the remaining four books are very pleasant reads about a continuing, unbroken romance between two people who are deeply in love and solve mysteries and political intrigues together, without getting in constant slapfights or revisiting character arcs that should have been completed ages ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not familiar with Anita Blake, but the kind of awkward sex descriptions you mention here remind me exactly of the awkwardness I felt reading the sexual descriptions in Lord of the Fading Lands. I think the other thing about it that I really object to is that, at least in the case of this particular book, the female protagonist is quite literally coerced into her relationship with the male lead. She fights it at first but gets sucked into his world and ends up in a Stockholm Syndrome-esque trap of lust. If it were about lust *and* love, I could give it a pass. But it all just felt like pure lust that was forced upon her, which simply does not sit well with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • From what I gather, that’s really common throughout the romance genre in general and not specific to paranormal romance. They got the nickname “bodice rippers” because the earliest ones were basically rape fantasies and written in a way that the female character was supposed to enjoy herself but “unwillingly” so that she’d remain morally pure in the whole endeavor.

        Which is, y’know, incredibly gross and doubly so that it’s persisted into the modern day, but I guess it sells. Even outside of the sex stuff Twilight is basically the story of a girl and her abusive stalker who locks her in his house and breaks her car to “keep her safe” and away from other people.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rape fantasy is the absolute perfect term for it. I’d not heard that term before, but that perfectly encapsulates the way the MC’s lust for the male lead is forced upon her. Like you say, I suppose it sells.

        Personally I could not pen stories that featured that theme. Not only because I would hate what I was reading (and you kind of need to like your own story), but because I’d not want to contribute to the idea that assault can be sexy.

        Liked by 1 person

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