Lady of Light and Shadows is the second instalment in the duology about the Tairen Soul. This book definitely doesn't work on its own and would be very difficult to read as a first book; it follows immediately on from Lord of the Fading Lands and continues the story of Rain and Ellie which was so gripping in that first installment. The first book didn't finish at a particularly pivotal moment, and the second installment picks up straight up from that point and continues with the story as more and more depth and excitement is layered into the novel, including a previously mentioned character arriving to play a significant part in the action. It's a good thing that they have been published so closely together as they really don't work on their own; however, as a pair of books making one story, they are brilliant.
In this story, Ellie's troubles increase as she continues to go through the complicated pre-marriage rituals. Each day of her life seems to become more and more complex with the difficulties between her and her family (mainly her mother) echoed by the political machinations between the King of Celieria, Rain Tairen Soul and the evil Mages of the Eld. Ellie's bridegroom, Rain Tairen Soul, is a fascinating character and she learns more about him as the book progresses; however Ellie is also learning more about herself and much of what she is learning looks bad. The narrator gives us insight into what is happening in Eld, and we learn more about Ellie's provenance, much of the information seeming very worrying. How can Ellie be the good person that she seems with the history that she has had, and is she merely being positioned as Rain's mate in order to destroy the Fey from within?
We meet a few new characters in this book, including a staunch new protector for Ellie, but also the people who have caused her magical abilities to be shielded - and why. The evil forces are working in many different ways to capture Ellie, and she is in danger from those whom she loves, both physical and emotional danger. A continual theme is whether Ellie is courageous or just trying to survive, but she's a plucky heroine who soon realizes that to receive what every young woman wishes for - the attention and devotion of Rain Tairen Soul -
requires a balancing amount of hardship.
In some ways, Ellie's Fey quintet guard play less of a role in this story, but her new champion proves a pivotal point in the plot as they start to realize who Ellie is and what her powers are. There is a huge final denouement scene where the magic of the fey shows its limitations and where Ellie is required to use her own resources and skills - but are they enough? There are some touching romantic scenes between Rain and Ellie as he continues the courtship, but just as much time is given in the novel to the 'courtship' of the nobles and rulers of Celieria, trying to individually influence and encourage them to support Rain's needs.
As a standalone book this doesn't work, but read alongside Lord of the Fading Lands it's one of the most exciting fantasy books to have been published in a long time. The author's excellent writing style, the continually gripping nature of the narrative and the occasional light touches to leaven some of the gloom and despair are brilliant. Rain and Ellie are great heroes with faults and difficulties and confusion about their respective roles but with an undergirding of honesty and true natures
that makes their lives a joy to follow. This is excellent writing that should appeal to all who read it.