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Review: River of Dreams by Lynn Kurland

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River of Dreams
Author: Lynn Kurland
Reviewer: B.
Rating: B+

What I’m Talking About:

Sent on a quest against her will to save her country, Aisling of Bruadair just wants to accomplish her task begin a new life away from the cruelty and darkness she’s always known. With the scarred, but alluring, elven prince by her side, and a shape-shifting horse to carry them on their journey, she’s finally begun to think she’ll be successful on both counts. But, when the lies she’s always held as truth begin to crumble around her, and she learns more about herself than she ever wanted to know, Aisling discovers a reality more terrifying than her worst fears, along with new hope for a future that exceeds her fondest dreams.

Prince Rùnach of Ceangail, stripped of his magic and nearly killed by his own father, would like nothing more than to disappear into the simple life of a lowly swordsman, far away from the memories of pain and loss that plague him. Yet, once he finds himself in the company of the fetching woman from a cursed land who refuses to give up her secrets, he begins to realize that he’d rather not be anywhere else. As their perilous quest takes them to places he’d like to forget, Rùnach is forced to accept certain truths about, not only his companion, but himself as well, and finds that the past is never very far behind.

Although I liked Aisling in Dreamspinner, the previous novel in the Nine Kingdoms series, I thought she was an even better character in River of Dreams. She’s complicated, despite her protests to the contrary, making Rùnach’s fascination with her completely understandable, along with his frustrations, as well. Her increasing knowledge of the world outside Bruadair, in addition to certain revelations about her own abilities and her growing attachment to Rùnach, gives her a confidence I thought was missing in the previous story—the quickness of wit she brandishes so readily here being both welcome and refreshing. While I liked her more in general, there were a few of her quirks that pulled me out of the story just a bit, such as the fact that when she’s confronted with a truth she’s not prepared for, Aisling is prone to bouts of frantic and kinetic denial in the form of running, Rùnach being inevitably and tolerantly in pursuit. But, she’s grown as a character overall, and I found her easier to connect with as a result.

Rùnach, however, I truly adored. I found him to be intriguing, sympathetic, and likable, his plans for an inconspicuous life of service completely undone by the fact that Aisling’s quest leads them to the very places where everyone seems to know who he is. He is the target of nearly every other character’s barbs and taunts, but most are delivered with an affection that Aisling can’t comprehend—unless she’s the one doing the taunting. Everyone pokes at poor Rùnach, but these are some of the most entertaining moments in the story. His convictions about his feelings for Aisling, and the subsequent efforts to secure her affections in turn, are awkward and funny most of the time, giving the other characters a great deal of amusement at his expense. Though this behavior may seem cruel out of context, or to an outsider like Aisling, most of the teasing is fueled by his family’s relief that Rùnach is finally engaging in life again, and that he’s lost his heart to a woman who has the ability to drive him to maddeningly happy vexation.

Although the evolution of Aisling and Rùnach’s relationship was fun to see, River of Dreams is primarily a tale of adventure and mystery. While Aisling’s quest takes the pair on a journey across the kingdoms, it also brings both their pasts resolutely to the forefront. Neither can proceed without addressing what’s come before, and they are both changed for the better as a result of having to endure it. With uncertainty and conflict facing them on all sides, there’s plenty to keep the story moving along nicely, although Aisling’s true role in the story is fairly evident early on. Still, it’s watching the characters’ journey that’s the real pleasure here, and Ms. Kurland is very gifted there as well.

River of Dreams is a sprawling, epic tale that spans quite a few countries’ borders, as well as a history found within several of the earlier novels in the series. As such, I did feel lost on occasion, never fully understanding the importance of some of the minor characters and locations mentioned during Aisling and Rùnach’s undertaking. The language of the story is both courtly and worthy of kings and mages, as well as the questing would-be lovers. While no single issue impacted my enjoyment of the story in a significant way, I would have liked to have had a more thorough knowledge of the entire series, or perhaps a brief listing of the cast of characters, simply because there’s so much to the lore to consider. All in all, River of Dreams is an enjoyable, imaginative fantasy with sweet, romantic undertones, and I will be very eager to see what awaits Aisling and Rùnach next.

Rating: B+  Liked It A Lot

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About the Book:

Aisling of Bruadair is frantic to find both the truth about her future and a mercenary to save her country. When an offer of aid comes from an unexpected direction, she is relieved her quest is almost complete. But she soon realizes her task is far from over…and will include perils she never dreamed she would face.

Rùnach of Ceangail has offered to help Aisling with her quest. Then he fully intends to take up his life as a simple swordsman far from magic and evil mages. Unfortunately, a chance discovery of a book of indecipherable spells tells him that an ordinary life is never going to be his—especially when he realizes that the book he has in his hands belongs to a black mage who will stop at nothing to have it back.

With time running out, Rùnach and Aisling must solve what seem to be unrelated mysteries before others find the answers first and plunge the Nine Kingdoms into a darkness it will never recover from…

Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Series: Nine Kingdoms #8
ISBN: #978-0425262825
Genre: Fantasy
Format(s): Paperback (384 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher

Purchase Info:
River of Dreams (Nine Kingdoms #8)

Reviews in the Series:
Dreamspinner by Lynn Kurland (Nine Kingdoms #7)

  • Stephanie F.

    The book sounds really interesting. I see that this is book 8, are they standalone or do you need to start from book 1 to not be lost?

    • B.

      Hi Stephanie! I’ve read Books 7 & 8, and they’ve both focused on the same main couple, and quite few of the secondary characters that are either directly or indirectly involved in the plot are consistent. In that way, these two novels could stand by themselves. I read the synopses of some of the earlier novels in the series, and they, too, seem to focus on one set of characters over a multi-story arc, who are then “honorable mentions” in the latter stories to date. Overall, I think reading the entire series from the beginning would be a wonderful way to experience the author’s full vision, but I just haven’t been able to do so. If that’s not an option, I’d at least read the stories within the same arc, in this case Book 7 (Dreamspinner) and 8 (River of Dreams). That way, you’ll experience the entirety of Aisling and Rùnach’s story. And hopefully, there’ll be at least one more for them. I enjoyed them both very much! Hope that helps answer your question, and that you enjoy the books! Thanks so much for stopping by!

      • Stephanie F.

        Thank you, that helps a lot. I am definitely going to eventually pick up the earlier books but book 7 & 8 sounded particularly good especially after your reviews. Just got them and can’t wait to read. 🙂

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