Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-488-1
Fantasy Romance, 2007
Carolan Ivey’s Abhainn’s Kiss is steeped in lush Welsh mythology and atmosphere and the first chapter detailing the birth of the heroine Abhainn is a very gripping read, since the baby Abby’s life hangs in the balance due to the inexperience of the Spinner that is working of the thread of Abby’s life. This Spinner, Cadwyn, ends up inadvertently intertwining Abby’s life with that of a human’s.
Abby is an Asrai, a race of the Fae folk associated with water. The Asrai is cursed never to show themselves in sunlight due to a High Mother in the past getting too carried away with her dalliance with a mortal – she ended up breaking some kind of sacred tradition and causing the death of King Arthur. The Asrai develop a phobia when it comes to water as a result and they are caught in bright daylight, they dissolve into water. Back to Abby, her poor mother did not survive the birth of her child (the sun made an untimely entrance) and Abby was raised by the midwife Nuala. Nuala tries to keep Abby sheltered from the evil world out there.
Our hero, Michael Craig, does not fully remember this but twenty years ago, he stumbled into the corner of the Fae world where Nuala and Abby lived and befriended Abby. Today, he returns to the Isle of Inisghriann as an adult. His family owns a successful textile business. Several months ago, mysterious crates shows up at the office containing a kind of thread that is fine yet very tensile. This thread could have saved the family business so Michael wants to locate the source of this thread. The only clue he has is a parchment in one of the crates bearing the name of the island. He is soon reunited with Abby.
Abby all this while has lived her own life in the Fae world, not aware of her history or origins or that she is the last of the Asrai, until trolls start showing up wanting to do bodily harm to her. Fortunately Nuala is around to help Michael and Abby realize that their destinies are intertwined and they can break the curse of the Asrai if they put their minds to it. You see, prior to this, the Spinner in her inexperience ended up allowing Abby to receive the ability to walk in sunlight while remaining protected from all who wished to harm her. She is save the world from destroying itself, how wonderful. However, the spell has just recently worn off – hence the trolls – so Michael will have to step in and do that Prince Valiant thing in order to protect Abby while Abby travels to a Great Gathering in Avalon that will take place in the next full moon.
Abhainn’s Kiss has a well-drawn and atmospheric setting but unfortunately, the fascinating backdrop of the story is much more interesting than the main characters. Abby is a rather flat stereotype of a child-like damsel-in-distress complete with corny soapbox about saving the environment thinly disguised as wide-eyed bewilderment about our self-destructing ways. Michael is the reluctant knight in shining armor but there isn’t much to his bland personality to make him memorable. The characters are just there in the story. Likewise, the romance isn’t interesting because it is presented as some kind of predestined fait accompli. I’m told that they are in love but I don’t see any credible lovey-dovey interaction between these two characters.
There is plenty of great atmosphere and the set-up involving the curse of the Asrai is most fascinating. It’s a pity, therefore, the main characters’ quest to break the curse turn out to be a standard destiny/fate/soulmate fantasy romance that is too ordinary for the enchanting and well-drawn setting.