Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-097-5
Fantasy Romance, 2006
In Ciar Cullen’s The Princes of Anfall, Anfall is the promised land that elf-like-but-aren’t-really folks Dylan and Gwyneth led those among their people who believed in their visions and all to, in order to avoid people who will view them as creatures of darkness to be killed or something. That was a long time ago, though. Today, a new evil has risen – cue dramatic scary music here – to terrorize Anfall. But that’s getting ahead of the story.
Lauren Emory, a New Yorker, comes to Anfall to look for her brother Tim when she meets Kasmárin, the Prince Adept of Anfall and also the King’s brother as well as the greatest wizard in the land. Some of the people Dylan and Gwyneth left behind in the “Old Lands” survive, you see, and Lauren is a descendant of one of these people, which is how she knows of Anfall. Kas is looking for women to be brought to his brother Lucenor so that the King can determine who will be his bride. Must be an elven tradition, don’t ask. When he meets Lauren, he’s torn over several things. One, how to tell her that his brother is almost certainly dead. Two, whether to take her to Luke. Three, whether to keep her for himself. I don’t want to reveal too many things about the plot since this is one of those stories where bits and pieces of the big picture are slowly revealed as the story develops and I will spoil the fun for readers if I say too many things here, so I’ll just add that Lauren and Kas will have all kinds of epic-style adventures while Kas’s brothers Luke and a few others will also have their subplots in this story.
The thing is, while The Princes of Anfall are long, it is rife with all kinds of rather clichéd problems commonly found in generic and not-very-exciting fantasy romances. For example, too much of the first half of the story comprises scenes of obvious expositions pretending to be dialogs. I can’t help but to wonder whether there is a better way to integrate details into the story without being so obvious when it comes to the characters speaking to the reader instead of to each other. Even so, Anfall comes off like an unmemorable and generic sword-and-sorcery setting with not enough traits or interesting features to set it apart from other generic settings out there.
Lauren is a pretty decent heroine in her own right but she is stuck in a story where everyone else seems determined to behave like stereotypes. Kas isn’t a very interesting hero in the first place but there are many instances in his relationship with Lauren that are riddled with contrived miscommunication and misunderstanding scenarios.
In short, The Princes of Anfall is an uninteresting story set in a generic fantasy setting with the romance being that of a typical “Oops, if only we have talked!” event. It’s hard to even find things to make fun of in this story because it is that generic. Ms Cullen has done better and will hopefully do better than this book in the future.