The Lady of the Sorrows ~ Cecilia Dart-Thornton

  • Title: The Lady of the Sorrows
  • Author: Cecilia Dart-Thornton
  • Series: Bitterbynde #2
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Description:  Though her memory remains clouded, Imrhien must take vital news to the King. As always, changes of fate and fortune occur and dangers threaten her very life.

Review: Warning: this review contains spoilers for the first book, The Ill-Made Mute.

 Wow, what a difference one book makes! This second part of the Bitterbynde trilogy is a much better effort than the often rather wordy and plodding first part. Where in book one the prose was frequently needlessly complicated and frustratingly obtuse, in this book the language is rich and powerfully evocative. It is still complicated, but the author seems to have found her voice and come into her stride, and I found this a gripping read from start to finish.

In book one we were introduced to Imrhien, a mute youth with a hideous face scarred by a plant called paradox ivy, and no memory of anything that happened before waking up in the bowels of Isse Tower. Midway through the book it was revealed that the lad was in fact a girl, and the book finished when she reached the one-eyed witch whose knowledge cured her facial disfiguration, which also restored her voice.

Thus presentable and able to speak her piece, Imrhien must travel to the royal court to inform the King-Emperor of the vast treasure she and the adventurer Sianadh discovered in book one. To remain inconspicuous she dyes her – very rare – blond hair, changes her name to Rohain and uses her newfound wealth to set herself up as a lady from a faraway region. In this disguise she gains audience with one of the king’s most trusted men, and the treasure is recovered, gaining Rohain a privileged position at the court. This in turn gives her the opportunity to try and find out what happened to Thorn, the brave Dainnan knight who protected her throughout the latter half of the first book.

To say more of the plot would give away too many major revelations, but as before the book is rich with creatures and stories of Celtic legend, and these are often interwoven with the main tale or interrupt it briefly.

About halfway through the book takes a major turn in a completely different direction, which is confusing at first but makes sense once you get to the end of the book. It is an unexpected twist, and it brings the scope of the book up considerably, compared to the first one. In a way it feels like the author wasn’t entirely sure where she was headed in the first book, and in only became clear in the second book.

I personally very much enjoyed this book, but it isn’t for anyone who likes their reading light and fluffy. The language is too complicated, often too old-fashioned to be easy going, and I could have done with a few less prithees and gramercies. I also suspect that I had an easier time with the world itself, as I have some background knowledge of many of the faerie creatures encountered throughout. Still, if you do not mind encountering unknown words and are ready for a very rich world of endless forests, vast stretches of landscape inhabited only by creatures both seelie and unseelie, and are ready for a story that keeps taking things up a level, this is a good book for you. You’ll just have to work your way through the plodding first book first, or you won’t have a clue what’s going on.


The Ill-Made Mute ~ Cecilia Dart-Thornton

  • Title: The Ill-Made Mute
  • Author: Cecilia Dart-Thornton
  • Series: Bitterbynde #1
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  A lushly romantic epic adventure of stunning scope and magical proportions, set in a world brimming with wonders and terrors.

Review:  I bought this book on the recommendation of a friend, and while I liked it, it took me a while to really get into it. The book’s title is its protagonist – a child who has been left to die out in the cold, and while trying to crawl to safety it fell face-first into a patch of paradox ivy, which has scarred and mutilated it to hideousness. On top of that he has lost his memory, as well as the powers of speech.

A cruel start, and a good part of the book is spent on regaling the circumstances in which the mute finds himself once he is rescued by a lowly kitchen servant. You get a sense of the world in which the people live – a world where the members of the ten Stormrider Houses traverse the world on eotaurs: flying horses used to transport messages and small cargo. The horses cannot fly purely of their own accord, but this world possesses a unique metal, sildron, which repels the earth and is used to shoe the horses with. Sildron is also used to keep great airships aloft, and these are used to transport the larger cargo.

After a rather long time spent on describing the nameless mute’s drudgery within Isse Tower, where he is subject to constant derision and revulsion, the boy finally decides to escape, and stows himself away on one of the airships.

At this point the book picks up a little in pace, for the mute fiends a friend in the wandering adventurer Sianadh, who not only gives him a name (Imrhien), but also teaches him to speak with his hands. They go in search for a legendary treasure, and have to travel through dangerous landscape in order to find it.

This book borrows heavily from Celtic lore, not so much its myths and legends, but its fairy lore. Creatures in this world are either unseelie, ie. malevolent, or seelie. Seelie creatures aren’t malevolent in intent, but even they can be dangerous when approached incorrectly. In addition to this the world is often visited by so-called ‘shang unstorms’ – eerie storms which carry images from long past, which were imprinted on them by strong emotions from people who were caught in earlier unstorms. To protect people, everyone is required to wear a taltry, a hood which contains a mesh made of the metal talium, which prevents such emotional imprints from being made.

All this becomes fully clear only after you’ve read at least half the book, and until then it can be slow going. The prose is flowery, complicated, often excessively so, and while I have no inherent problem with encountering words I’ve never seen before, in this book I often wasn’t certain whether the words even existed or whether they were made up. Also, in the section with Sianadh in the wilderness, where they constantly bump into creatures both seelie and unseelie, it became a bit repetitive to see Sianadh fall for their tricks every time, even after professing to know all about such creatures.

Still, the book is worth sticking with, because the last third becomes truly interesting, and the book leaves off on a cliffhanger which immediately made me buy the next book in this trilogy, even though I have about fifteen other books in my ‘to read’ pile. I think the reader should keep in mind that this is a debut novel in which the author was still finding her feet, but the concept and richness of the world are intriguing enough to overlook that fact.