Title & Author: Love Lies Bleeding: The Lady of the Forest (Wood & Stone Book 1), Lori J. Fitzgerald
Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy, May 1, 2015
Book Description: “The forest is waiting…
Aislin’s life wasn’t always a wasteland of brittle grass and empty survival on her family’s medieval farm. As a child, Aislin’s wild heart was nourished with dreams of forest adventure, tales of a terrible creature within its depths, and a special game played with a willow tree. Now, years later, Aislin is sent to the forest’s edge on her father’s errand and discovers an old message, carved into the willow…
Aislin, find the door in the oak.
These words set her on an enchanted path towards an ancient grove and its powerful Forest Lord, whose love and gift of a bloodstone necklace unleash the wildness in her own heart, sending her underground to the earth’s wellspring of magic. But soon her father makes a desperate deal with their landlord to keep the farm. It will take both the Forest Lord and a Unicorn’s dangerous magic to change her fate…but what price must Aislin pay to keep her lover and her wild heart?
Love Lies Bleeding: the Lady of the Forest is Part One of Wood & Stone, a series of connecting tales filled with folkloric transformation, startling self-discovery, and love as deep and timeless as an ancient tree, set in the medieval and modern worlds.”
First Line: Aislin, find the door in the oak.
My Take: This novella was provided to me by the author for review.
Aislin, the protagonist of the story, is a young farm girl living with her widowed father. Though content with her home she yearns for more and feels she was meant to be part of something greater than an ordinary life. When she ventures into part of the nearby forest that her father has always warned her away from, she finds a realm of magic and power, changing her life forever.
This story had the feel of an old school fairy tale, both where it was staged (the magical realm existing secretly next to a medieval era countryside) and in its narration. I almost expected it to start out with “Once upon a time, there was a girl named Aislin…” While it does partially deliver on its promise of a tale of enchantment, there were a couple of things that disrupted the spell throughout the read.
There was a lot of “Telling” instead of “Showing”. Back-story and present day circumstances were relayed in paragraphs of explanation, rather than folded in with the action, like in dialogue for example. This also took me out of that close third person perspective with Aislin because it felt like a narrator intruded on the scene.
The issue affected the feel of the romance in the story as well. I had trouble tapping into the connection between the two characters. I think now that this is because I was “told” they were in love/destined, rather than “shown”. To illustrate what I mean, let’s take a classic example from Shakespeare when Romeo sees Juliet across the room (from scene Five, for you Shakespeare buffs):
[To a Servingman] What lady is that, which doth
enrich the hand
Of yonder knight?
Bam! The guy’s transfixed and that feeling is conveyed within just a couple lines of dialogue. Okay, comparing to Shakespeare is a little unfair since he is the master. My point is that love, especially the explosive, all-consuming kismet that sparks when two people meet, needs careful treatment to not seem rushed and to ensorcell the reader as much as that pair of characters. It didn’t quite take me there in this one.
The Magical: I loved the fantastical nature of this story. It was wonderfully imaginative and gave a unique treatment of the unicorn. I also enjoyed the ending. Unexpected and totally in line with a classic fairytale.
The Mundane: There was some awkward phrasing in the book that called attention. A couple of examples:
“His eyes devoured her face.”
“Aislin’s heart broke free and soared into the lofty oaks above her.”
In both examples a metaphorical meaning was intended but the sentence structure conveyed a literal one. Did his eyes actually eat her face? If so, I don’t recommend a second date.
In the other example, I’m assuming her heart didn’t actually bust out of her chest, “Alien” style. Adding “It felt as if her heart broke free…” would resolve the issue.
Summary of Thoughts: In all, I really liked the story but there were a few things, as mentioned above, that kept me from loving it. It’s a quick read and worth picking up, especially at just $0.99 on the Kindle. It’s full of imagination and all the fantasy goodness we come to expect from the genre. Although the romance didn’t capture me as much as I hoped, the magical realm (and the ending) certainly fascinated and left me curious as to what will happen in the next installment.
Many thanks to author Lori J. Fitzgerald for providing a copy of the book for review!
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To learn more about the author and her work, explore her website at White Raven Writing