So Here’s the Deal…
Erinda is born a servant girl whose family has served the royal House of Rane in Ithyria for generations. She has never rebelled against her life. She has embraced servant life in the palace with all of her wit, charm, and sassy enthusiasm. She has grown into a lively woman and has become as close of a friend to the Queen as a servant girl could ever hope to be. In a way, her life has already exceeded her expectations. She is now the head of household for Queen Shasta, and she takes her responsibilities seriously. But at night, her thoughts move to the past and her heart is engulfed by an almost debilitating grief because she is unable to forget her first love, the girl who stole her heart when they were both seven years younger.
The Goddess Ithyris faces a battle that could render the lands of Ithyria a shadow of what they are now. Ithyria is under a threat the likes of which it has not seen in a thousand years. It is the gravity of this ancient evil that causes the Goddess to appoint the first holy warrior in a millennium. She has chosen Kadrian Crossis, a shy priestess who has tried her entire life simply to do the right thing. No one is more surprised than Kadrian when she hears of the Goddess’ orders. She doesn’t see herself as a warrior. She barely sees herself as holy, and she has struggled with her service to the Goddess since she moved from pledged to priestess seven winters earlier. She is haunted by her love for the servant girl Erinda, who has had such a hold on her that she fears she may be the wrong priestess for the mammoth task the Goddess has in store for her. How can she be the savior of the lands when she feels like a fraud? Kadrian believes that her service to and love for the Goddess should come before all else. She should be able to forget Erinda in the light of the Goddess’ love, but why isn’t she able to convince her heart of the same?
Will Erinda be able to let the memory of Kadrian go, or will she be forever plagued by the ghost of the girl that she once knew?
The crux of the story seems so simple when synopsized. But when I was reading I got the distinct feeling that this book embodied the words “it’s complicated.” Those words that hang at the edges of a reply when you ask someone about their life and you see their eyes dart downward, they shift their weight between their feet, maybe they wring their hands just a little and finally the only words that come out are “It’s complicated.” I know that feeling all too well. This book is all about the turmoil of having to choose between love and religion, when religion is so much more than just a belief system and it becomes the current of life.
As if love between two women isn’t a complicated enough subject in itself, then comes the idea, the wonder, the fear that by loving someone you might disappoint a Goddess. These are the thoughts that Kadrian is consumed with, and I cried for her. I cried for her confusion and her frustration. I cried for myself because I have felt so many of those feelings. What happens when you are so prominently involved in a belief system and then you realize that you are not exactly in line with everything that system teaches? It’s like trying to navigate your life when you realize that part of it is a lie.
Author Merry Shannon took the simple feeling of trying to live life as the “other” and trying to fit in to such a stringent belief system and religion and handled it so beautifully. Her portrayal of the Goddess Ithyris was everything that I’ve ever wanted in a God or Goddess. She addresses ideas of the holy, the erotic, the romantic, and the differences between religion fueled by compassion, love and understanding versus ideas fueled by division and hatred; and puts them all in one book. Kadrian has so many conversations with the Goddess Ithyris that I myself have wanted to have with God/dess for so much of my life. It almost felt as though I were reading Chicken Soup for the LGBT soul.
There were passages that stayed with me for days after. Pieces that I read and re-read because they were such jewels. The story was like a support group that I felt I desperately needed at the time.
“Each of you has a heart rich with love, and love is the lifeblood of divine spirit; it protects, heals, binds, creates, and endures always. So when darkness lies in your path, do not be afraid. Carry love in your hearts, my Daughters, and you carry my light with you into even the darkest of nights.”
The storyline was extremely well done. I never felt bogged down with details. I never felt as though the plot dragged, but the philosophy that was hidden within it was invaluable. There were such important messages of acceptance, not just in a Goddess, devotee relationship, but more importantly, how integral it is to our spirits that we accept ourselves first. How absolutely vital it is that we see who we are and accept all of the different parts of our beings in order to make us the best versions of ourselves. I’m not exactly sure what I expected from a sequel to Sword of the Guardian, but this exceeded every expectation that I could have ever imagined.
This is a novel to read over and over again. The writing itself is absolutely beautiful. Well thought out, wonderfully edited, with delightful tidbits that showed Merry Shannon as an author who works hard at her craft. One of my favorite sentences evoked such breath-taking imagery that I felt like it could be a poem all by itself.
“The sun was gilding the clouds in pink and gold, pressing back the shadows of night with rosy palms.”
Sentences like those reminded me of why I write and what I love about reading. I was never very good at painting, but when we write, we paint with words. We can conjure up with the magic of words; potions and tales, riddles and wonders. We can make the fantasies of our dreams become reality with our words, and Merry Shannon is a kindred spirit. She writes because she loves it, and that is evident in every facet of her work. She doesn’t do it because it’s easy or because she’s simply good at it; but because she had the opportunity to create dreams. She dreamt up a world that was full of life. A place that could capture the attention. A place where anything was possible. But she also gave me a gift with this book, which only seemed fitting since I finished it on my birthday. Hidden in the pages of an unassuming novel was the message of acceptance and unconditional love that I so needed to hear.
I cannot give this book enough accolades, stars, rainbows and roses. All I can ask is that you read it for yourself and recommend it to a friend. There is a message here that we all need to hear.
Thank you Merry Shannon, thank you!
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Or you can find it on the publisher site at Bold Strokes Books
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Wishing you romance and whimsy