KISS OF THE GOBLIN PRINCE (Shadowlands #2) by Shona Husk
Mass Market Paperback, 338 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: paranormal romance novel, fantasy
Rating : 5 stars
From now on Shona Husk will always hold a pole position in my gargantuan TBR list: I fell in love with the fertile imagination, fluid prose, and introspective sensitivity of this Australian paranormal, fantasy novels author. My only regret, if any, is that I should have started my journey through this captivating Shadowlands series with the novella ”The Summons: A Goblin King Prequel” and the first full length installment “The Goblin King”, in order to fully appreciate the fairy-tale world structure that holds together The Shadowlands (a desolate land populated by the heartless Goblins), The Fixed Realm (our world), and The Birch Foundation (a mysterious organization that facilitates the transition between these two worlds). Reading the series in this order would have certainly helped me to understand from the start the main characters’s backstories, the role played by the secondary characters, and the connections existing between them. These introductory readings add to the enjoyment of a book that can be read as a stand-alone, anyway, without loosing any of its alluring qualities.
Amanda Coulter is a young widow who has given up on happiness after the sudden death of her husband. She works as a youth counselor at the local high-school and her daughter, Brigit, is affected by severe asthma. At the wedding of her sister-in-law Eliza, Amanda meets the enigmatic and fascinating Dai King. Sparks of attraction fly immediately between them. Dai is Eliza’s husband’s brother. He’s apparently a normal young man, a Welsh scholar, world traveler, and an expert of ancient civilizations and dead languages. In reality, Dai is a Celtic Prince, as old as our civilization, a man who has been spending the past 2,000 years fighting against Romans, Druids, and Goblins, before breaking a curse and being reintegrated in the XXI century Fixed Realm (our world) as a free human, like his brother Roan.
Dai is physically and emotionally scarred: in order to protect his younger sister Mave from the perverse attentions of the Roman General Claudius, he had to endure Claudius’ vicious tortures and abuses. Dai was eventually cursed by the King Goblin and held captive for centuries in the Shadowlands, only to endure more unspeakable acts of violence from the Goblins and to be turned into a goblin himself. He used to be a mage, a man endowed with magical healing powers, but now that his curse is broken and he is back in the Fixed Realm, he is straggling with his new identity provided by The Birch Foundation and a deep sense of dislocation. In the transition between worlds he had to leave behind most of his treasures, but what bothers him the most is that he cannot get a hold of that wealth of knowledge he has accumulated over the centuries: all his books about magic are being retained by The Birch Foundation and without them he feels like he cannot recall his magical powers.
The Shadowlands series fictional worlds are built on the assumption that our universe is ruled by magic and held together by invisible strings: Dai and his brother Roan are able to control them in order to manipulate the fabric that makes the world. I like the way Shona Husk opens her slow-paced narration describing the chemistry and the bond existing from the start between Dai and Amanda. They are both initially unaware of the magical golden threads connecting their souls; although drawn to each other, they’re both very tentative at the beginning of the story and they will keep being hesitant for a good part of it. The emotional baggage made of sorrow, secrets, family tragedies, and responsabilities they both have to carry is too heavy for them to be rid of it and yield to emotions and desire, let alone love, no matter how bad they both need it. Dai has been “out of touch with the world for too long…to obsessed with the dead and obsolete.” Amanda can perfectly relate to his emotions, because she has been holding on her deceased husband’s memory for years, without being able to move on and look forward to another love relationship.
They are both very likable characters: the tortured and troubled soul Dai, the calm and caring counselor Amanda. It seems to be like a very good characters combination, perfect material for a sweeping and soulful romance. Dai’s numerous scars make him insecure: he’s afraid Amanda will loath him and reject him because of them. The dark secrets of his real identity and his past hold him from revealing his feelings for her, although the attraction is slowly consuming him. The biggest obstacle standing in the way is in his chest in the form of talons clutched around his heart, a magical grip placed there by the evil King Goblin as a reminder of the evil Dai has been a victim of and a perpetrator. Forgiveness is the only remedy that could set him free, but he is still prisoner of his resentment: the hideous tortures he has suffered for centuries fuel his hate and give strength to the King Goblin’s grip. Dai’s decision to remain celibate and avoid any kind of physical touch with other creatures poses an interesting challenge to his attraction for Amanda, but it also helps to build up an intoxicating and heart-melting sexual tension between them. They seek physical contact every time they meet, they haunt each other’s dreams, they leave each other breathless with stolen kisses and caresses, they hold hands interlacing their fingers in a promise of scorching sensuality, without abandoning themselves to a complete enjoyment. Every time they seem to be ready to get closer and open their hearts, their past stands in the way and breaks the momentum, prolonging that sweet torture up to the last chapters of the novel, when the barriers will finally break down and the two lovers will find an extremely gratifying release. As a whole, action and major developments are pushed at the end and my feeling is that the author aims to set up the scene for the sequel rather than advance the plot of this installment. The Kiss of The Goblin Prince mainly focuses on Dai’s and Amanda’s quest towards emotional freedom and self-forgiveness, in a pattern of healing that will involve also Amanda’s daughter. I really appreciate this introspective tone and character development versus an action-driven storyline.
I personally loved the way Shona Husk uses the idea of the invisible threads to describe the different kinds of connection existing between characters and their world: gold strings binding Dai and Amanda, gray and thin strings connecting Dai and The Shadowlands, colorful and numerous strings connecting Amanda and her ill daughter Brigit, loose and pale strings connecting Dai to his brother Roan, fine as spider silk the strings connecting Dai to Brigit. Shona Husk did a great job building Dai’s and Amanda’s characters, painting them with the brushes of her rich and sensuous prose and the great emotional impact of her narrative style. I simply loved Husk’s description of Dai as a man in pieces like an image reflected in a broken mirror, a dislocated man who needs to borrow a life in the same way he needs to borrow furniture in order to start all over again and live in a different world, a man who has been studying hundreds of dead languages for century, but who will remain speechless in front of the woman he loves. I loved the fact he is a book hoarder, spending a good part of the story in the search of his magic books, when the real magic is in his own body (written all over with tattoos and undecipherable spells just like a book) and in his love for Amanda.