Book Review: River of Dreams by Lynn Kurland

Posted May 13, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: River of Dreams by Lynn Kurland

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

River of Dreams by Lynn Kurland
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Berkley on January 7, 2014
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Dreams of Lilacs, Ever My Love, A Tapestry of Spells, Star of the Morning, The Mage’s Daughter, Princess of the Sword, Dreamspinner, Dreamer's Daughter

Eighth in the Nine Kingdoms fantasy series (the second installment of the third sub-trilogy) and revolving around Gair of Ceangail’s dead children with a particular focus on Prince Rùnach and Aisling of Bruadair.

My Take

Poor Aisling. She comes from a dour, depressing, and gray country. Slowly, she’s learning of the lies she’s been told, making this a hard quest for the gel. And we learn about the dreamspinners of Bruadair!

Kurland is using third person dual protagonist point-of-view from Aisling’s and Rùnach’s perspectives, which means we experience their thoughts and emotions. And this means we hear all about their thoughts about themselves as they experience their character arcs.

With each step into Aisling’s story, a little more of her truth is revealed…the spinning, the dreams, the threads that lead to the magic in her world that speaks to her. Her introspection continues as well as she comes to her own conclusions about her part in the quest set her in Dreamspinner, 7. Rùnach’s thoughts revolve around his growing love for Aisling, his past behaviors, and what he can do to help Aisling. Fortunately, he stops going on about how he’s going to find an obscure garrison and become a simple guard. Like that was ever gonna happen.

Kurland provides another tidbit of back history on Sarait with yet another reason why she originally married Gair. Ruith gives Rùnach a truth as well, that their father disliked him the most. Lol, it’s a “dislike” that is much appreciated by Rùnach and was spurred by their father’s jealousy. What a small man!

“Don’t measure your life in years … measure it in memories.”

It is rather annoying that so many of the background characters know who Aisling is and yet refuse to say anything. *Wry grin*, it’s got to be frustrating for them as well.

Much more annoying is that Rùnach doesn’t think Aisling has any magic. Just what does he consider all those things that Aisling can do??

Fortunately for at least one of the characters, your abilities are like anything you know. You start with a base of something and add skill and knowledge as you go.

I do adore Iteach. He brings such levity to the tale. More humor, and quite subtle about it, is how these brothers of Ceangail court their women. They’re so diffident about it, lol.

“…considering the number of hearts he had perhaps wounded that it would have served him right if Aisling had cut his from his chest with a dull blade and stomped on it…”

I do love how protective all the other elves (and dwarves) are of Aisling. That should be telling Rùnach something…!

While there is action, it’s primarily character-centric in this tale of what you do unto others will rebound upon you, with Rùnach pointing to his father as an excellent example of what happens when you do ill to others.

We finally meet the witchwoman of Fàs! And I suspect she inspired the tale of Hansel and Gretel!! Eeek! An engrossing character and one around whom one should exercise GREAT care!

It’s a fascinating land with its kingdoms ruled by elves and mages with all the usual friendships and animosities any world would have. Of those who accept each other, they are cautious friends and yet most generous in giving aid to Rùnach and Aisling. It’s like a close-knit family with underlying peeves.

River of Dreams is not a fast read, in fact it’s more of a bridge story in which Aisling and Rùnach finally reach an important conclusion about the lack of color and where the magic is going.

Coincidence? We think not.

The Story

Pushed out of her country by that peddler, Aisling was commanded to find a mercenary to save her country.

Her life will depend on sorting lie from truth.

The Characters

Aisling of Bruadair had escaped her weaving apprenticeship in Beul and is discovering the lies she’s been fed.

Rùnach of Ceangail is the second eldest of seven siblings and an elven prince who has no magic. Iteach is the shapechanging horse gifted to Rùnach by his grandfather Sgath. And that horse is quite intelligent with one heck of a sense of humor, lol.

Rùnach’s Family Background
Rùnach’s mother was Princess Sarait of Tòrr Dòrainn with grand plans to stop her odious husband, Gair. Rùnach’s six siblings include Mhorghain “Morgan” who married Miach a few months ago (Dreamspinner). Ruithneadh “Ruith” is his youngest brother who married Sarah of Doire who can spin and See (A Tapestry of Spells, 4; Spellweaver, 5; and, Gift of Magic, 6). Keir was their oldest brother (Princess of the Sword, 3).

Prince Sgath (he prefers fishing) and Eulasaid are his maternal grandparents (Gair’s parents) who prefer living at Lake Cladach.

Tòrr Dòrainn is…
…the elven kingdom of Sìle, his paternal grandfather who is quite proud and arrogant; Brèagha is his easygoing, artistic grandmother from the little known country of An Céin whose magic few desire. Seanagarra is the name of Sìle’s palace. They had seven children, including Làidir, the oldest and Sìle’s heir and Sosar who lost his magic (Princess of the Sword). Còir is Làidir’s second son and a cousin interested in Aisling.

Giollan is the page assigned to Aisling. The officious Leabhrach is the head librarian. Dionadair is Sìle’s guard captain.

Bruadair is…
…Aisling’s homeland, one surrounded by “thorns” and much secrecy and littered with lakes. Beul is its capital where Sglaimir, Carach’s grandson, rules. There are two languages here: Deuraich and High Deuraich, which is forbidden and more beautiful. Mistress Muinear was the weaving mistress who took such an interest in Aisling.

Frèam is the king who was deposed; Leaghra his queen (and Sarah’s great-aunt; Gift of Magic). Under their rule, Brèagha remembers the country as an ethereal dream. Sealladh had been Frèam’s grandfather and the king beguiled by a mage. Alexandra is Frèam’s niece in whom Ochadius is interested.

Carach of Mùig was a nasty mage who challenged King Tochail, Uachdaran’s great-great-grandfather to a duel.

Beinn òain is where…
Buidseachd, the wizard university, is located and where Soilléir is one of the instructors, a master wizard who is the keeper of the spells of essence changing, and the youngest son of the crown prince of Cothromaiche. He never interferes. Rùnach hid with Soilleir for twenty years. The evil Droch of Saothair is another and the master of the spells of Olc.

Durial is…
…the kingdom of the dwarves and is ruled by King Uachdaran from the rock-solid city of Léige. Seamus is a young page. Riaraiche is the king’s steward. Ollamh is the king’s physick. The very nervous Eachdraidh is bard to the king and keeper of perilous books.

Cothromaiche is…
…the kingdom ruled by King Seannair. The king’s grandsons include Astar, Soilléir, and Franciscus, who is the one who brought Ceangail down (he’s also Sarah’s grandfather). Annastashia of Cothromaiche seems to have been interested in Rùnach in the past…hmmm…

The University of Lismòr was…
…founded by Nicholas, the former wizard king of Diarmailt who had been married to one of Sìle’s daughters (and a sister to Sarait).

Diarmailt is…
…or rather, had been, Nicholas’ kingdom before he gave it over to his nephew Simeon (and Rùnach’s cousin). Who managed to lose it and is now a mere duchy. Master Laibridh is its library’s head librarian. Fàileadh is a guard who can smell magic. Secretary Rùnaire attempts to provide an escort.

Neroche is…
…the kingdom that King Mochriadhemiach “Miach” of Neroche rules with his new queen, Morgan. His brothers include Mansourah who travels a great deal. Their mother had been Desdhemar of Wrekin, an impetuous queen who enjoyed filching spells as much as her son does and friendly with Sarait. Who also pinched spells, lol. Adhémar had been Miach’s oldest brother and the previous king (Star of the Morning, 1; The Mage’s Daughter, 2; and, Princess of the Sword). Mistress Ceana is their master spinner who taught Aisling.

Ainneamh is…
…another elven kingdom bordering Tòrr Dòrainn and ruled by Ehrne, Síle’s obnoxious nephew and Rùnach’s cousin. It’s also Sgath’s boyhood home. Surdail is the captain of the king’s guards.

An-uallach is…
…a kingdom ruled by the wicked and unscrupulous Queen Morag (Gift of Magic).

Riamh is/was…
…ruled by Lothar of Wychweald, another black mage.

Scrymgeour Weger is a master swordsman who runs a school in Gobhann. Prince Ochadius, a cousin of Weger’s, who wrote The Strictures of Scrymgeour Weger. Both men are descendants of Lothar’s.

There are five great libraries in the Nine Kingdoms: Tor Neroche plus those at the palace of Chagailt, Buidseachd, Faodail in Gairn, the university at Lismòr, and Eòlas in Diarmailt.

Gair, a wicked evil black mage, who didn’t die! Besides his legitimate sons, Gair also fathered seven natural sons with Fionne, the witchwoman of Fàs, who has no functioning moral compass. The half-brothers included Díolain, who is the powerful eldest; Amitàn; Gàrlach the sixth; and, Acair, who is the youngest and cruel for the fun of it.

The magics of the Nine Kingdoms may be tied to the land or be more universal, transcending boundaries and include Croxteth, Fadaire, and Olc. The spell of Diminishing is an evil one created by Gair to drain every drop of a mage’s magic. Some of the runes involved are Comraich, a gathering of something in to protect it; Teasraig; and, Sonairte.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a study in pastels but for the deeper peach of Aisling’s cloak billowing to the right, while she stands in profile, her head turned towards us, long blonde hair floating around her face, as she prepares to draw her bow while wearing a bracer on her left forearm. Her own dress is a layered affair with a sleeveless mint green dress overlaying a grayer mint green skirt, graying brown boots coming halfway up her calves. She stands on a rocky shore, wildflowers growing in the crevices on the shore of a blue-green lake with a castle in the background atop a creamy rock cliff with yet another mountain behind it and another to the right. Most of the text is in white from the info blurb at the top to the blue shadowed author’s name below that, and the series info at the very bottom. The title itself spans the lower half of Aisling’s body in a blue shaded metallic gold that is visible at the right angle.

The title is what bothers so many, that River of Dreams flowing throughout with its slow reveal.

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