Book Review: A Triad in Three Acts, by Blaine D. ArdenHot
Kelnaht, a cloud elf, is a truth seeker caught between love and faith, when a murder reveals an illicit affair between two tree elves he desires more than he can admit. Kelnaht's former lover Ianys once betrayed him, and the shunned forester Taruif is not allowed to talk to anyone but the guide, their spiritual pathfinder.
The guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.
Then a stripling goes missing from the tribe, and heavy rainfall hides all traces of his whereabouts. With days creeping by without a lead, it's hard to keep the tribe's spirits up, more so when Kelnaht's own future depends on the elders. Taruif has been shunned for almost twenty turns, but now that a possible forester's apprentice is coming of age, the elders consider reducing his sentence. Taruif could be set free.
“I have great responsibilities, but my path ahead is as foggy and blurred as the path behind me.”
Later, when several children fall ill with more than a summer bug, truth seeker Kelnaht is assigned to investigate. What he finds is deadly and threatens the life of every underage child in the tribe, including Ianys' daughter Atèn. Then a wounded traveller is found in the forest, left to die after a vicious attack.
"There is always a way."
Kelnaht, Taruif, and Ianys are meant to be together, but old promises and the decree of the elders prevent them from claiming each other openly at Solstice. Kelnaht can investigate murder and foul play, but he can’t see how he can keep both his lovers without breaking the rules. But if he believes in the guide's words and trusts his faith in Ma’terra, they will find a way to clear the fog and puddles from their paths.
Brilliantly Touching Fantasy Series
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
I'll be reviewing each act separately, then offering an overall review for the entire book.
Act 1: The Forester
In Act 1, we're introduced to Kelnaht as he investigates the death of a cloud elf, Cyine. We started right in the thick of things, learning who Kelnaht was and what his purpose was, within the elf people. We were also gradually and seamlessly introduced to the new world in a way that avoided info-dumps and staged conversations that conveniently gave away what we, the readers, needed to know.
From page 1, I was intrigued by Kelnaht as a character, but also about the world and the way that he and Brem worked together so flawlessly. The Guide added even more intrigue, until we finally learned about the shunned forester, Taruif and Kelnaht's ex-boyfriend, Ianys. There was a whole lot of intrigue going on, some suspicion and uncertainty, but I was never pulled out of the story or out of Kelnaht's world.
The fact that this fantasy story was combined with a murder mystery just made my book-loving heart squee with delight. Those are two of my favourite things and having them together made it perfect. I especially loved the way that Kelnaht and Brem used familiar (to the reader) investigative tools to find the murderer, as well as those that were magical and fantasy-esque, combining the world of what we know with the unknown world of what we were exploring in the story.
“Despite my continuous attempts to free my mind from him, he had claimed a place in my heart that should have never been his, could never be his. He was forbidden. He was shunned.”
The chemistry between Taruif, Ianys and Kelnaht is part of that beauty. The way they work together, so seamlessly, and with real affection is one thing. But the fact that they have a fully equal stake in their relationship is what makes it so great; to see that they can be together as all three, or just two together, without anyone getting jealous or being left out, while all having the same level of love and affection for each other.
The mystery of a missing stripling was intriguing and involved, without being complicated or over-the-top. It had the perfect balance of realism, natural progression from one event to the other and mystery. Again, Kelnaht and Brem used familiar and new techniques to track the missing boy, while allowing us enough familiarity to keep us aware of what was happening and why. The added bonus of having so many suspects and no clear motive until well into this Act just made it all the better.
Similarly, the relationship progressed seamlessly and organically, allowing us to further explore the main characters of the story, without abandoning the importance of the mystery.
Act 3: Full Circle
It seems fitting that after three Acts of superb storytelling, world-building and characterisation that I should finish the book crying. From the serious nature of the mystery, to the after-effects and consequences, to the final Epilogue that was so bittersweet, there was a lot to capture my attention.
The story of the children of their tribe falling sick, so quickly, was both intriguing and sad, because I was able to feel the same helplessness that Kelnaht did, every time he found a lead that went nowhere or another child took ill and they had no answers. When the final revelation came, it was once again so seamlessly drawn into the plot of the overall series that it made complete sense and wasn't one of those solutions that came out of nowhere.
There is a lot more I could say, but I don't want to give away any spoilers and I feel that going any deeper into the plot would do that. So I'll leave it at this → I love Kelnaht, Taruif and Ianys equally, I love the guide and Uruf, and the way that I fell so easily into a story that rewarded my interest with laughter, smiles, tears and a welcome to a home I never knew I wanted.
“His whispered words of love filled but half my heart. Something was missing, and I was afraid I might never get it back. We might never get it back. Taruif might not be shedding tears, but the possessive way in which he held me, and the way his heart pounded, were telling enough. He was as scared as I was.”
The world building was incredible. Right from page 1 of Act 1, there was no doubt that this was a close community, a family and that they would all do whatever it took to take care of each other. The characters explorations of their world gave us a view of how their world worked and what it looked like. We never had to doubt or be disorientated within the world, because it was so simply and plainly put across to us.
I loved that there were different kinds of elves, that they had different abilities and talents, as well as different motivations and tasks within their community. It meant that there was always a little something different on the horizon.
The attention to detail was astoundingly brilliant. I didn't even realise it, until later, just how much I'd learned about the characters and the world and the way the community worked, until I stopped to write my review of Act 1 and it hit me. It was so subtly done, so seamless with the telling of the story and the way we were led through the story by the characters and never left to feel detached from it. Normally, 1st person is my least favourite POV, but it really worked here, to draw the reader into the story.
I love that, although all the stories are effectively about the progression of the relationship between Taruif, Ianys and Kelnaht, 70% of the actual plot is not about the relationship. It's a real plot, with a real mystery and a whole host of characters that have nothing to do with the relationship. Each Act had a fully put together, fully individual story that had a complete ending with only a hint of a cliffhanger. They could easily be read individually, but I love that they're all put together, as well.
To top it off, the whole thing comes packaged in stunning covers, an easy-to-read and easy on the eye presentation, along with beautiful scene dividers. Never underestimate the benefit of a great presentation!