Aisling is one of the Fianna, charged with protecting Ireland from supernatural threat - even if the other Fianna are less than accepting of that
And Ronan is one of those supernatural threats - a Tuatha de Danann, exiled from Ireland by the Fianna on pain of death. But he’s back, desperately looking for the four treasures to save his people
When one of those treasures emerges, their paths are bound to cross in a mess of secrets - but while they are old enemies there may be a common enemy far darker than either
I am left with a sense of… disatisfaction. And not just because we have a book devoid of minority characters.
Looking back I can think of all the good things about the book - the concept of the setting, the Fianna, the Irish history and mythology, the hints of the Tuatha De Danann - I mean these are all things that are designed to hook me in. The writing was also really good, excellently paced with some awesomely immersive action scenes that still managed to bring in introspection. (There are authors but write tangents into their action scenes and I just picture the protagonist staring into space for 10 minutes while the fight rages around them).
And the main character, a strong capable woman without either a desperate need to go it alone nor a refusal to accept help. Who has agency without a hint of spunkiness, pushes back against sexist patronising without being ridiculous or cliched or without the situation being cartoonishly silly. Magic and fighting and fun… She is the only woman in the book which would generally be an issue but it also kind of underpins a central conflict of her character. She’s not an exceptional woman and certainly doesn’t seem to regard other women with contempt or negatively. But she’s the only female fianna surrounded by men who don’t give her the respect she is owed.
Ronan’s story, the refugee of a broken people trying to bring some hope and salvation to his people - but it’d be nice to see that more developed, explore what a Tuatha De Danaan actually is - and what a Fianna actually is. Still these are great things I definitely liked.
And yet I’m not hooked in. Oh I can talk myself into being hooked in because I love these elements. But I feel this book maybe went too far in for plot and not enough in for world building. We introduced the concept of some of these creatures and beings but it’s brief. We get an idea of Aisling’s struggles in the Fianna and her place in it - and it’s really well presented as Aisling constantly expects behaviours from Ronan he doesn’t display. It’s woven into how she’s clearly had to live and work and it feels more natural and real because of it.
The book feels short. I’m not entirely sure it is (it can be hard to tell with ebooks) but it feels it. There’s plot there, rumbling around auction houses, fighting in lots of action packed scenes, being all sexy, more fighting and planning and racing around and hiding secrets…. Lots of action. But not as much character development or world building. And all that action and plot? It’s kind of over by the end of the book. It’s a great conclusion, settles everything up, sure Aisling may have ongoing issues but they’re dealt with relatively simple and Ronan still has his quest for the treasures - but they little we’ve seen of his motivation is that he’s been “looking” for these treasures for a really long time without any sense of urgency. So there’s not really a hook there. The book comes to a close on this plot line
And the romance? They met, felt attraction, there was the original conflict of their mutual secrets, all was revealed and we end with them kind of going on a date? That’s a completed romance arc right there complete with at least Happy for Now if not Happily Ever After.
Ok… so without a plot hook and with the characters kind of lacking more of their actual personalities and lives outside the danger and action, with the romance concluded and no real ongoing metaplot or menace or a lot of world building to explore… it feels done. And for a first book in a series I’m not just judging this individual book but whether it pulls me in. And it didn’t - the Fianna Awakened. And then went back to sleep. I’ve read a lot of stand alone novels that read like the first book of a series and left me disappointed, but this is the first book in a series that reads like a standalone novel. Which leaves me a little deflated