Kallista, now Reinine of all Adara, still has demons to seek out. She and her family journey south to her mate Obed's homeland in pursuit of the demon who absconded six years previously with Kallista's temple-bound ilian, Merinda, and her child. But when one of the godmarked dies, Kallista is devastated and her mates must cope without her. A trial by combat is needed to regain custody of a child and a new ninth godmarked must be located in order to make the magic whole again and powerful enough to defeat a truly formidable demon. But Kallista needs more than magic to heal her.
First of all, a big zero to Juno Books for the formatting of the ebook version of this novel. There are no chapter indexes at all, making navigating through the book difficult, sometimes there would be no spaces between words for a sentence or two and every so often the formatting would completely disappear, shoving everything into the same paragraph for a few pages until there was a section break in the story and it came right again. I found that incredibly frustrating and kept picking up my paper copy of the book to read that section (in this case I was very grateful to have both formats). For the record, I was reading the epub file I bought from Fictionwise. I don't know if other ebook formats have the same problems or not, but I was very unhappy with the version I have.
So that's my complaint about the production values, but what about the story?
I really enjoyed The Eternal Rose, finding it a more enjoyable read that The Barbed Rose and a fitting end to the series. I have to admit that I'm not exactly sure why it was this way. Some of the things that bothered me about the second book - most particularly the messy interpolitics of Kallista's ilian - remained in this one, but somehow it worked so much better for me.
The group finds themselves travelling to Obed's homeland to rescue Merinda and her son and are soon caught up in politics and dealing with demons once more. This book is set six years after the end of The Barbed Rose. Kallista has been Reinine of Adara for this time and settled well into the role, even if she still fells like she doesn't belong in it. After a magical assassination attempt that forces her to realise she has let her vigilance against the demons slip, they finally receive word of where Merinda might be and set of on a state visit to Daryath.
Adara's ilians are not accepted there, and they are forced to split themselves into the appearance of pairs in order not to offend their hosts. They all struggle with this, but most especially Obed, who found it hard to accept his place as one of a group in the first place and now, back in his homeland he finds himself slipping back into old, bad habits.
The book is told from the point of view of the Adarans and there is a certain feeling of superiority that their ways are best and the Daryathi are wrong and backward. On the whole, the reader can agree with this as I too disagree with the practice of slavery (mainly against Adarans in this case) and trial by combat. I can also accept that within the fantasy world created here it is better to let magic users work in the community than lock them away in a temple, but while I didn't like the Daryathi prejudice against the Adaran ilians, I also didn't like the Adaran assumption that they were totally right and the Daryathi totally wrong.
All the same, the developing problems within the ilian and their resolution was well done and interesting to read and I was totally involved in the story and wanted everything to work out well for all concerned.
The blurb on the back cover gives away one major plot point, so I guess I may as well address it here. One of Kallista's Godmarked is killed (I'm not going to say who or how) and while I was so sad that it happened, growing from the grief and devastation becomes another successful part of the story. Knowing this would happen, I felt it was pretty easy to pick out which character would be Godmarked to make the number back to the required nine, but the way not Kallista nor any of her remaining ilian see it worked perfectly within the context of the story and I liked that.
There's a lot of need for understanding between characters and even some long-standing issues are well resolved, especially between Obed and Torchay.
Kallista herself is a significant character in terms of self-development as well as plot in this book. There are a few hints early on that something might be wrong, all deftly slipped into her own POV sections where the reader is given a hint but Kallista is unable to pick up on it herself. This is developed nicely and it is only towards the end that she begins to realise what she is doing and where she is going wrong. She has never been perfect, and here her imperfections have been seized upon to weaken her. It is well done and I liked how it was resolved. Sure, it was a bit a case of one big personal revelation and all can start coming right, but this is fiction and there are only so many pages. I think Dayton did a good job.
I do feel a little sorry for the Daryathi, who end up having their entire society and way of life turned upside down by the arrival of Kallista and her family. But I also realise that the reader needs to remember that while it isn't spelled out very often, the One God/Goddess is a real entity in this world, not just something the people believe in. He/She is the driving force behind everything that happens in Daryath, not Kallista, who is simply His/Her conduit. So while, as I said, I feel sorry for the Daryathi, they had strayed from the right way according to the setup of the world (with some help) and the One chose to use Kallista to set things right.
This doesn't necessarily feel quite right to me, a real person in the real world where things are not that black and white, but Dayton makes it work within the world she has created.
This was a good, solid end to the series and I am very glad I finally finished the trilogy, even if it took me several years to get to do it. Dayton has told a good, solid and interesting story and I enjoyed reading it.
The Eternal Rose
The One Rose, Book 3
Read: 10-1-10 to 13-1-10
The One Rose