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by Karin Rita Gastreich

Cover art by Jesse Smolover

Fear and prejudice against female magic in a corrupt kingdom leads to an attempt to purge female magic from the kingdom and the destruction of Eolyn’s entire villiage. Led by her mother’s spirit, Eolyn finds the hidden dwelling of Ghemena, one of the last surviving Maga.  Ghemena takes Eolyn in and teaches her the ways of old.  Meanwhile, the sole heir to the throne is a mage prince. Mourning the passing of his mother, he fiddles with one of the gifts she left behind and appears at Eolyn’s side. The two become secret friends but her desire to learn magic rather than return to the city with him threatens their bond. During the years they are separated, each changes in ways the other cannot imagine.  How much will their friendship mean if they meet on the battlefield?

Karin drops the reader right into the action as Eolyn faces the destruction of her entire villiage within the first chapter. Writers can learn the “show don’t tell” writing style from her as the vivid scenes and imagry unfold. Karin had me laughing and crying (not simultaneously this time) at some of Eolyn’s antics. The cheerful mood becomes solemn towards the middle of the book once Eolyn has reached adulthood and it falls upon her to make tough desicions.

The role of Fate/Destiny
As I write more reviews and talk to authors, I am learning just how controversial having Fate or Destiny in a book can be. What I like about Eolyn is that while premonitions and divination are a part of the story, there is no set end that cannot be escaped. There is a choice, a fork in the road. While there is a point of no return after Eolyn chooses her path and is trapped into the related consequences of that path, had she chosen the other, a different story would have unfolded. All of the premonitions “come true” but they are vague enough in their content to be deciphered only after the event. Technically, more than one outcome could be the fruition of a premonition depending on how the seer interpreted the words.

Romance, yes or no?
When I first read the back cover, I wondered if this was going to be a romance novel masquerading as fantasy, but my concerns were unfounded (not that I don’t like a good romance novel). While Eolyn has some underlying Romeo and Juliet themes, unlike the Shakespearean play, the initial romance is based on love and friendship rather than lust at first sight. The story and relationships were given time to build and only when I was feeling impatient did I feel it moved slowly. If I had not had other obligations, I might not have come up for air.

As other relationships took the spotlight, Eolyn can stir up quite the philosophical debate. Can you love someone when they are presenting only a facade of who they really are? Are your feelings for a person negated if you love the mask but they have not shown you the person underneath? Can you love someone but hate what makes them who they are? Does faithfulness even after death equate to love?

The Ending
I won’t give anything away, but I will say it is one of those endings you will either love or hate.  I doubt there will be many people in the middle.  In some respects it is open ended and the reader could finish the story in their own mind differently than perhaps Karin intended, BUT there is a sequel in the works so who knows where Karin will send the story next.  You’ll just have to read it to understand what I mean.

Me? Frankly, I’m torn between love and hate. I’m complicated like that.

5 out of 5 stars
-Eliabeth Hawthorne

Eolyn is for you if: You like romance stories that build.  You adore innocent and naive characters with a defiant streak.  You enjoy a book that leaves you with philosophical questions.

Eolyn is not for you if: You want a love at first sight whirlwind romance.  Difficult names frustrate you; the characters and creatures in this novel have very complicated names.  You want a take-no-prisoners Xena Warrior Princess lead.

Similar books in this genre
Queen’s Own, Arrow’s Flight, Arrow’s Fall by Mercedes Lackey

image from the Adopt an Indie month website

If you liked this review and would like a chance to participate in the next Adopt an Indie Month in February 2012, click the image to the right.  You can also find Adopt an Indie on Facebook and Twitter to get updates.  You don’t have to be a blogger to sign up as a reader, so check it out.

Special thanks to Donna Brown who spent countless hours coordinating this event including giving me my first guest post on her blog, and Karin for giving me a chance to read this book.  This has been an experience I hope to repeat in February.

About the Author
KARIN RITA GASTREICH was born near Kansas City, Missouri. After earning a PhD in Zoology at the University of Texas in Austin, she lived for ten years in Central America. There she directed a study abroad program in tropical ecology and environmental policy for Duke University and the Organization for Tropical Studies. She recently returned to her home town and is now an Assistant Professor of Biology at Avila University. In addition to reading and writing, her past times include camping, hiking, music and flamenco dance.

Karin is an active member of two writer’s groups, the Dead Horse Society in Kansas City, and The Fantasy and Horror Writer’s Forum at thenextbigwriter.com Her fantasy fiction publications include short stories in Zahir: A Journal of Speculative Fiction, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia and A Visitor to Sandahl. She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency and was awarded an honorable mention in the Summer 2008 Women on Writing Flash Fiction Contest. In addition to the blog for EOLYN, she keeps a personal blog about her life as a writer and ecologist at karin-gastreich.livejournal.com