While book reviews are not typically part of my blogging bag (honestly, I don’t know that I have a typical anything on this blog so far), I recently got the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Hailey Edwards’ latest book, A Veil of Secrets, due out in December of this year. Ms Edwards is the author of the Aranae Nation and Daughters of Askara series, both under the umbrella of the fantasy/romance genre. I’ve been a fan of Ms Edwards’ work for a while now – I picked up the first Aranae book, A Hint of Frost, two years ago when I was just starting to expand my literary tastes from straight-up fantasy into stories with more of a romantic twist. I’ve now read every book in between (there are 8 of them at this point, I believe, counting this latest piece) and enjoyed each of them.
Thus it is my great pleasure to offer my review of A Veil of Secrets. If this story sounds interesting to you I’d encourage you to use the next couple months to catch up prior to the December release!
Although I have made every effort to leave out major plot points, there are potential spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
The world of the Aranae Nation, for those unfamiliar with the series, is dark indeed. This isn’t a bunch of fluffy romance, nor is it a plotless pages-long sex fest (though some of the scenes are quite steamy, which I don’t mind a bit). This series has a central plot involving a deadly plague which is wiping out whole towns of people and animals alike. The Aranae themselves are unique, with spidery qualities including fangs and the ability to spin thread. They are divided into tribal groups, each of them with their own codes of honor and skills. The Mimetidae, for example, are a war-like people (think semi-Klingons, if you will), willing to eat the flesh of their enemies, while the Salticidae are relatively peaceful agricultural-types, and obligate vegans to boot. Given the complexity of the world, I definitely recommend reading the preceding books prior to picking up Veil. Veil builds on the plot from the prior books, and offers much insight into the origins of the dreaded plague (you won’t hear those secrets from me, though – you’ll have to read to find out).
On to more book-specific details…
One of the things I love about Edwards’ work – the reason I easily blast through each installment of the series – is that she has a talent for grabbing the reader immediately. She accomplishes this beautifully in A Veil of Secrets, perhaps moreso than in any of her other books. From page one we are plunged into the world of Marne, the female protagonist with a rather unfortunate secret, Edan, her aggressive and super-protective brother, and Asher, a guard who is accompanying Marne and Edan on a journey through the dangerous veil, a sort of metaphysical barrier between where they are and the city of Beltania. Marne and her brother are trying desperately to survive after Marne was turned into a harbringer, a dangerous creature best known for flying around killing and eating people, a reputation of which makes it difficult for Marne to exist freely as who she really is. The difference between Marne and your typical harbringer is that she didn’t make the full transition into paranormal killing machine – she instead walks the earth dependent on injections to keep her alive and sane. She and Edan are seeking refuge in Beltania with the hopes that they will be able to have some kind of fresh start in life, away from their unpleasant pasts.
Now, I started this book while at Penny Arcade Expo, a geeky con for fans of video and tabletop gaming (brief tangent incoming). My husband had gone to a panel on some RTS game that I wasn’t really into, so I was sitting comfy in a hotel lobby with my tea and tablet, pleased to have a little down time in which to read. Within the first several pages I found myself deep in the action, fighting off harbringers with Marne in the veil. It was that lovely feeling when you’re really into a book, and your consciousness is hovering somewhere between you, the pages, and the characters…
…then a siren came blaring through my trance, and when I looked up I was a little surprised that I was still in Seattle. That’s the kind of reader-grabbing that I’m talking about here, and that was when I realized I was going to have a hard time putting the book down.
The romance in Veil is absolutely adorable. As stated above, Edwards likes to write romance with a central plot, so the physical romance is towards the end, but well worth it. Marne is a woman with a great deal of strength who demonstrates a clear arc from relative dependence on her brother to a new-found comfort with her abilities and independence, which I find very appealing in my romancy stuff. Marne is no damsel; she easily stands beside her warrior male counterparts. Several characters make re-appearances from prior books to good effect; I particularly enjoyed seeing Pascale with Lleu, two side characters who offer bits of comic relief and witty banter throughout.
If I have any criticism (and I add this so I don’t come off as just an excited fangirl) it’s that at times I felt a little lost in the settings – I’m very visual and like to get a better handle on what I’m looking at and where people are, which was occasionally lacking. There’s a balance between being overly detailed and leaving a majority of the setting to the reader, and I feel like Veil is more on the reader-insert-details spectrum. Since my concern is always characters first, this was by no means significant enough for me to down-rate this book.
Want a number? 5 out of 5 stars. Two thumbs up. Too many character-driven giggles to count. Interested? Go read it, folks.
Alright! Hopefully that gives you a little something to go on. In other news, I will be posting a Q&A with S.E. Doster in the next several days regarding the kickstarter for her book (coincidentally named) Sacrifice. Also on my agenda: finishing Forsaken Lands 2 (good gods above please let me finish the draft this month) and another installment in Fae and Folly. I’ve got 4 more days before I go back to the medical grind, and I plan to spend as much of that time writing as I can. Peace.