The first book in the Tide Lords trilogy.
Publication year: 2007
Running time: 19 hours, 24 minutes
Narrator: John Telfer
The series starts with a prolog where a group of humans is under attack from a Tide Lord. The immensely powerful immortal threatens to destroy the humans completely. There’s only one thing that can help future humans fight against the Tide Lords: a tarot deck. One human is sworn in to protect the cards at all cost and tell about their power to humans. He abandons his family and escapes.
The story starts 1000 years later when a criminal is sentenced to death. But instead of the expected beheading, he gets a hanging which upsets him a great deal. Because he’s an immortal and can’t die. He is hanged and his neck is broken but he doesn’t die; instead he heals. He claims to be Cayal the Tide Lord but nobody has believed in Tide Lords for hundreds of years.
The king’s spy master Declan Hawks wants to get to bottom of things and to do so he contacts a childhood friend and talks her into speaking with Cayal.
Arkady Desean is an academic and an expert on the legends of the Crasii (half-human and half-animal species) slaves and so also an expert of the legends about the Tide Lords. Originally, she intends to unmask Cayal as a liar in just a couple of hours of talking about history with him. However, Cayal knows a lot more than Arkady believed and so she visits him for months, getting Cayal to tell her stories about his life and how he became an immortal. Arkady was born a poor doctor’s daughter but she’s now a duchess. Usually, women aren’t allowed to have any sort of careers in this country but Arkady’s husband allows it.
Arkady’s husband Stellan is gay but since that’s punishable with death or exile, he doesn’t want anyone to know that. Arkady knows and that suits her just fine. Arkady and Stellan are friends, though. Stellan has had several lovers through the six years they’ve been married but Arkady apparently hasn’t. Stellan treats his Crasii slaves better than most owners – he even allows them to live in village type communities instead of slave pens. He’s an even tempered man and loyal to his king who is also his cousin.
Jackson Aranville is Stellan’s lover. He’s minor nobility and part of Stellan’s household as a Crasii trainer. He’s very calculating man who only cares about getting an easy living. Apparently, he would sleep with anyone go get what he wants.
Warlock is a canine Crasii and he’s in prison for killing a human (who raped his sister). He is quite young but knows already that as a Crasii his life can’t become much better. However, when Cayal is placed on the cell next to Warlock, Warlock realizes that he doesn’t have to obey Cayal’s orders, like most Crasii.
According to legends, which any well-schooled human will scoff at, the Crasii were created by the Tide Lords to serve the lords as warriors and servants. The Tide lords created the Crasii by blending humans and animals with magic. The world has canine Crasii, who work as servants and are very eager to please their masters, feline Crasii, who are solders, and amphibians who apparently assist with ships and dive for stuff. All of the Crasii are slaves and most people treat them with competent. They can clearly understand speech and they can talk, too, but most humans till call them animals. However, they driven by their instincts far more than humans.
I enjoyed the setting quite a lot but unfortunately, the plot didn’t draw me in. It’s centered on Arkady visiting Cayal in prison where Cayal tells her about his life. So, most of the plot on the first half of the book is trying (and failing) to convince Arkady of something the reader already knows is true. There’s also some court intrigue: Arkady loathes Jackson and Stellan’s young, orphan niece is visiting him. Also, the king’s eldest son invites him to visit Stellan and immediately the naive young nice catches his eye.
The biggest problem with the first half of the book is that we readers know that Cayal is really a Tide Lords so I was left wondering about how dense Arkady and everyone else is. (And yes I realize that it’s the equivalent of finding out that faeries are actually real so of course Arkady couldn’t believe it immediately. But several hundred pages was just too long.) Apparently, they don’t think that healing from a broken neck in just a few days is a remarkable thing. Instead they continued to stubbornly believe that Cayal is a plant from a hostile nation who wants to stir up the local Crasii. Granted, Arkady didn’t see Cayal healing. However, the guards and the warden of the prison saw it with their own eyes and still don’t believe that Cayal is immortal! None of them even mention this healing to Arkady! Arkady even suggests that lopping off a few fingers would disprove Cayal’s claim and still nobody bothers to mention to her that he has already healed from a broken neck!!
Arkady is an academic who only believes what she can see. Unfortunately, this makes her seem like stupid in the eyes of at least this reader. She’ also very compassionate and believe in the rights of everyone, including the Crasii.
To put it bluntly, Cayal is an arrogant asshole and he knows it. It seems that pretty much all immortals are the same. He’s also very, very bored and simply just wants to die, which he can’t do. He wanted to be a convicted murderer because then his head would be cut off and even though his head would grow back, he would forget his previous life completely. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t beheaded. He slowly grows to admire and care for Arkady, which is apparently only the second time in his life and he’s over 8000 years old.
While I liked the world and the Crasii, I doubt I’ll continue with the series.