Title: Beloved Son (Aisling #3)
Author: Carole Cummings
Cover artist: Alessia Brio
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Length: Novel/388 PDF pages/119,000 words
Genre: Fantasy /M/M romance/ Young adult
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Epic. Satisfactory ending to amazing trilogy.
Review may contain spoilers for the first two books.
Blurb: Newfound love might not be enough. Trust holds the possibility of both salvation and damnation.
Circumstances having forced them to seek asylum in Lind, Wil and Dallin find themselves at the center of an approaching convergence they’re not sure they’re strong enough to face. The power of the land and the Mother wait for Wil in the bowels of Lind, but it comes with strings attached. With Dallin’s help, he must find a way to defeat the soul-eater and save the Father, Her Beloved, and manage to keep his soul in the process.
Friends are not necessarily friends. Trusted mentors are not necessarily to be trusted. And good intentions are sometimes the most dangerous sort.
Through deduction and magic and mutual strength, Dallin and Wil must accept their roles as the Guardian and the Aisling, and stand together against a ruthless god in a climactic battle of dreams and wills, the fates of both of their souls and those of all mortals hanging in the balance. Except, what good is the strength of love, if the one who needs it doesn’t know how to trust?
Review: Beloved Son is the third book in the Aisling trilogy and, if you didn’t read the first two books, this is a bad place to start. So, stop reading this review and check out Guardian and Dream, reviewed by Cole here and here. The books are classified as “young adult” by the publisher, but, personally, I never saw the trilogy that way. The lack of explicit sex is, in my opinion, the only thing that qualifies it as such. Although I have faith in young people everywhere, I believe that some themes of Aisling require somewhat longer mileage.
The story of Beloved Son continues where previous novel left off. Wil and Dallin are in Lind, where they hope to embrace their destinies and prepare for the final conflict. The forces both outside and inside of Lind, characters old and new, friends and enemies converge to help or hinder their efforts: Commonwealth, Brethren, Weardas of Lind, the Old Ones, Corliss Stierne, Woodrow, Calders, Shaw, Captain Wisena, General Wheeler, Aeledfýres, Mother, Father, etc. More importantly, men’s insecurities and past experiences conspire to become an obstacle to the preferred outcome of their adventure – their mutual survival.
Aisling is primarily character driven epic and Beloved Son was a fitting ending to it. Wil and Dallin came a long way from the interrogation room in Putnam and this novel is a culmination of the changes they went through. The novel takes place over just a few days and most of the conflicts – though not all of them – are internal or take place in the dream world. Some readers, who perhaps expected the conflict on the scale of the Battle of Five Armies, may be disappointed, but I loved it and I thought it was perfect for these two characters. The story of this particular part of trilogy revolves about acceptance and trust. Both Wil and Dallin need to accept their roles as Guardian and Aisling, they need to accept their faith or faith and expectations of others, they need to trust in themselves, in their bond, they need to accept the help of others. It is not easy to grow, but Wil and Dallin must. Otherwise, not only they will be lost to each other, but the entire world will fall into darkness.
It was amazing to watch Wil transform from barely functioning individual, lost and abused, to combative “badger”, to the man who takes his destiny into his own hands and damn the consequences. Wil needs to accept who he is, who he needs to be, even if he loses Dallin. The most touching scene in the entire book concerning Wil was Wil’s meeting with the Mother, the goddess he consciously and unconsciously denied all his life. It’s confusing and painful – because what else the meeting between a god and a mortal – no matter how extraordinary the mortal is – can be. Not least because Wil believes that „the heart of the Divine can be fickle and hard, and he knows gods are not infallible“. Wil’s struggles and confusion broke my heart, but I rather liked the concept of gods bound by our own faith, bound by all the faiths. It’s trying – and not just for Wil – but, in the end, in the very end it was deeply satisfying.
Dallin, as I’m sure I said somewhere before, is the man you would want to have in your corner when things go south. He is strong and true, but his journey wasn’t any simpler than Wil’s – for he had to traverse from his well ordered world – first in the military and than in Constabulary – to the world where faith plays the central role. It is blind faith Dallin can’t accept, something that endeared his character to me immensely. For probably the first time, Dallin doubts: his ability to be true Guardian to his Aisling, true lover to Wil, true to his people, true to both Father and Mother – when it seems he will have to betray one to stay true to the other. There is a soft core, reserved mostly for Wil, beneath all Dallin’s steel. If there is one excerpt that speaks of who Dallin is, it’s this one:
“See, I believe in you—whoever or whatever you are, I believe in you, because I’ve touched your heart. I touch your soul every night when we sleep and you let me in. And so I keep thinking you believe in me, and when I have the fact that you don’t, maybe can’t, slam me in the face, it… well, it rather winds me, I think.”
In the end, I adored this trilogy. The writing was beautiful, both evocative and introspective. It irrevocably bound me to the characters and it didn’t let me go until the final page. I liked watching the changes in our protagonists, but I adored the fact that, in spite of these changes, they stayed true to their personalities and one another. They choose one another over and over again. The trials were not the only thing between them. Love, gentleness and humor were there too (Dallin: „Can’t help yourself, I know. It’s my carefully cultivated air of danger. A bloody magnet, me.”). The ending left me with a satisfied smile on my face. Wil and Dallin are now one of my favorite literary couples.
So, you may ask, why 4.5 stars then, if I loved it so much? First, let me be clear that this rating was for this book alone – I have no qualms about giving five stars to the complete trilogy. Perhaps, that is part of the problem: this is more one huge book than three separate books and I strongly advise, especially new readers, to read them in order and close to each other, because they require you to have multiple clues and story lines in mind. The book is a bit too long: more of the page time could have been devoted to Wil and Dallin as a couple in tranquil moments. I accepted that Wil and Dallin were extraordinary, even in their roles of Aisling and Guardian, but I wanted more or better explanation of how they just knew some things about their respective roles. Finally, the author left a big door open for the sequel, although this particular story is done. Perhaps, that should have been made clearer as it can unnecessary confuse the readers.
In the end, Aisling, and Beloved Son as part of it, was excellent epic which could easily find its place in the mainstream publishing. However, we are lucky to have it in our little niche as much as we are lucky to have Carole Cummings among M/M authors. Until Carole offers us something new, enjoy reading this magnificent epic of hers. Highly, highly recommended.