Title: A Triad in Three Acts: The Complete Forester Trilogy (Tales of the Forest #1-3)
Author: Blaine D. Arden
Publisher: Cayendi Press
Release Date: 15 August, 2016
Genre(s): Gay Fantasy
Page Count: 289
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
“Your Path is muddy, Kelnaht, but don’t think avoiding the puddles will make it easier to travel.”
Kelnaht, a cloud elf, is a truth seeker caught between love and faith, when a murder reveals an illicit affair between two tree elves he desires more than he can admit. Kelnaht’s former lover Ianys once betrayed him, and the shunned forester Taruif is not allowed to talk to anyone but the guide, their spiritual pathfinder.
The guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.
Then a stripling goes missing from the tribe, and heavy rainfall hides all traces of his whereabouts. With days creeping by without a lead, it’s hard to keep the tribe’s spirits up, more so when Kelnaht’s own future depends on the elders. Taruif has been shunned for almost twenty turns, but now that a possible forester’s apprentice is coming of age, the elders consider reducing his sentence. Taruif could be set free.
“I have great responsibilities, but my path ahead is as foggy and blurred as the path behind me.”
Later, when several children fall ill with more than a summer bug, truth seeker Kelnaht is assigned to investigate. What he finds is deadly and threatens the life of every underage child in the tribe, including Ianys’ daughter Atèn. Then a wounded traveller is found in the forest, left to die after a vicious attack.
“There is always a way.”
Kelnaht, Taruif, and Ianys are meant to be together, but old promises and the decree of the elders prevent them from claiming each other openly at Solstice. Kelnaht can investigate murder and foul play, but he can’t see how he can keep both his lovers without breaking the rules. But if he believes in the guide’s words and trusts his faith in Ma’terra, they will find a way to clear the fog and puddles from their paths.
As the lead character is a truth seeker elf, a sort of detective with added skills, the plot revolves around his investigation of cases. As this is a trilogy of short stories, each ‘act’ follows him on a different case. At the same time his personal relationships allow for examination of the culture within which he lives. This mechanism works well and allows for good character development of the key individuals. Whilst this is true of the central characters the secondary individuals are less well developed. This has the effect of diluting the impact of the cases under investigation in favour of the personal relationships. It is the development of the relationship between the central characters that holds the acts together, but it is clear that this is a collection of stories rather than a single book. The books get longer as they progress through the series, sadly this does not make the plot any richer. The final act is more complex than those that precede it and builds on those that have gone before. It has good flow and draws together loose ends building on tension developed through events. Had this been the basis of the whole book then it would have been a success. Unfortunately, by that point the lack of definition meant that there was less connection with the characters.
The central group consists of a triad of characters each with their own issues. This allows for internal tensions to be offset by the surrounding story. Similarly, the internal bond is inherently subject to different permutations that provide variety and richness to the chemistry. That said, the short story format stifles the development of this and would have been better as a traditional novel format. The progressive lengthening of the acts does allow for more time for examination of the relationship but this is largely focused on tensions that, like plot elements, are handled at a distance. The representation of sex is an example that is frequently introduced but superficially presented.
The individual stories have reasonably good pace and hold the reader’s attention throughout. They are the sort of stories that provide just enough tension to keep you reading but does allow for the book to be picked up and put down without the need for extensive backtracking.
Each of the acts has its own natural ending but allows for the sequel. Similarly the start of each act revises the state of play. The end of the book ties up loose ends and provides hope for a better future. A bit too predictable.
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