Rating: 5 stars out of 5
When he set out to escort the prisoner Wilfred Calder back to Putnam, Constable Dallin Brayden didn’t anticipate the political betrayal and malicious magic threatening their lives at every turn. To his surprise, he slips into the role of protector—and it’s more than duty compelling him to ensure Wil’s safety as they’re haunted by strange dreams. But does Wil dare put himself in the hands of a man he believes wants him dead?
Wil’s past weighs heavily on him, tainting his perceptions as he struggles his way through a tangle of lies. With both will and magic as his weapons, he fights desperately for survival—and his soul. For the Aisling is coveted by more than the Guild and the Brethren; ancient gods and soul-eating spirits also want what lives within him. His only chance might be Dallin and his goddess, the Mother, who Wil has been taught to despise above all others.
It’s hard to describe just how exquisite this book and saga actually is. Dream, the second story in the Aisling Trilogy, picks up exactly where the first left off, with Dallin accepting that Wil is the Aisling, the one he is meant to protect above all else. Why? Because Dallin is the Guardian. What that means, how they are to fulfill those roles start to be revealed here.
That revelation and the impact upon their relationship starts immediately. One of the biggest issues here is trust and what each man has seen/been told will happen to them. Do they learn to trust each other and that they can make the future their own? Or is the future already written and are they simply trodding a path they are meant to go down? What do the gods have planned for them if anything?
The world building Cummings starting in Guardian (Aisling, #1) becomes even more complex and wide ranging, crossing lands and picking up cultures and peoples we had only heard about in the first novel. Mirroring the complexity of the world building is the relationship and personal dynamics between Wil and Dallin. From enemies to friends and now the slow move into a romantic relationship, Cummings has been careful to establish the necessary trust and communication that let’s this happen between them. I love the slow courtship between the men. Considering all Wil has been through, the slow emotional involvement that the physical one also implies makes perfect sense.
Even as we enjoy the small touches that illuminate the growth of intimacy between the men, Cummings is busy ramping up the suspense of the chase as well. For the evil is never far behind them, the good men chasing them for the wrong reasons as well…even their destination is fraught is peril. The author makes us fear the smallest of breaks in the woods, the turn of every corner in a village is reason for the reader to hold our breath.
There is no one element or section here I can highlight. It’s all equally fantastic. Characters are beautifully created. I believe in them and their relationships. Fear for their futures. The evil here is horrific and about to deepen with the last story. The gods and aspects of religion the author has devised is stunning in its originality. How this will play out for Wil and Dallin in book three, Beloved Son, is something I can’t wait to read when it’s released in December.
As with the first story, Dream ends somewhat abruptly, most likely where the final installment will pick up. Oddly, I’m alright with that. After the ending in Guardian, I almost expected it. At the end here Wil and Dallin are poised on the precipice of knowledge. That next and final story tips them and us over the edge.
If you love fantasy and are new to this trilogy, you have until December to get caught up. I highly recommend this story (not a stand alone) and the first, Guardian. Then join me in December for the release of Beloved Son.
Cover art by Anne Cain is perfect for the character and for branding the series.