Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Courting Darkness: An Otherworld Novel by Yasmine Galenorn

Camille D'Artigo was not looking forward to Aeval, Queen of the Court of Darkness, teaching her magic. But with everything that's happened to her recently- her father disowning her because of her marriage to Trillian, a Svartan elf, which he never approved of. Marriage to her other two husbands, Smokey the White Dragon, and Morio, a youkai, troubles him far less than to the Svartan, trying to track down several items needed to prevent dark forces from taking over the human world, and other problems, that is no longer as troubling to her, and so she goes gladly to meet Aeval.

But she has barely met Aeval when another problem comes back to haunt her- specifically, Smoky's father, the White Dragon, Hyto, comes back to see her. Hyto wasn't happy with Smokey marrying Camille, when their family had him betrothed to another Dragon. But Smokey repudiated the match in favor of his marriage to Camille. Unlike Smokey, who is a hybrid Dragon, Hyto is pure white, and sees humans, and even mixed breeds like Camille and her sisters, as little better than slaves, playthings, and toys- often all at once. And he made it quite clear that he was going to take Camille for his own- whether Smokey likes it ot not- And over Camille's very voiciferous objections.

But there is a note of hope and happiness, as Iris, their fey housekeeper, is finally reinstated in her duties as a priestess, and comes back from a trip to the otherworld redeemed, which allows her to finally marry Seamus, the man of her dreams. But soon after the wedding ceremonies, Smokey leaves to take care of something, and when Camille sees a figure in white, she thinks it is him and follows him, only to be grabbed and taken off across the Ionyc Sea by Hyto, who brings Camille into his lair and makes her his slave, punishing her for marrying Smokey by making her serve him, and service him in every way, including painful and humiliating sex.

But Camille isn't alone in Hyto's cave. Another fae woman named Hanna acts as his housekeeper, but she isn't there because she wants to be. She is also a prisoner of Hyto, kept in line by his threats to hurt or kill her son if she falls out of line. But when Camille realizes how much Hanna loves her son, she tries to convince Hanna to escape, and take her son with them, if possible. Unfortunately for Hanna, her son is insane from his long imprisonment in Hyto's cave, in bars that cannot be broken, even by magic. But Hyto's treatment of Camille is so over the top cruel that it convinces Hanna that she must help Camille escape. And to do so, she puts her own son out of his misery.

But even if they can escape Hyto's lair, they must cross the frozen lands that comprise his realm, and then somehow find a way to get home again. And then, Camille, her sisters, her allies and theirs must find a way to take on Hyto if Camille is ever to be free of him, and once Smokey finds out what his father has done, will he and Camille's other husbands be able to contain their rage long enough to defeat Hyto, or will their anger be their downfall?

This volume finally sees the culmination of Hyto's anger against Camille and his son, and this Dragon is more than just powerful, he's cruel and he plays with the lives of everyone else, including his son, his wife, and everyone else he comes into contact with, as mere playthings. He wants his own way, and he'll do anything to get it, from kidnapping, rape, imprisonment, killing and lying like a rug. If you don't hate Hyto in this story, there is definitely something wrong with you.

This book is really about Camille, and her journey through being kidnapped, brutalized and raped. Now, her people think that sex is a good thing, but forcing someone is wrong, and Hyto does things to her that were mostly glossed over, but still very hard to read about. In the end, though, Camille manages to live with her courage and pride mostly intact, and she doesn't give in to the impulse to be just as bad as Hyto when it comes down to his final punishment, although recovering from what he did to her is going to take some time, emotionally, physically, and mentally, I suspect.

I loved this book, and it was good to see Camille stand up to the Dragon who had abused her so horribly and remain bloody but unbowed, to quote William Blake, by the experience. I loved seeing Iris and Sean marry, and I look forward to seeing more of Camille and her sisters in the next books. I am also glad that the last book was not the end of the series, as I am still enjoying this one too much to want to see it end. Highly recommended.

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