- Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-250-13285-7 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-13286-4 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 7-10
Branwen, lady-in-waiting to Princess Eseult of Iveriu, feels compelled to use her gift as a healer to help the injured man who washes up near the castle’s shore, despite the fact that he is clearly from Kernyv, her kingdom’s warring enemy. Tantris claims to be a mere poet and thus no threat to Branny, and as she cares for him over the next few weeks in a hidden cave, they inevitably fall in love; their loyalties to their people eventually trump their feelings, however, and Tantris departs after he is healed. He turns up surprisingly soon—this time as Prince Tristan of Kernyv, vying for Princess Eseult’s hand in marriage to join their two kingdoms together in peace. In this revision of the traditional tale of Tristan and Iseult, Pérez moves the focus from the legendary beauty Iseult to her handmaiden, revising Branwen’s role as facilitator of the romance to its heroine. Complicated Branny is shamed by the memories of her parents’ death as she falls for Tristan, broken when it’s clear she can’t be with him, empowered by her growing healing abilities, and then broken again when those powers lead to harm and even death. Unfortunately, the story often feels piecemeal as dialogue wavers between overly formal (Tristan) and oddly anachronistic (everyone else), and underdeveloped characters are slotted into the plot as needed. Still, fans of Celtic lore and doomed lovers may find themselves swept away by Pérez’s vividly conjured setting and Branny and Tristan’s tortured fate. A note about the source mythology is included.