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The Lady of the Sorrows: The Bitterbynde Book II    by Cecilia Dart-Thornton order for
Lady of the Sorrows
by Cecilia Dart-Thornton
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Book I of The Bitterbynde, The Ill-Made Mute presented the reader with a Pandora's box of a protagonist - a mute amnesiac with severe facial malformation who was initially assumed to be a boy - in a world where humans are surrounded by perilous fey, both seelie and unseelie. In this first episode Imrhien embarked on a series of exciting adventures with a variety of companions, discovered a vast treasure, fell in love, and sought her true face, her voice and her memory.

As The Lady of the Sorrows begins, our heroine's healing is almost complete and her own (lovely of course) features are visible once more. She regains the ability to speak but still yearns for her lost memories. She travels to Court disguised as Rohain, aristocratic Lady of the Sorrow Isles, and accompanies officials to retrieve the treasure. She begins to have memory-dreams of Three Faces, Rats and a White Horse, makes new friends, and has some most surprising reunions with old ones. She learns to read and write and eventually even to fight.

War is brewing in the north. Dire unseelie creatures pursue Rohain for unknown reasons. There is a romantic but possibly doomed love, an idyllic and secret island retreat, a Krakatoa-like explosion, and a personal quest that brings Rohain/Imrhien into terrible danger to recover her past. She succeeds in this and those memories shared with the reader also illuminate her fantasy world, explain how it reached its current unstable state, and make clear what Rohain's enemies seek from her - solidly setting the scene for the third in this series, The Battle of Evernight.

The pace is still generally slow, lush in descriptions such as 'The sun cast a golden fretwork on the waves - a limpid mesh over living glass, the wave-rims like the veil-flowers of clematis', and accounts of encounters between humans and various fey creatures are again woven into the greater tapestry. However, this second volume moves the story along nicely, and provides many explanations to earlier puzzles. It's an impressive work of imagination, fantasy and romance, and I eagerly await the third volume.

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