Song of the Forever Rains by E.J. Mellow is a dark fantasy romance novel that pulls the heartstrings of my neuro-diverse brain. E.J. Mellow is a bestselling author featured on “best of” lists on BuzzFeed and Gizmodo and reached #1 on multiple Amazon charts. She has received medals from eLit Book Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Awards as well. E.J. co-founded She Is Booked, a literary-themed fundraising organization supporting women’s charities.
The book is set in the fictional world of Aalidor, where having magic could outcast even the most powerful lords and ladies, where title and status are secondary to the secret powers of the underground Thief Kingdom. The book is the first in The Mousai Trilogy that follows three sisters with differing yet complementary magical gifts.
It is a compelling and lyrical coming-of-age tale that follows Larkyra on her first mission for the Theif Kingdom. Her mission is to present herself as a potential bride to the Duke of Lachlan, a neighboring land, and reallocate its riches into the hands of the Thief King. Upon meeting the Duke, she is instantly aware of the darkness inside him and the destruction he has caused to the land.
Larkyra soon realizes her mission has changed from acquisition to rescue as she watches the Duke torment the true heir to Lachlan, Darius Mekenna. When the Duke leaves Lachlan “on business” and the sun returns to the land, Larkyra knows she must remove the Duke from power to restore Lachlan to its glory. But it isn’t just Lachlan that captivates her heart. She finds herself craving what she cannot have, Darius.
As dark fantasy goes, it isn’t as dark as one would expect; however, with depictions of abuse and the overall darkness of the land of Lachlan, it is easy to see why this has a place in dark fantasy. As an abuse survivor, I would have loved to have a trigger warning about some of the abuse that happens, but I realize we’re still working on that being the standard. That being said, the abuse is magically inflicted, not physically.
As characters go, I found Lark and Darius well-written characters with fantastic depth and felt very connected to them. The Duke, being the antagonist, was also well-rounded and had a deep conviction that you do not see in many villains. However, it is an exhausted trope of the death of his wife leading him to do evil things.
Supporting characters in this story were well written as well. They felt real and as much a part of the story as the main characters are. They didn’t feel like a plot device or a way to describe something about the character. They had jobs and purpose in the story.
Lark’s powers of song, and her fear of them, were one of the things that spoke to me. The depth of her character made her relatable and authentic. It speaks to imposter syndrome battering you with intrusive thoughts about your value and worth in society. *Spoiler alert* The jump from romantic tension to a romantic relationship was rushed and shallow. We go from never being able to marry Darius even though she loves him; to I’ll marry you with very little development between the two states of being.
Darius’ journey is a little flat, but most of that is because he doesn’t remember much of the abuse inflicted on him. He wakes up battered, with no idea how he came to be in that state. He found his power in the end, but he was dragged through the plan to remove the Duke. Granted, seeing a reverse damsel in distress story is refreshing, so it works well here. I realize Darius was powerless and tried to protect his people from the wrath of the Duke.
I found this story grabbed my attention and kept it throughout; I was sad when the story ended. I wanted more of this world, even if Lark and Darius’ story had come to a “happily ever after.” The romance plot was well written, with loads of sexual tension to pull you through the story. Not that the story needed the help of romance at all. Plenty of suspenseful moments carried you through one scene to the next.
As a gender-swapped damsel in distress trope, it wasn’t overdone, and the male character did not seem weak or like he needed a woman to save him. Neither main character appeared to need a lover to “save” them or to be complete. The romance is built organically and with believable interactions.
As I previously mentioned, the ending was a little flat for me. It felt like we were quickly wrapping up all the loose knots and ends before saying the end. The proposal had no depth, and the quick change by Lark from “I’ll never marry” to “Damn skippy, I’ll marry you” was a little off-putting.
Throughout the novel, we were guided gently through the conflict with lyrical and descriptive writing that painted the world of Aalidor in colorful and beautiful imagery. The darkness that consumes Lachlan is captured in evocative and compelling language that envelops the reader in the sadness and disparity of the town.
Overall I loved this novel. I felt a connection to Lark from the beginning scene detailing her destructive power in such a beautiful way. The scenes where they wear masks to hide their true identities hammered home some of the themes that differently-abled people often feel when facing society. It’s like Elsa says in Frozen, “conceal, don’t feel, put on a show. Make one wrong move, and everyone will know.” That is true for Lark when her power demands her to use it to best her foes.
It was very refreshing for a novel to build upon this power struggle inside her knowing what a terrible thing it would be for her to unleash her magic upon Lachlan. In the end, it wasn’t even her powers that saved the day; it wasn’t even the Heroine that stopped the big bad guy. It was *SPOILER ALERT* the butler. It was a happy accident, but it was refreshing to see things not going exactly according to plan.