Cover Art

Cover Art

 by S.K. Munt

Over the course of the past year, I have had the distinct pleasure and privilege of reviewing S.K. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga and have enjoyed each story from start to finish. Inasmuch as Stained Glass is the conclusion of the series, I have chosen to deviate from my usual approach to reviewing novels and instead, have looked at the story through an analysis of the four central characters in this story. S.K. Munt has an extraordinary gift for developing the characters that inhabit her stories and each of them deserve their moment in the reviewer’s spotlight. Taking this approach also reduces the number of spoilers and I do not wish to take anything away from the reader’s pleasure in perusing this “must read” conclusion to the series.

Submitted for your consideration; A four-time loser named Lincoln Grey who has squandered the sympathy of his peers by trying, in less than a year, to emulate the lifetime accomplishments of his greatest rival and has failed miserably. Feeling used and discarded – again – by the love of his life, Ivyanne Court, Lincoln uses and discards his friends and allies in a bid to prove that he is much more than a nobody. While “Oh yeah? I’ll show her” may be the rallying cry throughout history of every lover who has been pipped at the post by his competitor, Lincoln Grey’s campaign to somehow show the woman who spurned him that anything Tristan Loveridge can do, he can do better is a disaster and Link does not even realize it. Try as he may, he can’t capture Tristan’s aura … at least among merfolk.

Ivyanne has been out of the picture for eight months and a lot has changed in the interim. She has been around the world on her post-nuptial tour, uncovered the back-story regarding her family’s origins and become a mother – not to just an heir but to triplets. The women of the Court dynasty seem to have been hitherto cursed not to bear children until after their first century but Ivyanne has apparently broken that curse and she has returned to the Seaview to find that much has changed there as well.  Her knight – Sir Lincoln Grey, as it were – has used his reward to refurbish the resort and is continuing his masque as an alcohol-fueled bon viant and playboy. Despite all of his debauchery, Link seems to be thriving, his buff body even more attractive than before. Sadly, Lincoln Grey, the person, has become increasingly less attractive to the people who should really matter.

… and though he didn’t remember most of it well, he hadn’t forgotten how perfect that coupling had felt.

Lincoln’s amorous adventures have largely been a parade of bed-partners in a desperate search to replace or relive his time with Ivyanne. Somewhere in the alcohol induced haze, there was one perfect night with one perfect partner. That relationship has gone by the boards, as has his relationship with Grace. Though she had promised to wait until he was ready, the beast he has turned in to is much more than Grace can bear and she has fled to the Philippines. Pummeled by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Link writhes in emotional and psychological anguish like a fish impaled on a spear. The past eight months have been an attempt at self-medication which has – as it usually does – failed.

S.K. Munt has deftly turned the sympathetic character of Lincoln Grey into one that the reader wants to wash their hands of and she does it in a one hundred and eighty degree tour de force that leaves the reader wondering just what it was Grace or Ivyanne ever saw in him. There is more than one point in Stained Glass where the reader expects to hear a single gunshot and then Ivyanne and her mate swim off into the sunset as the credits start to roll, the only question being who pulled the trigger.

In direct antithesis to Link’s character is that of Tristan Loveridge. The author has taken the crowd-pleasing character and made him more likeable as a person whilst showing more depth to the royal consort. Tristan is truly and deeply in love with Ivyanne and will do anything to protect what is his even if it includes shooting Link, the poster boy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “No” and “Go Away”. The question is, would Tristan really liquidate Lincoln and if so, would Link thank him for it? Tristan’s attitude towards his former rival seems to be an odd mixture of compassion and scorn. It is Tristan who wants to break things to Lincoln gently and it is Tristan who really feels for the guy and yet Tristan looks down on Link for once again feeling sorry for himself. Given Lincoln’s string of losses throughout the Fairy Tail Saga, feeling sorry for himself seems to be the only viable alternative to using the .22 calibre pistol hidden in his safe. For over a decade, Lincoln Grey has been the man of constant sorrow and it could well be that Tristan’s attitude is due to his own life of privilege. Even the ‘perfect’ have their imperfections.

The author has painted an even more detailed portrait of Ivyanne in Stained Glass that reflects her sorrow for the pain and misfortunes that her family seems to have dumped on the Greys through the years. It is questionable, however, if she is really to blame for these misfortunes or is merely where the buck finally stops. She sincerely wants to make things right but can that ever be accomplished completely? In one sense, she already has made one thing right. Ivyanne was unwittingly responsible in a way for Lincoln losing ten years of his life to misery and sorrow and yet, because of his renewed association with her, Lincoln has gained centuries in return. S.K. Munt has made one aspect of Ivyanne abundantly clear; she really and truly does love Tristan Loveridge though the reader does sometimes wonder if his physical attributes have anything to do with it.

Finally, there is Grace Londeree, the somewhat spoiled child of privilege who latched onto Lincoln like a limpet in Heads or Tails. Although Grace was seen as an incorrigible flirt – as least where Lincoln was concerned – she also showed an amount of maturity which was often lacking the other characters. However, in this, the finale to Ms. Munt’s Fairy Tail Saga, it is Grace’s overall lack of maturity that is her undoing. Lincoln is searching for a clone of Ivyanne and he repeatedly cites Grace’s immaturity as an impediment. Even though Grace said that she’d wait, Lincoln’s womanising – or is it mermaidising? – was too much for her and she walks out on him. He hardly notices and the story finds her trying to ride out Typhoon Bopha with her music students. On the one hand, she dealt with Link by walking away but yet, there is still something about him that speaks to her soul. Does she hope for a rescue from Link and even if she were to accept one, what form would that rescue take? Stained Glass will see Grace Londeree grow up in the course of having responsibilities thrust upon her. While readers – and this reviewer – will miss the eighteen year-old with the hots for Lincoln Grey, the post-Bopha nineteen year-old is much more of the woman she needs to be – for herself and for her future.

Our cast of characters assembled, it is now time to consider the central thread of the plot in Stained Glass.  Ivyanne Court has discovered than an unseen hand has shaped events affecting the Court and Grey families for nearly a millennium. It is a hand bent upon destruction and its endgame is one of extinction. His name is Luca. After dumping Lincoln Grey in favour of Tristan Loveridge, Ivyanne Court has the unmitigated gall to walk back into his life and ask her knight to lead an expeditionary force to neutralize Luca. As one learns the extent of Luca’s power and the forces that he controls, the reader is left to wonder if she is asking him to go a suicide mission. The reader will also wonder just how dumb can Link be and why is he even considering this? Is Lincoln simply obsessed by Ivyanne or is there something else at work here? Even Ivyanne seems to be unaware of Link’s true mental state. Will he ever have the strength of will to tell Ivyanne to go away or is he simply a wounded animal – a rogue shark, if you will – that needs to be put down. All arguments may well be moot if the characters find that the enemy is already amongst them.

Over a five book series, S.K. Munt has treated readers to a very hot and very wild ride through the secret world of mermaids and mermen, fate, lust, and blood-lines. Up until Stained Glass, the main mystery has been which suitor would wind up with Ivyanne. In her thrilling conclusion to The Fairy Tail Saga, Ms. Munt presents the reader with the mystery of why all this is even happening and what will be the ultimate outcome. This reviewer has devoted much of this concluding review to the main players as the author has a natural flair for character development. Lincoln, Grace, Ivyanne and Tristan have made this series what it is and they each deserve a curtain call.

Besides characters, S.K. Munt has displayed a talent for provocative writing and in the series finale, the Queen of Steam has delivered once more. Those readers of tender sensibilities should avert their eyes from the following excerpt:

He’d been drunk, and she’d been comforting him. She’d started kissing away his tears and before he knew it, she’d whispered her plea that he take her. He loved remembering how her vulnerable, tight little body had trembled in his arms, and how her teeth had sank into his neck as he’d gently eased himself into her- and how her tears had rolled hot and wet down his shoulder blade for only a few minutes before her pleas had become wild and her trembling had become violent, ecstatic shaking.

None but the truly jaded can read passages like this and not want a cup of tea, a long walk or a cold shower. As in her previous books, the characters, the plot and the romance of Stained Glass all come together in an expertly woven tapestry of love, lust, loss, gain, suffering and ultimate triumph. Although Lincoln Grey may have found himself to be a punching bag throughout the saga, relatively minor characters such as Pintang Kayu-Api have suffered as well and Ms. Munt has given them the same detail as she has the major characters and the story itself. For her, there are no half-measures.

This includes her treatment of Lincoln Grey’s character. Although his fans may be somewhat dismayed by what happens to Link, having him hit rock bottom is a necessary requirement that will lead to his ultimate redemption. Just below the surface lies the unspoken truth that Lincoln and Grace are more alike than the casual observer might think.

In summation, Stained Glass is a thoroughly enjoyable story which the reader will want to peruse more than once. No one who takes the time to read and absorb the finale will come away feeling that it is anything less than a wicked good tale and time well spent. To say more would only be gilding the lily.

Throughout The Fairy Tail Saga, this reviewer has admonished potential readers to start at the beginning of the series and he once again offers the same advice. This is not one of the serial novels where a person may come in during the middle or the end and easily deduce what has come before. S.K. Munt’s Stained Glass is the capstone of a carefully developed series of stories, all the more enjoyable because of what has come before. To paraphrase Bette Davis, this reviewer urges readers to Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

This reviewer lacks any and all qualifications to teach and yet, he would dearly love to conduct a semester’s course covering Stained Glass and all the books that come before. It is not merely the mythology but also the characters and their interactions with each other as well as the plot itself. S.K. Munt has a true gift for storytelling and creates fascinating multi-level characters along the way. Her stand-alone novel, Unchained Melody is positive proof that her talents extend well beyond the realm of mermaids. Those who choose to dismiss her series as simply a hot fairy tale for adults, do so at their peril.

And now, before the curtain call is over and the applause fades away, it falls to this reviewer to cry “Author! Author!” Ms. Munt, it’s time for you to take your bow.

In the interest of full disclosure, Stained Glass includes a bit of fan fiction written by the reviewer as an exercise in preparation for his forthcoming novel, Urban Mermaid – the first installment in his series, Tails from Colony Island.

 
My Rating:

Follow S.K. Munt on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skmunt?ref=br_tf or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159848.S_K_Munt/blog
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