Three_Ringsby S.K. Munt
It is without a doubt that S.K. Munt is a master story-teller. Hot on the heels of her acclaimed debut novel, The Marked Ones, comes Three Rings which is guaranteed to take readers through an emotional wringer.

Things have changed on Bracken Island. Ivyanne has brought home not one but two suitors for the hand of the Princess. There was a third suitor but everyone thought he had died in order to bring Lincoln Grey, Ivyanne’s adolescent sweetheart, into the world of the Mer.  That suitor would be Ardhi, Ivyanne’s childhood friend who is a mystic; that rare sort of Mer who can – amongst other things – “turn” humans into Mer and live to tell the tale. His intentions were to take out Tristan Loveridge, give Lincoln to Ivyanne and die in the process, etching his memory forever in her heart. As it turns out, everyone – including Ardhi — was wrong about this.

Tristan survived his seemingly mortal wound and Ardhi survived “turning” Lincoln. Tristan is now locked in a jealous rivalry with Lincoln and Ardhi is now a loose cannon whose schemes and actions will shape the course of this story until the very end. As Lincoln Grey was held prisoner by his past and Ivyanne Court was held prisoner by her future, Ardhi’s actions have created a new kind of prison containing Tristan, Lincoln and Ivyanne where the two suitors duke it out in a game of one-upmanship. Although many females might enjoy two men fighting over them, it has the opposite effect on Ivyanne. If there is an eventual victor, will Ivyanne be in any kind of emotional state to become the spoils of victory?

She just wished that both men understood the position she was in – had an inkling of what she was going through. Every time they pulled her in opposite directions, she could feel the flesh of her heart rip a little further. What was she going to have left to love either with, when they were through?

S.K. Munt has a wonderful ability to create characters that readers can’t help care about and there is almost no way that one can read her stories without becoming emotionally committed to one or more of them . . . even Ardhi. For good or for ill, her characters will haunt the reader well after the final paragraph of Three Rings. To understand the characters is to understand the story.

Tristan is the fair-haired boy. The golden child who is the equivalent of captain of the football team, class president and major heart-throb all rolled into one. Lesser men cheer him on because he is everything they wish they could become but never will. Men in Tristan’s league curse him because he is their stiffest competition. He is a mermaid magnet and quite handy with human females as well. It seems that Tristan almost always gets what he wants. Will he succeed this time?

Lincoln is more of an everyman. He has had the things he loves repeatedly taken from him and when he has the chance to claim what he most desires, he runs the risk of losing it once more. Like the rest of us mere mortals, Lincoln has the recurring tendency to shoot himself in the flukes with pin-point accuracy. His gift is apparently the ability to take blow after emotional blow and yet stagger to his feet once again. Staying down for the count is not an option. The reader will wonder if Lincoln will be able to survive the fatal blow if he loses the one thing that has controlled his life since he was a teenager.

Ivyanne is the prize in the emotional tug of war amongst her suitors. Every time she seems to grasp that one bit of elusive happiness, it is snatched away from her. She is akin to an emotional weather-vane, constantly spinning whichever way the winds of fate happen to blow. Aside from her summer love when both she and Lincoln were both in their teens, Ivyanne is an innocent abroad having been sheltered and groomed for the day when she will do her duty to the kingdom by choosing from a handful of candidates, the best possible mate to perpetuate the bloodline. Love is a side issue and her inexperience shows. While it seems like everyone has something to lose in this story, Ivyanne stands to lose the most. Unlike a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, there is no guaranteed happy ending for the parties involved.

Ardhi has already lost something . . . his mind. Love, desire, the quest for fulfillment will change almost any person. That combination along with the seemingly limitless power he now possesses has turned Ardhi into a delusional mer-monster. His plan is to eliminate Tristan, lure Lincoln away from Ivyanne and then claim what is rightfully his . . . no matter whom is hurt or killed along the way.

‘Ssh,’ he brought his finger to his lips and smiled, feeling giddy. ‘We have time, princess. I’ll let you get through this weekend, and play the happy bride-to-be, and I’ll even play along.’ He backed up another step. ‘But once these guests leave, and you can drop the pretense that he fulfills you the way you always dreamed of, I want you to think about what just happened, and how right it felt-then come to me.’

The Seaview resort could well become the Heartbreak Hotel if it has not done so already and S.K. Munt eagerly serves as your tour-guide. Her writing brings to mind the following excerpt from The Man with the Blue Guitar:

They said, “You have a blue guitar,

You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are

Are changed upon the blue guitar.” – Wallace Stevens

In this case, it is S.K. Munt who wields the blue guitar. She has strummed up what might have been an ordinary fantasy story about merfolk into an emotionally gripping tale of love and loss, success and failure. Those readers who follow along on Ms. Munt’s blue guitar tour will be changed by the end of Three Rings and they will be left wondering what can possibly happen next. Needless to say, this story is not for the faint of heart.

Tristan, who seems to have never cared for love in the past has finally admitted to his self that he loves Ivyanne. Will she turn out to simply be one more accomplishment in an already charmed life or is she the one and only person who can permanently change the world of this pretty-boy merman.

And Lincoln; he used to be human and now he’s mer. Can he keep himself going in a world where everything about his life and allegiances have changed? How many more body blows to his heart and soul will he be able to take?

S.K. Munt is well on her way to becoming an author of note. She writes with a style that takes no prisoners other than the reader. There is no escape from her spell at the end of Three Rings and readers will find themselves longing for the next installment in her Fairytail Saga, Heads or Tails.

Whatever one may think of fantasy novels in general and the mermaid sub-genre, Three Rings is well worth the time spent falling under its spell. If the reader interested in this novel  has not heard of or read its predecessor, The Marked Ones, by all means read it posthaste. This is not a series where the reader can dive in around the middle and easily figure out what has happened before that point. The story Ms. Munt has crafted is much more complex than that. Love, hate, joy, despair and bedroom scenes that will curl your tail fin; S.K. Munt’s FairyTail Saga seems to have it all.

My Rating:

Visit S.K. Munt’s website at skmunt.com

Buy Your Own Copy of Three Rings
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