Veil of Secrets is the latest installment in Edwards’ Araneae Nation series. While each book focuses on different characters, I think this is a series that is best read in order. The overarching plot with the plague and its cause is something that is developed in each subsequent book. In Veil of Secrets readers focus on a character that has been directly affected by the plague, she’s been infected and turned into a harbinger, but still surviving.
It was true that I could sense harbingers. After all, I was one. A fledging, not fully transformed, but I was a harbinger all the same. I was not a mindless, bloodthirsty monster like others of my find (p. 8).
Marne was attacked and infected by the plague, which transformed her. She now craves flesh and has grown wings. But what’s different about Marne is that she has kept her independence; she has never succumbed to the hive mind the way she should have thanks to her brother. Marne’s brother, Edan, has always protected her, but it seems it will be Marne that will have to do the protecting when her brother is attacked and taken by her creator.
Assisting Marne in her quest is Asher, a man who was once manipulated by one of the creators’ children. As a result Asher is somewhat hesitant in his mission to protect Marne; after all, couldn’t she control him just like her “sisters”. This hesitation soon fades into attraction, only to be stalled by Marne’s untruths (like she’s not really a widow…).
I’ve enjoyed the previous books in the series, but in each one, including A Veil of Secrets, I have had the same problem. The narrative point of view always excludes the “hero”. Only in the romance genre do I find this singular point of view a problem. Personally, I think that a romance is always stronger when it includes both the hero and heroine’s perspective as it’s essential in demonstrating how their relationship develops into a romantic one. With a singular point of view readers only understand half the story. Considering Asher’s past with creatures of Marne’s like, I would have really liked to have seen how he came to terms with falling in love with someone he should revile.
My issues with the romance aside, I do like the world that has been created with this series. The concept of how this plague was created and continues to spread is really interesting. I also find how this world is created and the veil that still exists as an in-between place to be equally compelling:
The veil separated the frigid northlands from the humid southlands. It was a mythical barrier that ran the length of the entire world. Thomisidae elders had told the story of how two gods, Kokyangwuti and her husband, Tawa, had forged this world from clay and bone. They had created a world before this one, First World, and it had been consumed by fire and greed. This world was their second, and to balance the elements, they capped the world with a sheet of ice. In this way, when the sun rose in the east and followed the length of the veil to set in the western skies, its flames might leap onto the southland’s grasses and set fire to their harvests. But even if the southlands were consumed, even if the blaze crossed the veil, the heat would only melt the northland until its cooling waters extinguished the flame. Thus the Second World would be spared a grisly death from sun fire (p. 18).
I love that the author has created a mythology for why her world is the way it is; why the seasons govern different territories. And it’s the world that keeps me coming back to the series rather than the romance perspective. The world is richer than I would have expected in the romance genre, but it simply makes this a stronger tale. That said, I do like the romance genre, and I don’t feel that this series stands out in that genre. The romance is okay, but I found it underwhelming for the reasons that I’ve outlined above. Ultimately, this is a decent romance series, but it’s strongest element lies in it’s creative world building.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
If readers were intrigued by the idea of a world governed by season, I’d recommend checking out C.L. Wilsons’ The Winter King. Here, the seasons class when Wynter takes a Summerlander for a bride. Personally, I had mixed feelings towards this one, but I wanted to mention it because of the seasonal world building.
I also recommend Philippa Ballantine’s Book of the Order quartet. Romance isn’t a big part of this series, but I think fans of the world building in Veil of Secrets will be interested in what’s happening here. Also, in one book (I can’t remember which one) there are creatures that are bound to a hive mind, and it’s pretty terrifying. Start with Geist.
While I don’t think the writing is simply, after reading about Marne’s wings, I was immediately put in mind of Anne Bishops The Black Jewels trilogy. This is not the strongest method to compare books, but since I loved this trilogy I’m sticking with it. Start with Daughter of the Blood.