He is Arion, King of the Unicorns. Powerful, seductive, he could possess any female he desired - until now. He is condemned to live as a man, and it is only the enchanting Lady Mariah Donnington's innocence that can release him from his curse.
Abandoned on her wedding night, frightened of her hidden, otherworldly heritage, Mariah is instinctively drawn to the mysterious stranger she discovers imprisoned on her husband's estate. But, as the secret of Arion's magical identity unfolds, their friendship burns into a passion that cannot, must not, be consummated. For to do so would destroy them both.
As a horse lover, the moment I learned that the hero of 'Lord of Legends' was a unicorn banished into the body of a human male, I couldn't wait to dive in and read how this mystery came to be.
Mariah's marriage was a sham. She agreed to marry the Earl of Donnington and even sailed across the ocean from America but she never agreed to have her husband leave the morning after their vows without a word or letter proclaiming his whereabouts or when he'll return. Instead, the man that she thought she loved left with nary a kiss, leaving his virgin bride to fend for herself in an unknown land with his cold mother who carelessly blames Mariah for her son's disappearance.
Now, roaming the extensive grounds of Donbridge, Mariah feels nothing but loneliness. But her life is given renewed purpose when she discovers a man locked in the Folly. Mariah is struck instantly by his strange and uncanny resemblance to her husband. They look identical except for the prisoner has thick white hair and endless deep pools of black for his eyes. His cell, only truly habitable by a large dog, is cold and filthy. His water bucket is empty and the whole place smells of rotted food. Then there is the unsettling fact that the prisoner is very naked with sleek muscles rippling beneath smooth skin. Unfortunately, but thankfully, he is wearing a rudimentary loin cloth that barely hides his virile maleness.
Sadly though, the prisoner appears to be mad. Throwing himself against the iron bars of his cell and locking Mariah's gaze with his wild black eyes. Mariah discovers quickly that he can't talk nor does he know who is or how he came to be locked in a cell. Mariah is no stranger to madness. Her mother suffered for years from delusions of another world where fairies and unicorns bounded upon an endless sea of green grass. Having lost her mother despite her valiant attempts to bring her back into the real world, Mariah feels that helping the mad prisoner might help her to feel that she's done something right for someone in need. One thing does become clear, the prisoner knows and hates Mariah's husband with a vengeance and she begins to suspect that Donnington had something to do with his imprisonment.
Mariah, needing a name for the prisoner and since he doesn't have one, dubs him Ash. She gathers clothes and other necessities along with books to take back with her to the folly. It's soon discovered that Ash could talk but that he simply didn't remember. He tells Mariah that her recital of the books helped him to find his words. Over the next few days, Mariah and Ash spend time learning from one another. And when they accidentally touch, sparks ignite sending warmth traveling into every corner of Mariah's body.
It doesn't take long before memory returns to Ash. While Ash certainly isn't his real name, he decides to let Mariah continue to think that he's possibly Donnington's cousin, suffering from a miled bout of amnesia. For Arion, the King of Unicorns can't ever let Mariah find out the truth about him or he'll never again return to his true form or back to his home of Tir-na-Nog. Banished by the leader of the Fane, Oberon, after being polluted by the scheming usurper, Cairbre, Arion was punished into the form of a mortal man and cast out of Tir-na-Nog. Cairbre, power hungry and conspiring to steal the thrown from Oberon, had tried to persuade Arion's help. But the Unicorn King not only denied him but laughed in his face. Angered and scared that Arion would go to Oberon; Cairbre got to the Fane lord first and convinced him of Arion's treason. But Cairbre whispers to Arion that he can return if he helps to bring across the Gate a mortal virgin named Mariah. Upon her safe arrival, innocence still intact, Cairbre will return Arion to his true form. Hating his clumsy mortal body, Arion will do anything to return to Tir-na-Nog, even if that means he must win Mariah's trust only to betray her.
Mariah is bit nonplussed by Ash's rapid learning skills. Soon he is speaking, reading, and acting like a true English gentlemen and he's also becoming difficult to control. With the help of her only real ally, Sinjin, Donnington's brother, Mariah is able to break Ash out of his cell and install him at the grounds keeper's cottage. Promising that he'll not leave the cottage or attempt to confront the Dowager Lady Donnington, Sinjin will then provide him clothes befitting an English lord and help him to act as such as well. But it's not long before Ash breaks their rules. Pouncing on Sinjin's and Mariah's belief that Ash is a long lost cousin, Ash uses a visit from Prince Albert to make his surprise entrance into human society.
Mariah, frustrated and angry that Ash has stepped out so brazenly into society, can't help but wonder about his motives. Revenge seems logical. Is Ash using her to get back at Donnington for wrongly imprisoning him? It's a horrible thought but Mariah can't help but let it consume her heart. Now more than ever, Mariah strives to distance herself from Ash but when he asks her to join him at Rothwell, Sinjin's home, at the request of the Prince, Mariah can't say no. As long as Ash needs her, she will be there for him. Little does she know that Ash wants to keep Mariah as close as possible in the hopes of earning her heart. Hoping that taking her out from under the Dowager's all seeing and cruel gaze, perhaps it'll make it easier for Mariah to succumb to his need. But Ash isn't the only one intent on betraying Mariah.
Lady Westlake, a cruel woman who would have Donnington to herself, strives desperately to tarnish Mariah's reputation beyond ruin in the hopes that when Donnington returned, he'd seek an annulment after learning of his wife's unforgivable behavior. The Dowager aids Lady Westlake in her endeavor, not because she wants the conniving woman in her son's arms but rather to help her dispense with the American upstart so that she may find her favorite son a good English girl. Someone more appropriate and befitting for the role of Countess. And these two woman are ruthless in their plans.
Ash slowly comes to realize that betraying Mariah is not something he could ever do. Yes, he wants to return to Tir-na-Nog and destroy his enemies both mortal and immortal, but he's come to admire Mariah's courage and her trust in him. When Mariah admits that she thinks she's starting to go insane as her mother did, Ash knows that Cairbre is close and is tired of waiting for him to deliver his promise. Cairbre is sending his spies after Mariah. They are fairies or sprites that buzz about Mariah constantly. Then there is the fact that Mariah is catching glimpses of Ash's true form. When her heart is open to the minute amount of Fane blood flowing through her veins, the world of Tir-na-Nog is revealed. But Mariah can't trust these visions. She can only believe that her greatest fear is coming true. She is just as mad as her mother.
When suddenly Donnington returns, Ash is once again imprisoned and Mariah makes the deal that if Donnington lets Ash free, than she will be his wife in truth, forever. But neither the Dowager, Lady Westlake nor Ash will allow that deal to fruition. Ash will have his vengeance and he will make sure that Mariah is safe not only from Tir-na-Nog, but from her mortal enemies as well.
'Lord of Legends', while satisfying, wasn't entirely what I was expecting. I truly thought that with a Unicorn hero there would be a more mystical feel to the novel. My mind was captivated for the first hundred pages and then my interest slowly waned. I thought there were too many evil characters plotting Mariah's downfall. And Lady Westlake was cruel to the extreme. It almost seemed like the novel revolved more around the plotting of these evil characters rather than focusing on the romance.
Also, Ash never felt real to me. In the beginning I hung on his every look, word, and thought but then he became a shell or place holder in the novel. The worst aspect was that I never truly believed that he loved Mariah except for the last two or three pages. Granted it was his goal to get Mariah to love him not the other way around but I would have liked to read in his monologues that he was falling for her. That he loved her with every inch of his soul but alas, that was never the case.
Conversely, I believed in Mariah's love for Ash. She suspected her feelings for him early on and she truly would have strived to do anything and everything for him. And she did. She risked her reputation and her life for Ash again and again. With all the magic that Ash possessed, why couldn't he have salvaged her reputation? Her peers were tearing her to shreds but his comfort seemed paltry and more a matter of necessity rather than a burning desire. Plus, he almost has sex with another woman! I nearly lost complete respect for him there.
Lastly, the ending was brief and hazy. Of course they did reach their happy ending and I did like how that unfolded in the last thirty pages or so but I didn't feel that the plot and sub plots were tied up. I closed the book wondering about things. I guess that all and all, it just wasn't what I was expecting from the novel. It starts off with bang and ends to crickets chirping.
Interested in 'Lord of Legends'? Check out Susan Krinard HERE for more info!