Posted by Literary Titan
Kept Darkly is book three in The Darkly Series. What were some new ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from the first two books?
In Enchanted, book one, the reader is introduced to the fey race but all the action happens in the human realm. In Bound, book two, the action is split between the human realm and Tir na n’Og, the realm of the fey. I spent a great deal of time exploring the conflicts between the two fey courts and what life is like in each in Bound. I also suggested that the fey race and the struggles between the Light and Dark Court is the source material of our Arthurian Legends. Most of my writing inspiration comes from Celtic mythology and so it was easy to incorporate this idea into the books. In Kept Darkly I run with the idea by sending Sel, Riona, and Crank into Annwn, the Celtic underworld to recover Arthur—also known as the Absent King. The first mention of the Absent King occurred in Bound Darkly. In Kept Darkly, I get to reveal to the reader his ultimate fate. Of course, this quest is all just a backdrop for Sel and Riona’s love story.
Kept Darkly follows the unlikely pairing of Riona and Sel. Their relationship kept me guessing and hoping for a happy ending. What was the inspiration for their relationship?
Once again I wanted to pair the most unlikely of couples together, play with the idea of blending the two courts—light with dark—and continue the themes of trust and acceptance, of fate and choice that all my characters tend to wrestle with. In Sel, I had someone who was all about duty. He’d lived his entire life in service to his queen and her court. He’d abandoned any thoughts of having a family beyond his daughter Sinnie long before the reader meets him in book one. The mystery of who Jennifer MacKell is to Sel is a secret that must be forced out of him by Hueil. The Seelie Queen also has to force Sel to embrace life beyond her and duty to the Light Court. Sel is a character who has limited himself by choice. In contrast, Riona is a character whose limitations were forced on her by others; by her abusive father, by her tenuous position in the Unseelie Court, and the Seelie Queen’s dubious protections. How does Sel learn to embrace a larger life? And how does Riona manage to rise above her past and abuse by others to become the master of her own life’s direction? These were the questions and conflicts I had to solve while writing Kept Darkly.
This novel does a great job of describing the unique struggle between the seelie and unseelie groups. Were these groups predefined before writing, or do they develop organically while writing?
Celtic mythology provided a fairly clear idea of who and what the seelie and unseelie were, their characteristics and what the aim of each court might be. The idea of a caste system in each court developed organically as I thought about this world. And because the two courts are a mirror image of each other, what exists in one by definition must also exist in the other. At the top of the caste hierarchy are the nobles. These are elven like beings. They’re beautiful and make up most of the population at court. Then there is the warrior caste. In the Seelie Court this is represented by the queen’s guard; they’re orderly, driven by duty, and a little pompous. On the unseelie side, there’s Hueil’s caste. Unseelie warriors are an unruly lot. They love a good fight and they follow the law that the strongest always rules. The next caste in both courts is made up by the craftsmen. This group is by far the most diverse and I don’t spend much time exploring them in the books. The lesser fey make up the bottom of the fey caste system. These are the sprites, fairies, boggarts, and assorted elemental spirits that most humans think of when the term fey (fae) is used.
What can readers expect in book four of the series, Surrendered Darkly?
As I was writing the Darkly books it became apparent that alongside the mythology, the conflicts of the two courts, and the individual romances that I was recording the rise of the House of Caw, specifically of Hueil and his family’s attempts to unseat King Melwas in order to correct the perceived ills of the Unseelie Court. So, in book four I took a hard look at Neb, Hueil’s younger brother. Neb’s true talent is his ability to remain relatively unscathed while his remaining brothers scheme and fight among themselves. In the past, Hueil had always looked after Neb and I wanted to know why. In Surrendered the reader discovers that Cora and Neb had known each other in their youth and that it was the ending of that relationship that shaped them. Can you return to a past love? Can you see beyond betrayal and who they once were to the person they’ve become? And just for the fun of it I threw Neb and Cora squarely between the conflicting desires of two very different goddesses.
As the Seelie Queen’s champion and captain of her guardsmen, Sel, son of Selgi, has lived a life ruled by duty and honor. For centuries, his Queen’s wishes have dictated his every action. Not once has he questioned the legendary seer-queen’s edicts or flinched upon receiving a new mission—that is, until now. The Queen has ordered him from her side and from her court so that he might take an unseelie as his mate, fulfilling the requirements of an ancient fey law long ignored. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Queen has named the unseelie girl. It is Riona, the dark and hauntingly beautiful bastard daughter of the morally corrupt Unseelie King. What the hell could the Queen be thinking?
Riona has lived most of her life hiding from her powerful father. She is the unwanted issue of a despised king and his lusty courtesan, a political pawn her father is determined to use to his advantage. But King Melwas can’t use what he can’t find. Riona, who has grown used to betrayal in the Unseelie Court, is grateful for the timely intervention of the Seelie Queen in escaping her dreary fate—that is, until she learns that the Queen intends to reward her captain by formally binding Riona to him. She knows Sel by reputation only. He is said to be cold, unfeeling, and frighteningly powerful. He is also rumored to be desperately in love with his sovereign. There is no chance that the Queen’s most loyal defender will ever truly love her, so why, then, cannot Riona steel her heart against him?
Posted by Literary Titan
Hiding far from her father, Riona never believed her life of isolation could change, much less change so drastically. For years, she has remained under the protection of the Seelie Queen and existed as a blemish on the face of her people. Riona knows her place and understands that she, for many reasons, must remain in hiding. When Riona, also known as Molly, is snatched from her home and finds herself assigned as the mate of the queen’s captain, Sel, she is more than baffled at her new station in life. Riona can’t help but wonder, and worry, what this actually means for her future.
Kept Darkly, the third book in the Darkly series by Tarrant Smith follows the unlikely pairing of Riona and Sel. Riona, by all rights, is far below Sel’s station in life and is painfully aware of the love he is said to have for the Seelie Queen. Smith’s decision to match Riona and Sel makes for an interesting plot that keeps the reader guessing as to the ultimate outcome–and hoping for a happy ending for the oppressed Riona.
I am always amazed at Smith’s character descriptions. Gloric is a prime example. An unseelie and questionable character all on his own, he is capable of metamorphosis. Smith draws a detailed picture of Gloric’s complete transformation in front of Riona. These types of scenes are definitely worth a reread and one of the hallmarks of Smith’s installments in the Darkly series. In addition, I was quite intrigued at the way in which Smith incorporates shapeshifting as one of Riona’s characteristics.
In the previous Darkly book, Smith provides readers with moments of comic relief, and Kept Darkly delivers the same. These brief scenes are welcome as the overall theme of the book is primarily thoughtful and brooding. With this installment, it’s not so much the dialogue that makes for the moments of comic relief but the images conjured by Smith’s narrative. I was particularly drawn to the levity created during the interactions between Sel and the sprite, Urias.
Smith’s characters are fascinating on many levels. Crank is easily my favorite of all Smith’s characters–I am partial to the unseelie. He is a no-holds-barred type of guy who says exactly what he means and has no problem making himself clear to anyone fortunate enough to listen to his tales. As with the metamorphosis of Gloric, I was impressed with the transfer of energy that takes place between Riona and Sel. What appears as a hopeless situation for Riona is suddenly turned around with minimal effort on Sel’s part.
Smith’s writing is beautifully descriptive and rich with character development. Readers following the series will enjoy getting to know Sel and watching his relationship with Riona bloom. The better part of book 3 feels dedicated to developing character relationships and describing the unique struggle between the seelie and unseelie groups, and fans of fantasy romance will find Smith’s work particularly fascinating.
Pages: 334 | ASIN: B004XWJ8TK