My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
The atmosphere of The Angel Stone, book 3 of the Fairwick Chronicles had the same kind of Gothic touch and complex, fantasy storytelling as the earlier installments. I loved that as much as I did in book 1, The Demon Lover and book 2, The Water Witch. I was eagerly waiting for the conclusion because I wanted to see the Incubus back in the story. But did it meet my expectations? Let’s see...
In book 1, we meet Callie, a half-witch, half-fey girl. An orphan, Callie had been raised by her cold and distant grandmother. Then, as she grew up, Callie started dreaming of this dream lover who would come to her at night and make love to her. She could blame it on anything, except that the lovemaking seems too real to dismiss as dreams. It keeps happening so frequently that Callie begins to wonder her sanity. After her thesis on her favorite subject of Folklore, Callie gets a job as a professor in the small-town of Fairwick. She was not very keen on it, but somehow everything about this quaint town attracted her to a point that Callie, who thought herself a practical girl (even with her obsession with fey, witches and the like), makes quite a few impulsive decisions. She not only joins as a Professor but also buys a house called the Honeysuckle House which is situated on the edge of the wood, bordered by a huge growth of entangled honeysuckle vines. Callie finds the story of a reclusive novelist living all her life in it but that story doesn’t really go anywhere, except for binding her to the Incubus. Yes, a research told Callie that the author had indeed been visited by one, the same thing that visited her when she was young and thought to be her Prince Charming. It’s a long, complicated story but the fact of the matter is, soon enough Callie finds her true calling.
The reality (or was it?) is slapped on her face when she finally learns of her origin as a fairy door-keeper, that Fairwick is actually an enchanted town where fey, witches and other types of supernatural beings live together. There are unsuspecting humans too. Callie also learns that the dean of the Fairwick collage, Elizabeth Book, is actually a witch, that Soheila Lily, a professor there, is a wind elemental who once was a succubus. There are others such as hers in the collage, even the fairy queen, Fiona, the cold b!tch I hated on spot. Now all of them want the Incubus, who was still visiting Callie and taking her to the Fairyland etc. in her dreams, be vanquished for security reasons. According to Soheila, an Incubus can’t have any good reason to be with a human, except to suck the life out of his ‘prey’. I, personally, didn’t believe in it because I felt that the Incubus really did have some kind of connection with Callie, as he kept showing her through those dreams. So much so that he returns as a poetry Professor, Liam (whom I could tell was him but Callie never did until the end) to teach. Callie is attracted and jumps into bed with him soon. Unfortunately, when some bad stuff keep happening (not the Incubus’s fault), the witches convince Callie that it’s because of him, making her chicken out. With Dean Book, her partner, the deer fairy Diana and Soheila’s help, Callie banishes the Incubus/Liam to the borderland, where he’d suffer for eternity. I was so pissed at her, could never forgive Callie for her idiocy, even though she keeps saying Liam hurt her… not sure how though. *eyeroll*
In book 2, I didn’t know what to expect. Callie tells us she’s missing Liam/Incubus a lot and knowing that he won’t be coming back doesn’t help. Soheila asks her to buckle up and concentrate on her teaching job. They also discuss on Callie’s own power that needs to be practiced and developed because they all sense something very strong in her. For that, a teacher is employed; a Duncan Laird. Never once that I thought he’s the Incubus when he starts teaching Callie, though SHE makes the mistake. How could she, after having the Incubus as her lover for so long, make such a stupid mistake I couldn’t imagine? She even lets him become intimate once or twice, though it doesn’t go far. In this book, we also meet the Stewarts, who at one time resided in the village of Ballydoon in Scotland. They’re a sort of witches who can weave protection spell, keeping Fairwick safe from the otherworldly creatures that can come through the door to the fairy, which is incidentally, also that Honeysuckle vine near Callie’s house. Here, we have some new adventures for Callie, who is given the task of saving some undine eggs with Aelvesgold (something coming from the fairy and very much in demand among the creatures living in this world). Callie does her job well, but she also meets her Incubus when she goes to the fairy to safely escort the remaining undines. He somehow tricks her to free him.
Soon, news arrive that there is trouble ahead and it’s not from one crazy undine which escaped the Fairy. It’s more to do with a bunch of Nephilims who are currently in Fairwick, and they’re just a fraction of the original number. They have a mission to fulfill here. More complicated history follows, of how the Nephilims came to be as a cross-breed among the beautiful elves and the humans they impregnated, and how they became so violent when their fathers rejected the first batch for being so ugly etc. Over the centuries, the beauty of their gene has taken over but the heart and mind remained the same; as cold and cruel as ever. And they’re still secretly breeding with human to ensure that THEY are the one who rule this side of the world one day. They’re vicious, ruthless and mindless to the max. They can control your mind; twist and turn in a way that you’d end up wishing you were dead. And then, they’d just suck you dry and kill you. Callie was very late learn that her Incubus actually came to her as Bill, the shy handyman she hired to do her job when her regular handyman Brock, an ancient Norse deity, got badly injured from a fall. With Bill, Callie falls in love (though I didn’t believe in her feelings when she was rubbing off with Duncan for the 80% of the story thinking he’s the Incubus!). I always found Duncan a bit cold and calculating though he fooled Callie with his blonde good looks. Callie also learns that her Grandmother, the one who raised her, is also a witch and have taken the side of the Nephilims. And the Nephilims are winning the bargain because they produce their own Aelvesgold. They’ve been manipulating those witches with that lure. They’ve also want the door to the Fairy closed forever. This way, they can rule the Earth, securing the ‘assistance’ of the other supernatural beings.
It seems like the Nephilims won the final battle, though Callie tries her best to keep the door open by bonding her heart with the door. Majority of her friends, including Dean Book and Diana are forced to leave for the Fairy. But Soheila and another professor and witch, Frank Del Marco stay behind. In the last scuffle, when Duncan, who comes out in his real form, tries to strike Callie down, Bill saves her but is killed himself. It was all a little hazy for me at that point but apparently, since Callie started loving him unknowingly even then, he became a human once more. Yes, they shared a bond of heart, which only needed to be recognized by Callie. But she couldn’t so far because of some spell her mother put on her when she was young. It seems now it’s all gone, leaving Callie distressed and once again, heartsick.
I needed to recap because the story in book 3 picks up from where it was left in book 2. But I think one can read this as a standalone because the author did a splendid job of providing little recaps whenever it was necessary to link the other books without being overly repetitive.
At this point, some months have passed by and the Nephilims have taken over the entire Fairwick; especially Callie’s collage where now Duncan reigns as the Dean. He’s brought in several other kinds of creatures masquerading as human to work with him. There are several new boys in the collage too; all with angelic, blonde good looks but one look at their semi-cold eyes tells you what they really are. Callie is still teaching but Soheila and Frank are not. The vampires, who were also professors of Fairwick collage, have also left or went into hiding, just as the rest of the good witches of the Witches Circle who helped Callie in her quests in book 2. Callie could’ve left her post but she needs to keep an eye on her students as most of them have no idea what’s going on, except that things have changed around the collage. The place is not as warm and welcoming anymore. There are some restrictions all through the campus but Callie knows Duncan won’t do anything without a plan; something that is the part of a bigger, more sinister one. Worse, Duncan is still trying to ‘woo’ her because he wants to draw her to his side.
But for Callie there’s no one else but Bill. She’s sure she would never see him again. Now all she wants is to cleanse Fairwick off of Nephilims. She’s been meeting up with Soheila and Frank in secret to investigate. It’s apparent that those frat boys (the new ones) who have taken over the Hart Brake Inn, a place opposite to Honeysuckle House, are going to be used for something... But what? Callie doesn’t feel safe around the house, so she begins putting on wards etc. so that nothing can harm her whenever she’s inside.
One day, Nicky Ballad, one of Callie’s students stops by. Nicky and Callie share a history that is explored in book 1 and 2. Since then, the girl has been a champion of Callie’s. She also loves fairytales just as much as her. Nicky brought back a book from Scotland titled “The Ballads of William Duffy”, a 17C folklore written by a woman named Mary MacGowan. This thoroughly interests Callie, more so because the narratives in this one had the same tune as Tam Lin, a favorite from Callie’s childhood fairytales. A man named Tam Lin is kidnapped by the Fairy Queen. He asks his beloved to come and get him after 7 years and hold onto him no matter what. When the girl goes to rescue him, he transforms into some scary creatures before turning into himself. This was necessary to break the curse put on him by the Fairy Queen, which she does... After Tam Lin is rescued, he marries the girl and lives HEA. But William Duffy’s story, as the author indicates, is based on a true story. Nicky gifts the book but Callie asks her to find out more on Mary MacGowan. I was left amazed when Mary’s ‘true’ identity was revealed in the final chapters.
As she begins to read the Ballad, Callie finds that this definitely connects her to her Incubus. She begins dreaming of him again, this time his face transforms from Liam to Bill to finally a younger guy with green eyes and handsome features, somewhat resembling Bill. Callie’s sex dreams return too because she’d always find herself in the middle of a clearing full of heather, a hollow door standing at one side of it with an impatient William waiting for her as if they’re meant to meet. Upon waking up, Callie would find heathers strewn all over her bed.
Because she must act quickly, Callie informs Soheila and Frank about this. They learn of a stone called the Angel Stone that is necessary for her quest in banishing the Nephilims. Callie meets up with the ancient Grandmother of the Stewarts, Nan Stuart too who tells her that she has to travel to the 17C Scotland to find the stone as it’s still there. When she group the few remaining witches together for the big ceremony, which has to take place on the Halloween, Callie finds that she’s coming up short. They need more power to work on this, also to stave off the Nephilims who’d surely attack them.
Then all of a sudden, her grandmother along with two of her other buddies, visits her. She looks so worn and thin, Callie can’t believe it is that same grandmother who held nothing but contempt for her father. It turns out their jaunts with Nephilims haven’t gone well. They were attacked where they were hiding, which left them old and frail. But when they hear of Callie’s plan, they agree to help her in this. The Angel Stone needed to be found soon.
The Angel Stone is said to be a magical stone that has been shaped from the tears of the last of the elf fathers before the ugly generation came into being. I don’t know exactly why this held such power to banish the Nephilims but it did. On the eve of the Halloween, the whole campus shuts down because Duncan has ordered it with some lame excuses. Callie knew if the girls are here, they might be attacked by those boys, who are cross-breds between Nephilim fathers and human mothers. Callie had already tried discouraging some serious partying that can only lead to one thing, transforming Fairwick as another of their breeding ground. Then Callie tried a spell that’d make her human students so homesick that they should run to their homes immediately. But somehow it doesn’t work and they are back at Callie’s house.
The ban on Halloween observation doesn’t stop Callie from making some Halloween paraphernalia. She creates three figures from her pumpkin carvings and old clothing, then enchants them with a request to guard her oblivious students while she’s not here. The figures agree to protect the students. Callie also tries to reach out to those boys who have been watching her silently lighting candles, among other things, as if to decorate her house; her plan to appeal to their human side in order to have their help, if possible.
Callie dresses as a medieval maid, or close to it and begins her journey through the wood. As she reaches her destination, she finds that the witches are already carrying on with the ceremony. Only Frank is not present because he was injured while saving Callie from one of Duncan’s attacks before all these, which made Callie determined to get this over with. But now that time has come, she’s overwhelmed. Can she do it? Callie finally steps into the portal opened by the witches... and stumbles somewhere near another wood. It seems like a procession full of supernatural creatures is on its way. Callie knows this is where William is supposed to be. In the Ballad, it was said that William was not rescued but Callie rescues him. When she gazes up at a young William, Callie realizes just how close he resembles her Bill. William, it seems recognizes her too, but not as ‘Callie’ but as Cailleach of another time. It seems like the old Cailleach resembled her to an alarming degree! What does that mean?
William later realizes though that Callie is not the same Cailleach. They venture into a small village from where William hails. It seems eerily quiet as if everyone is in the hiding. William finds his aunt’s house empty but decides to stay there and investigate. I distinctly disliked Callie having sex with him on the first day because I couldn’t understand exactly why she’d be horny in the middle of such a confusing situation! Later, their investigation reveals this village being plagued by the witch hunters who have been taking people from the village to a nearby crumbling castle, Coldclough which looms over the village like something dark, unwelcoming and ominous. They also meet another of William’s relations, a woman in her mid/late thirties, Nan. Callie immediately thinks this is the ancestor of the Nan she knows from future but we later learn that she’s THE Nan of future!
At that point, I thought anything is possible... so I moved on.
When they all talk, things begin unraveling. It seems like the Nephilims have always played a big role as witch-hunters for obvious reasons; eliminating threats. Nan and William listen to Callie’s part of the story, of a future they can’t even imagine. But because they believe in the impossible, they believe in Callie’s stories too. Callie learns of the first Cailleach, or Katy as they called her, who came to this village from the woods. Everyone thought her to be crazy but somehow she made a place, even got married and had a girl named Mairi. But then she disappears just as suddenly leaving her husband heartbroken. From all things, it was no doubt that this Katy was Callie’s ancestor. I was confused about her relationship with William, as it never really felt like he missed her while doing you-know-what in and around the Fairy!
Aside from such crazy thoughts, I actually enjoyed this part of the story MUCH MORE than the first 50% which seemed to be dragging, making me think that the fun has gone out of the story. I was wrong of course. Soon Callie gets a glimpse of the Angel Stone too, which is possessed by the head witch-hunter, Endymion. Callie and William have to save them. They also have to find a way to have the Angel Stone back. And for that, Callie and Nan join forces with a few other trusty witches to find a solution for this... which will lead you how the Stewards or the Stewarts were originally founded.
The ending is full of actions. First, Callie, William and Nan, alongside the Stewards fight the Nephilims... Before Callie leaves, William makes a fast decision. A sad twist in the story. The fact was, Willam’s transformation has not yet happened, so he decides to serve Fairy Queen in order to become the man Callie falls in love in the future. I had some of my crazy questions here as well- about William’s ‘real’ intention, also to learn of Endymion, the gorgeous Nephilim’s true identity. Something made me think it was another of Duncan’s faces but we’re never made sure of that.
Callie returns to the present to find that the Nephilims have attacked her friends. It was THE big showdown and I enjoyed every moment of it! I loved how the author tried to give us solutions for almost every puzzle she put Callie through. I also appreciated her having me hooked no matter what. One last complaint that I had was about Callie and the Incubus’s much anticipated reunion. I was definitely hoping for something grander, something mind-blowing. Too many pages were spend in showing that he might not return and Callie trying to move on with her life, devoting herself in rebuilding Fairwick. TBH, I was NOT happy because it scared the hell outta me! When they finally come together, it was SO abrupt that it left me with frustration... 4 stars.
This ARC was provided to me by Random House/Ballantine Books via edelweiss which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way. <img src="http://i1202.photobucket.com/albums/bb363/phrashid/93027523.gif"