The Dark Queen

Midnight Bride

The Night Drifter

The Silver Rose by Susan Carroll
(Ballantine, $13.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-345-48251-4
The Silver Rose, the conclusion of Susan Carrollís trilogy about three sisters with mystical powers, brings us the story of Miri, the youngest Cheney sister. Miri is a ďwise woman,Ē the de facto leader of Faire Isle, and her powers allow her to commune with animals and predict some of the future. Miri has been living a quiet life on Faire Isle and avoiding the witch hunters, the most notorious of whom is Simon Aristide, the fearsome ďLa Balafre.Ē Miri and Simon first met when she was twelve and he only a few years older. Miri has loved him ever since. But the orphaned Simon was apprenticed to a fanatical witch hunter, and in later years his actions caused great harm to Miriís family.

Still, Miriís feelings for Simon persist. Now Simon is back at Faire Isle, an older, disillusioned man who has come to understand the near-madness of the witch hunters and the pain his actions have brought to innocent people, Miriís family among them. He longs to put his witch-hunting days behind him, but Simon is a mission from Queen Catherine de Medici to find a diabolical new witch named the Silver Rose. Whoever the Silver Rose is, itís rumored that she has obtained the fearsome Book of Shadows, which is full of dark magic. In order to find her, Simon needís Miriís help.

Miri is living alone in a small cottage in the woods, far from her ancestral home. Her oldest sister, Ariane, is in exile with her husband Renard. The middle sister, Gabrielle, has left Fair Isle and is somewhere else in France with her husband Remy and their daughters. Miri canít bring herself to leave Faire Isle, even though she knows itís not safe to stay in her family home. It was largely due to Simonís actions that her family went into hiding, a fact for which Simon canít forgive himself.

Miri and Simon have quite a journey ahead of them, as Simon reluctantly accepts that he cannot find the Silver Rose without Miri. Miri senses that, under the surface, the same sensitive, laughing boy that she loved so many years ago still exists, but Simon appears to be a man who has nearly given up on life. Their time together is her chance to show him otherwise, and to fan the desire that still burns between them.

This novel, for all that it is more or less a road trip, moves more slowly than the other two, and many of the scenes seem to repeat themselves. Miri and Simon have a number of conversations in which she tries to get him to admit he still cares for her, only to have Simon draw back. Their progress is slow, in more ways than one. But in another sense, Simon is so scarred from his years as a witch hunter, both physically and emotionally, that the slow development of their romance feels right. It will take quite a bit of persuasion for Simon to give himself another chance, and quite a bit of patience on the part of the reader to get to that point with him.

The story picks up after the halfway point, as Miriís ardent admirer, Martin le Loup, enters the picture and readers begin to get a hint of the true identity of the Silver Rose. The story ends up in Paris, where the threads will all tie together.

For all that Simon and Miri do end up in love, other aspects of this trilogy felt unfinished. The other sisters barely rate a mention in this story. In particular, a thread that was started (and dropped) in The Courtesan had Renard deliberately preventing an unknowing Ariane from getting pregnant because he couldnít bear the though of losing her in childbirth, even though she was tormenting herself over her inability to conceive. In The Silver Rose, itís ten years later and they still have still no children. One can only assume Renard is still deceiving Ariane, though weíre supposed to believe theirs is the love of a lifetime. This unresolved plot point was only one of several that were left hanging, much to the readerís frustration.

One of the best parts of this trilogy was watching the growth of Miri as a character. In the first book, she was impulsive and somewhat annoying. In the second, she was a teenager, growing wiser but still exhibiting impulsive tendencies. Here, sheís come into her own as a rather solemn, slightly sad woman who longs for the one man she canít have, only to see him unwillingly arrive on her doorstep. Of the three sisters, Iíd have to say she was my favorite.

The Silver Rose could best be described as intriguing without being engrossing. Susan Carroll tells a good story, and readers who enjoyed the first two books in this trilogy will definitely want to read this one. Readers who are new to the series should probably start with The Dark Queen and read them in order. And those who finish The Silver Rose may find themselves wanting a fourth book.

--Cathy Sova

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