Downfall – a Novel – Toni V. Sweeney
Reviewers: She Said – Gloria Lakritz / She Said – Penelope Adams
At the age of nineteen, Barbara Sheffield is stunned to learn she’s not her parents’ daughter but the child of Aric kan Ingan, Margrave of Arcanis, and not only that, she has a twin brother. Soon, she’s on her way to a joyous reunion with the father she has never known, but there are others on Arcanis who aren’t so glad to meet the Margrave’s long-lost child, including Aric’s second wife, Dr. Susan Moran. Dazzled with her new family and charmed by her handsome but spoiled twin, Barbara finds herself falling in love with Eden san Gene, the young White Shield sent to escort her from Earth. When vengeful forces trigger treachery and madness, Eden’s love may not be enough to protect her from the wickedness hidden within Aljansur Palace’s walls.
Gloria Lakritz – she said:
Aric kan Ingan, from the first book of this enchanting series, has been a tortured hero. We readers have moved from Sinner, through Exile, Return, and Retribution, and have watched Aric grow to be a man larger than life. In his lifetime, he has known great love, treachery, and has suffered great losses. He was born of privilege, on the planet Arcanis, the heir to the Margrave. We have watched Aric learn from his teachers to always give up his wants, and give his first thought to his country.
Toni Sweeney has taken me by the hand on this incredible journey. I adore this tall stately red headed man who I know better than most of my friends. I know his imperfections, his inner thoughts and still I accept and love the person he is.
I could not put down this book. This book was a very tough read for me. When we left Aric last, he was so distraught in Retribution, I had fears I might never see him again.
This story was even darker, in even more ways, than some of the others. We are now dealing with the next generation. Riven, Aric’s son and heir, is a spoiled, scary, psychopath. The return of his daughter Barbara, Riven’s twin was poignant, and tender, a far cry from when Aric cast her out of his life giving her to longtime friend Miles Sheffield to raise; while taking Riven in a frenzy of pain after losing their mother in childbirth.
It is nineteen years later, and Barbara is plagued with nightmares. Miles tells her of her father on Arcanis, and the overjoyed Aric upon hearing from her sends Eden san Gene, as messenger to escort her to visit Arcanis. The man who had uttered those horrible words casting his baby daughter out of his life were regretted immediately; but Aric was too proud to contact Miles. The reunion on Arcanis was wonderful for Father, Daughter and the reader.
The White Night, Eden, was infatuated with Barbara. His family was in the Margrave’s hierarchy and his father was Aric’s most trusted friend and advisor. Still the young man was fearful to talk to her of his feelings. On the ship traveling back to Arcanis, the matter became something we would need to address. Dark things were waiting in Arcanis, and Barbara had no idea of what would befall her.
I devoured this story as Miles Sheffield, another wonderful friend of this saga, was in it as well. Ms Sweeney has Aric and Miles meet and their conversations fill the reader in on what has transpired in both men’s lives through the missing years they have been separated. Both have married, both have children and now they are joking about being middle aged. What a wonderful reunion.
But we know Ms Sweeney, and things are never what they seem. The past merges with the future. Things that we have read in this series and the prior Riven the Heretic series come looming towards changing the future. Again the treachery and evil live in the castle, and we watch with horror as the story unfolds. Our author takes us into the mind of a spoiled over indulged young heir who has no morals, no thought for anything other than his wants and needs. His step mother Dr. Susan, has changed as well and we fear she has possibly either created this or fed his illness. Her first son Auric, a few years older than Riven has been given the pitiful task as trying to be his brothers conscience.
In the final scenes of this well told story, we cry for all of them. Aric,who is now “the father” having to watch his son be charged with crimes which mean his possible death, was stunning. To be in the same tower rooms where Aric was many years ago, was heartbreaking. Ms Sweeney is certainly the master of wringing out your heart. The extreme that Auric took, to apologize for not being the one to stop his brother Riven was even more heartbreaking.
I cannot say enough for this series or this author. It is a must read!!!
Review by Gloria Lakritz
Sr Reviewer and Review Chair of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Penelope Adams – She Said:
Aric kan Ingan was thrilled when his beloved wife Pallas became pregnant with a son to carry on the family legacy. When Pallas goes into labor, things go bad. After their son is delivered, she dies giving birth to his twin sister. Overcome with grief, Aric blames Pallas’ death on their daughter and wanting no reminders that she killed his beloved, he gives her into the care of Pallas’ uncle and his best friend, Miles. She can live on one condition, Miles must take her away and Aric must never hear another word about her.
Miles takes the baby, named Barbara, back to Terrin. He and his wife raise her along with their children as their own. Nineteen years later, Miles finds he must tell Barbara the truth about her heritage. Upon learning Miles and Debra are not her birth parents, but that she is the daughter of Aric kan Ingan, Margrave of Arcanis, she insists on sending him a letter and asks to meet him. Aric sends an emissary, Eden san Gene, to escort Barbara and Miles to Arcanis and to act as her bodyguard on the trip. Miles, Barbara, her older brother Mark and Eden embark on their journey to Arcanis and into a future that no one could have predicted, full of intrigue and pain it could lead to the downfall of everything that Aric and Miles fought for years ago.
I have followed Ms. Sweeney’s kan Ingan saga starting with the Heritic series, into the kan Ingan legacy and even past that into the future and each time a new book came out, I would wonder where she was leading me this time. I knew she was going to give me story worth reading, she was going to make me angry, she was going to bring me to tears and take me on a journey that would leave me wanting more. And, yes, she has done just that and so much more. She brings more than the heart stopping pain and action that has become the signature of this series, this time she brings darkness and madness so intense that at times I had to look away from fear of being overwhelmed with it.
I fell in love/hate with Aric from almost the first moment I met him, I’ve followed him through all his pain and anguish and I knew there was a good chance my time with him was coming to an end. I was pleasantly surprised to see him in this book, albeit as a secondary character but there none the less. Reunited with Dr. Susan, and a son – Auric – who he never knew he had, Aric built back up his beloved planet of Arcanis into what he wanted it to be.
This book is the legacy he created focusing on his children Barbara, Auric and Riven, Barbara’s twin. Auric and Riven were raised together but it was always understood that as crown prince, Riven was the special one. Auric follows him beyond question, a peaceful man he attempts to be Riven’s conscience but rarely succeeds. For his part, saying Riven is special is putting it mildly, he is entitled, at times cruel and a very disturbed young man. Of the three, Barbara is the most grounded, innocent in some ways she is still a strong woman full of life and very much like the ancestor she is named after. The three create a triangle of love, hate, jealousy and so much pain it’s almost unbearable.
With this book, Ms. Sweeney took this series in a direction I could never have guessed was coming and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with. There are scenes in this book that might be disturbing to some; there is a rape/incest scene that while not explicit is not fade to black either. Not to worry though, there is still plenty of intrigue, battles, and tears to keep the fans of this series occupied and while I’m a little hesitant on the direction Ms. Sweeney took the book in, I’ll be breathlessly awaiting the next one.
Review by Penelope Adams
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
*This story is Mature. Author took on a mature theme of incestuous/rape although not fade to black was not graphic.
Now that the reviewers have read each other’s thoughts…
Well, Penny come on in, tea is ready. Cold out this weekend… It is a beautiful day to talk about Aric kan Ingan. We have just finished reading Downfall, the fifth in the kan Ingan series. You mentioned to me how strange it is that both of our reviews still centered around Aric, yet he was not in the forefront of this story. We have come to know this man, and in this story the author shows us Aric has re-made the name Margrave and all it truly means, he is now ruler extraordinaire as he was meant to be; fulfilling his destiny.
Brrrr, thanks for the tea, I needed it and it is indeed a nice day to curl up under an afghan and discuss a good book. I chuckled as I read your review, because we’ve often been accused of not really being two people but one person writing two reviews, and once again we’ve chosen to focus on the character who, while important to the story, is not exactly the central character. While I was happy to once again connect with our old friend, I was saddened as well, our strong confident Aric who had sacrificed so much for his beloved Arcanis was once again being tested by those he loved. How could this brave, somewhat arrogant man survive betrayal again? We both tried to tap dance around the central plot line so as not to give away any spoilers but I have to say, Ms. Sweeney took our story in a direction that in a million years I could never have guessed she would have gone. I’m still unsure how I feel about it, this book completely took me out of my comfort zone and I’m sure that impacted my enjoyment of the story. How about you, would you have guessed she was going where she went?
As an adult, and as I read , I understand that we are not in a genre type story that the lovers are ‘mated forever’. We wish as starry eyed lovers that love is eternal, but life does not always give us that. But when reading Aric’s story, it is painful to see his ever grasp at the gold ring is just that, a breathe away. Ms Sweeney, has raised an eyebrow with her subject matter in this story. We have noted the incest and rape of one of the characters, but to her defense I felt it added to the psychopathic illness that was underlying the perpetrator, that no one saw. The powerful ending of this story just brought me to flashbacks of the scenes in Return where Aric was the prisoner. Imagine him seeing his beloved son in the same place. Made me weep for Aric two fold. The story in this book is too powerful to tell as the secrets will be spoilers, so I am just trying to write my reaction to my feelings.
I think the direction Ms. Sweeney took us in is most likely going to be one of those agree to disagree points between us. I have to wonder if there wasn’t some other way to get to the end and whether the end justifies the means. I agree about trying not to give spoilers, very hard to do with this book since the main plot line was so discussion worthy. As far as the perpetrator, I will say you couldn’t have asked for a easier bad guy to dislike. I just couldn’t find one redeeming quality about him and my heart broke with what his illness did to those who loved him. While of all the books in the series, this was most likely my least favorite, as always Ms. Sweeney did get my attention and keep it, even though at times that attention was begrudgingly given. Once again, well done for a story well told and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Aric and Miles and the legacy they’ve built.
Don’t forget to dampen the fire before you leave and good night Gracie.
Very well said Penny. But to quote you “While of all the books in the series, this was most likely my least favorite”. I feel Penny, it might be one of Ms Sweeney’s best in the series. The feelings invoked for all of the characters were astounding. Doc Susan, Miles wife, Auric, Riven. All I can say is Ms Sweeney I applaud you….and await more!!! Glad you saw fit to bring us another.
Nite Georgie…..sweet dreams
Q&A with Author Toni V. Sweeney:
Downfall was a little departure from the earlier books in this series since it was much darker and dealt with some pretty disturbing issues. Are you worried that readers of the series might be turned away because of some of the content?
Since it’s almost the last book in the series…not really. I’ve always seen Aric’s life like some Science Fiction soap opera…”Dallas” in Space or “Revenge” on another Planet, if you will. Would you really want him to just settle peacefully into old age, anyway? Anyway, the actual last book, Space Studs will round up everything with an HEA, I promise.
I know you will eventually end this series, do you have another one in mind for a continuation like you did from the Heretic series to this one?
Well, the Three Moon series is now happening on and off on Arcanis, and it’s going to be mentioned now and then in other books and there’s one book which I hope to some day add, concerning Valriven kan Ingan’s run-in with Tamara the Forest Witch, (a spin-off actually telling what happened to Tamara and Mikel after they fell off the cliff into the river) but other than that…who can say? None planned at this time, anyway, let’s just put it that way. I won’t say “Never” though.
I’ve read all three series, Riven the Heretic, The kan Ingans and Three Moon Station and I have to admit, I occasionally get lost as to who was whose ancestor. Have you thought about giving readers a good old fashioned family tree in the beginning or as an appendix to the next book?
I actually have one written out (One for Sinbad, too). Unfortunately, my computer freezes every time I try to access them. Maybe I’ll just write a new one and put in the last Riven book and the last Archives novel.
I am so excited that a little tiny door was left ajar for another story for Aric and Miles. Will there, could there be one???
I have to confess, at quiet moments (of which there are few), I get this voice…getting louder each time…telling me things and a vision of a white-haired Mark at 60 looking out over a green valley while his best friend Aric complains about a woman who is very persistent in “chasing” him and he doesn’t know whether to stop running or not. I guess if the voice gets loud enough, I’ll have to shut it up by putting the story in my computer but I think if I do write it, it’s going to be light, something along the lines of…how do a former king and his best friend act when women half their age set their sights on them and the fact that each has several teenaged children doesn’t matter in the least? With suitable action scenes (after all it is SF) and sex scenes (it’s a romance, too).
What next this year for Toni Sweeney???
We-e-l-ll…let me see, so far, I’ve 4 novels scheduled for release with Class Act Books…The Seventh Mothman (Lovers of Leonesse), That Demon in Blue Jeans, Dragon in Chains (sequel in The Rose and the Dragon), and Three Moon Station is being re-released with an edited and longer denoument, Double Dragon is supposed to release the next Sinbad novel…Sinbad’s War…this year. I’m finishing up the last Chronicles of Riven the Heretic novel, The Man from Cymene, which is the prequel about Riven’s father and features a five-year-old Riven. I’ve a mystery, Tuesday’s Child, which needs a home. The third novel in the Three Moon series, about Sarkin Trant’s cousin Margrave Damian-Marcus, titled In This Kingdom by the Sea, is ready. I just finished editing a posthumous autobiography, Doing Time in Hell, for a former prison guard at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, and I still have about a dozen books left on my TW (To Write) list. Plus I’m now a reviewer for TwoLips reviews and the New York Journal of Books, and I’ve recently been offered the position as promotion/publicity manager with a small press…and that’s only for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Is that enough to keep me out of trouble, do you think?