A Singing in the Blood – a Novel – Toni V. Sweeney
Reviewers: Penelope Adams / Chinyere Etufugh
Riven kan Ingan has reached his middle years, settling comfortably into the life of a country giarl, and Life, in general, is good. Oh, there are a few things which could be better–such as his less than congenial relationship with son and heir Val or his discovery that second son Ilke wants to become a priest. At least the other children are still under control, and his beloved Barbara is just as loving and fiesty as ever. A treaty has been made with the Ghermians, and the barbarians are settling peacefully within Francovia’s borders. Too soon, however, their little bubble of contentment bursts. When a new sovereign comes to the Throne, civil war erupts between native Francovians and its foreign-born citizens, and Riven’s home and family are threatened as he is forced to choose between swearing loyalty to a madman or becoming a traitor to the country he loves.
Penelope Adams – she said:
A Singing in the Blood is the third book of The Chronicls of Riven The Heretic series, and once again reunites the reader with Riven kan Ingan and his beloved Barbara.
Now middle aged, Riven has settled into his life of a country giarl on his estate in Lindenscrag, complacent with his life and still madly in love with Barbara. He is a kinder, gentler Riven then we’ve seen before. Riven and Barbara eventually have a total of six children, there is peace in their adopted homeland of Francovia, a treaty has been made with the Germians and their world seems perfect. When King Leonilf dies, and his grandson, the slightly mad Morling, becomes leader, Riven and Barbara’s world soon falls apart.
Morling is determined to oust all foreigners from the land, and insists that the remaining royalty sign a document swearing their loyalty to him. Not all agree with Morling’s way of ruling, and soon a civil war will break out. Riven will be called on to make one of the most difficult decisions of his life, stand by his ruler or lead the rebels against him. A decision that is not being taken lightly, as it will affect not only him and Barbara, but their children and all that live on their lands.
Once again Ms. Sweeney takes us into the world of royalty and serf, mystical beings, harsh lands and a love to end all loves. She set the scene for us in the previous books, and in this offering, takes us into what we hope is a more peaceful time for Riven and Barbara. Again we see the weaver as she weaves Riven’s destiny under the watchful eye of the All-Father. We look down from the heavens, and hope Riven and Barbara will get the lives that they so deserve. For a time we actually believe it might happen, and sigh along with the weaver as we watch.
This book is what I like to call the bridge book; it fills us in on the lives of the people we’ve come to know in the previous books and sets the scene for the final book. For me, bridge books are never as good as the books that came before or the ones that come after, they serve a purpose of getting from point A to point B, and hopefully entertain us along the way.
We are introduced to the remaining 4 children of Riven and Barbara, and get to know them. The children are as varied and different as Riven and Barbara are, all with one thing in common, their love of their parents and their land.
We met the eldest son, Val in the previous book. He and Riven have a strained relationship. Val questions his father’s love, and Riven fears he will never really be close to his eldest son. Val is also very resentful of the second son, Ilke, who is the son of Riven’s second wife, whom he married thinking Barbara was dead. Ilke, is a gentle young man who wants nothing more than to become a priest when he gets of the proper age. Both Val and Ilke lock horns a number of times while growing up, and we fear they will never reconcile.
The third child is a sweet girl by the name of Llanginfiar (Llani for short), whom Riven adores and who adores him in turn. Fourth and fifth are the twins, Rory and Shael, conceived the night a star fell to earth. They share a bond stronger than most twins, and live their lives practically as one. The sixth and final son is Merigan, born while Riven and Barbara are gone on a diplomatic mission for Leonilf; he has fiery read hair and is referred to by all as the fox kit.
The cast of characters is rounded out by Riven’s steward Torghan, Bruune the sister of Riven’s second wife, and Ynes, Barbara’s serving woman who seems to have an unnatural dislike for Riven. We get glimpses of each of the children, but spend more time with Val and Ilke than the rest.
While this is a bridge book, it still packs a lot of emotion and action into it. There are questions answered from the previous books, and it serves well to set the scene for the next. Riven and Barbara’s love for each other, their family, and those they are responsible for is a sight to see and melts the heart. Once again, Ms. Sweeney masterfully transports us to another time and place, doing so with a little humor, a lot of love and even a few tears.
Review by Penelope Adams
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
Chinyere Etufugh – said:
Book three begins with Riven & Barbara continuing to build up their family. They have more kids, more servants, and more land to work. The kids do normal things like learn sword play, shag a couple of maids while their parents sleep, fight each other etc. Life in the Kan Ingan land was just normal and the headaches are those expected of people run huge households.
Well, Riven’s period of contentment was brought to an abrupt end, when the Margrave of Francovia was killed. If you remember from the previous books, the Margrave has practically treated Riven as a son and even gave him his daughter as a betrothed. Even though Riven wasn’t a native Francovian, he had lived there since he was seven, so in his heart he was Francovian. Besides, Riven had always been accepted by the Margrave as a Francovian and loved so much that he received special favor.
With the Margrave killed under questionable circumstances, his hateful successor made it clear that he didn’t appreciate his father’s preferential treatment of Riven all these years. In fact, the new Margrave became very vocal about his hatred of foreigners and made it know that he considered Riven a foreigner. He began inciting feelings of animus between native born Francovians and non-native born Francovoians.
In a shrewd political move, the new Margrave sent word to Riven, demanding that Riven pledge his allegiance to him and help rid the nation of the foreigners. The declaration included immediate expulsion of foreigners and confiscation of their lands and property. Riven was caught in a quagmire. Barbara (and even himself) were not native born citizens. What would this new decree mean for him and his family? His property and his servants? Now that he has a lot of people depending on him for protection, what would be the best decision for the masses? Well it looks like our hero is at a risky crossroad with trouble on both paths. Both options are repugnant, but which option is the lesser of two evils? Whatever choice he made, his family would pay the price. With that, the emotional rollercoaster began.
As with the previous book, I struggled with the character development and flow issues. What I really enjoyed about this book was the evolution of Riven’s personality. It showcased Riven Kan Ingan “the family man”. This side of Riven was different from the wine-guzzling womanizer we started off with in Book 1. Here, Riven has five sons and a daughter and he was dealing with all things that come along with raising a large brood. Riven has to deal with sibling rivalry, his own desires as to his children’s future occupation and how to keep his children from being the philander he was.
He has reached a point where he wants peace and no longer enjoys warfare. We got a little insight to some of Riven’s children as well as Barbara’s lady in waiting. Clearly, each secondary character had distinct past events that shaped their passions, and I wish the author had fleshed them out a bit more. The story could have benefited for gradual build up or better expansion of certain relationships. For instance, Torghan and Brunne, just kind of happened, although Book 2 led us to believe that Torghan had deep feelings for another person. It was just kind of “too convenient” the way that new relationship happened, as opposed to following through with the consequences of Torghan’s feelings from the end of Book 2.
Another example is was Riven’s eldest son, Val’s feelings of hatred for his younger brother, IIke, came out of nowhere. The author could have given a few instances of negative interaction to build up the explosion of feelings and rhetoric by Val. While it was later explained as jealousy, a couple of chapters (crumbs) where information was weaved in about the children’s feelings would have better prepared me for the intensity of the Val’s feelings. While the feelings made sense, they just seem to appear as oppose to gradually evolving. But I do like how the author resolved Val & llke’s relationship. I also think the author did a good job foreshadowing the young Kan Ingan males as the eventual torch bearers for the family.
Finally, I think this book could be so much stronger if the author streamlined the subplots & characters. There are a lot of things happening. If there were maybe 2 subplots and few characters, it would give more space for expansion and connection with the main characters. The ending of this book was a bit unexpected, and I appreciate that. A little unpredictability keeps readers on our toes. I am interested to how the author will bring it all together in book 4.
Review by Chinyere Etufigh
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
Now that the reviewers have read each other’s thoughts…
Well, Ezi here we are again discussing another of Toni Sweeney’s books in the Chronicles of Riven series. This one brings us current on Riven and Barbara’s lives and more importantly, introduces us to their children. As I mentioned in my review, I felt this book was a bridge book to set us up and get us to the next one, a necessary evil in a series. I enjoyed getting to know the children but I have to admit I wanted to take Val out behind the woodshed and give him a good “talking” to. I started out not liking him and by the end of the book, I actually admired him. I think, he of all the children, was actually most like Riven, making his feelings toward Riven so much more bittersweet.
I like your description “bridge book” because it is an apt description. This book was the Riven that was calmer, less blood thirsty and almost a regular family man. With six children, Riven certainly had his hands full. I wish the author had spent a little more time with Val & Torghan & Riven because I believe Torghan could have shed some light or facilitated some communication between father and son. It’s almost like Torghan faded once he got married. Would Val be considered a foreigner since he was born on Francovian soil? As Riven’s son, he would be heir, so he wouldn’t fall into the group that that Margrave was targeting.
If there is one thing I know about Ms. Sweeney it’s that she likes to take her readers through the emotional ringer so I was kind of glad this was a little break for us. I can see your point about Torghan but I have never really seen him as a pivotal character. We did find out more about what happened with him and Barbara while Riven was off finding himself, I wasn’t really surprised since we were given hints in the previous book. I think there is only so much room for main characters and in this case, Torghan had to fall by the wayside since we were getting to see more of the children. Speaking of the children, I really had a hard time feeling any kind of compassion for Val. That boy was just down right mean at times and acted like a spoiled brat at others. Poor Riven just couldn’t seem to find a way to break through, although I think he tried. I think any person related in any way to Riven is on the Margrave’s radar, that is one twisted individual.
Sometimes when someone feels wronged, all they need is a simple and sincere apology. I don’t know if Riven spoke to the boy and apologized for not being there in his formative years. Riven just kind of acted like, I am here now, but Val didn’t feel a sense of justice for what he was denied. As a child, he lashed out. I am happy with how the author managed to swing that hatred around to understanding. Sibling rivalry can be downright nasty. The Margrave was content in destroying his own city for his vendetta. What a shame that he incited such an insurrection. I thought the ending was tough. Do you think some of the deaths could have been avoided? I like the connection of Riven’s daughter with his best friend. It was a desperate yet smart choice. I can tell this union will be of significance in the latter books.
Don’t even get me started on that ending, I was actually sitting at my desk eating my lunch when I read it. I cried the entire afternoon afterward, I was so embarrassed when my co-worker noticed and asked what was wrong, I had to say just a book I’m reading. I think what happened had to happen – Riven was such a strong believer in right and instilled that into everyone who loved him. As far as Llani’s marriage, Riven was one smart cookie and his family was always most important to him. And speaking of one smart cookie (how is that for a segway) Ms. Sweeney continues to keep us right at the edge of our seats, always wanting more. Keep them coming and we’ll keep reading them.
Thanks Ezzy, and don’t forget to turn the lights out on your way out.
Q&A with Author Toni V. Sweeney:
Torghan & Barbara: will this be dealt with any further? Considering that Val kept Riven at a distance, is there something more about Torghan and Val, other than he kept him clothed and fed?
Torghan and Barbara’s relationship went back to servant and lady the moment Riven reappeared. After all, there’s someone else in the picture for Torghan now. Not certain what you mean about Torghan and Val… Val’s one confused puppy, he’s also a little snot, as far as I, his creator, am concerned. He hates his father, he envies him, he doesn’t understand why everything that happened did, he resents Ilke, wants his own way, but above all, he’s the HEIR, so he’s spoiled on top of everything else. He’s the typical insecure, rich boy. Sorry to say, I had to cut him down to size in Barbarian Blood Royal before letting have his own HEA. But getting back to the original question, with Riven back in the picture, Val relegates Torghan to the back burner. He calls him “Uncle” but treats him as more of a high-ranking servant than anything else. The kid’s really ungrateful.
Was the new Margrave’s hatred of foreigners more directed at Riven (and his success) or did he just hate all foreigners in general?
It was originally directed just at Riven because he was the one trying to persuade Morling’s grandfather not to allow his parents to marry because of the insanity in the family. Then, as Riven aids in making peace between the Francovians and the Ghermians and encourages the Ghermians to settle in Francovia, he transfers his resentment to all aliens-in-residence as being symbols of Riven’s influence with his grandfather.
What is going on with Riven…it’s been hinted at, but what I’m not quite sure? Does he have some disease like cancer? Maybe an STD from his younger years?
*I really enjoyed Riven’s quip something like—before, when he was begging for children, he realizes that he must have been crazy! Riven has no STDs. That would be something he could pass on to Barbara or the children. When he has his first attack, the Leech tells Barbara that it’s from a fever he contracted. That was in Blood Curse, while he was blind. A fever swept through the Ghermian village where he was a captive/inhabitant. It affected his heart and the Leech prescribed elixir of foxglove, or digitalis, for it. Today, it would be diagnosed as rheumatic fever, which, untreated as it was, can end up causing heart damage and being deadly.
Riven’s quip is something like “be careful what you ask for.” All he wanted was one child. He expected none. He got a houseful, and each one so different…and he’s not equipped to deal with any of them.
Corvus the priest appears a number of times throughout the book. In my mind he seemed Merlin-like. Was that who he is based on?
Perhaps subconsciously, but definitely not purposely. Corvus is touched by the gods and therefore more of an ethereal being than merely human. As the Leech explains to Riven, he simply appears when and where he’s needed. Otherwise, he’s “assigned” to the oak grove in the cliffs overlook Craigsmere. Corvus hints that the gods have something similar planned for Ilke. (His name is pronounced with a long “e”, by the way…Ilky.))
There are 4 books in this series. Did you start out thinking it was going to be a series and if so, was each book plotted out before it was written?
Not at all! It was going to be a one-shot deal. Riven was to get his come-uppance by the gods, then get the girl and that was it. When they rode away into the sunset at the end of Bloodseek, that was to be the finish…and then I got to thinking…of all the implications of their life together, with him buying her from her husband and their expected childless life and the fact that the gods let him go a little too easily… And suddenly, Books 2, 3, and 4 were there! And there’s one more book to come…The Man from Cymene, about Riven’s father, Trygare. I plan to start on it as soon as I finish the novel I’m working on now.