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Spell of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spell of the Highlander 
Highlander #7

Karen Marie Moning
Contemporary/Fantasy/Paranormal
Published in 2005

H/h - Cian MacKelter/Jessica St. James
Setting: Chicago/The Highlands, Scotland, present day.

Read in Aug, 2011.
My rating:

                                                            [spoiler alert]

A little note: For what its worth, I think its a beautiful cover. Oh to be in that embrace...

This is Cians book, hes an ancestor of Drustan and Dageuss. This book connects book no 4 and 5 through some incidents and of course, the recurrent characters.

Oh, this is the last book (sort of) in the Highlander series. This leaves me a bit sad; I wish there were more. Cian was sexy, Jessica was good; I enjoyed the book as a whole. Even then there were things bugged me. This book also do not have time travel (in that sense, no coming back and forth between centuries) but Cian is an ancestor to Drustan and Dageus, a very powerful Kelter druid himself who was tricked by a fellow druid turned dark sorcerer he thought was his friend. Not much of Tuatha Dé Danaan, except in the very end.

As I mentioned, Cian was the center of his own universe in his time in the 9th century. He was the only boy after seven sisters, a laird since his father died before his birth and magic running through his veins like blood; strong and warm. He thought he was quite the invincible guy. He loved doing his job as a Kelter druid and ‘bedding the lasses’, enjoying his life to the fullest. Oneday, he met this guy, a druid who wanted to be his apprentice. His mother didn’t care for the guy but Cian thought he can handle anything. But the guy, Lucan tricked him into believing about a mirror that can predict incidents/weathers very accurately, which Cian thought was something he should acquire. Lucan also asked him to teach him the Druid spell of compulsion called Voice, in return he taught him a few things (although Cian was obviously the best among the two) which included the spell of Death. Cian didn’t know that this spell could kill many people altogether if the spell caster is really powerful. Thanks to Lucan, not only Cian used it without the knowledge and killed many people while procuring the mirror from Ireland but also was tricked to be trapped inside it. The mirror was no ordinary mirror, neither was Lucan. Cian didn’t know that Lucan was a lesser druid who was hungry and perverse for obtaining more power. He didn’t know that because Lucan was fathered by an unknown Druid on a whore of a mother, other Druids turned away from him, which made him mad in a sense and he would do anything to gain power and stay alive; stay immortal. The mirror was one of the Unseelie dark treasures, it’s a complex story of how it came be in the human hands but let’s just say that Cian paid a price he had no idea he’ll have to pay. He’d been trapped inside this mirror for 1,133 years, hung onto Lucan’s various castles/houses. He was forced to watch the horror of Lucan raping and torturing innocent women. Cian also tried to stay connected to through the centuries as I believe he could take books and stuffs inside his prison (which is situated in some Unseelie realm, the mirror is sort of a doorway/window for it) through magic. The information on how Cian could live sane was pretty vague to me. But I guess, when I think of it, I just can’t comprehend a life like this. There is a quote by Cian I’ll copy later on in my review, brought me to tears; such a bleak existence he’d survived and the only thing kept him going was vengeance, someday somehow. Cian was as immortal as Lucan, as long as Lucan kept paying the tithe of pure gold to the mirror on the day of Samhain or Halloween, same day Cian was imprisoned. He never knew what happened to his family. There was very little mention of his family throughout the story which I didn’t like. I wished to know more of them, maybe a little going back in time to see his life in 9th century, his mother and seven sisters etc. But, it was disappointing because the whole book, mostly took place as Jessica and Cian was running away from the assassins sent by Lucan. Anyway, when a thief broke in and stole many of Lucan’s treasures including the glass (I have NO idea how since the glass was 6 and a half feet tall as Cian himself, and said to be very very heavy!). Then it turned hands and the latest procurer of the glass is a Professor Keene, whose TA is our heroine Jessica.

Oh, I could totally identify myself with Jessica because I’ve been a TA myself. Though my life wasn’t as nightmarish as hers, I know about the whole pressure thing. And she was doing PhD, so kudos Jess! This is the first KMM heroine, I think I’ve read, who has a family; somewhat dysfunctional but she’s got a mother, three sisters and numerous halfs and steps from her mother’s several marriages. It was one of the reasons Jessica never wanted a relationship for the sake of it. I really liked the way she thought, even checked out guys. Even though her love life is in shambles, she didn’t give up. Most importantly, she wanted to finish her PhD. Anyway, Prof Keene called her to see to this delivery in his office, so Jessica goes to there in the middle of the night (after a hectic day) and helps the delivery men. On her way out, she thought she saw someone moving inside the glass. Obviously, Jessica thought her hectic life is taking a toll on her and she needs rest because there was NO WAY a tall, gorgeous, sex-traordinary man was inside the mirror, staring at her like he’d like to eat her up! Oh, talk about dream come true, however loony that sounds! He’s just what Jessica would’ve thought to have, pure animal sex. Well, can’t blame her, Cian was hot without a doubt.

Then things begin to go downhill for her; Professor Keene is murdered, the delivery men are murdered, she herself was about to be murdered in the Prof’s office when she heard a voice coming from the mirror behind her asking her to summon him with a spell. Ye Gods, what was that! But Jessica does that without thinking and oh boy, the sex-traorinary guy steps out from the mirror and took her behind him to shield her... Well, hello! She had to rub up against him and lick his bare back *blinks eyes* to see if he was real! *cough cough* No need to mention that Cian was celibate for thousand of years and with Jessica doing this, hard as a rock. The moment he saw this dark haired, jade-eyed woman, he knew she’s his; ‘mine’ as his Druidic mate-detector spoke out loud. And, he’d have her, no matter what/how. He kills the assassin he knew was sent by Lucan to retrieve the mirror. Now he has to convince the woman that she needs his protection, how to summon him out of the mirror (because it takes him back after sometimes), also after they’re secure, the fact that she’s his.

So starts their runaway status. Cian, through his Voice helped them with food and lodging in hotels and stuff after knowing that Lucan had no troubles tracking them through her credit card. Another woman was also sent to kill Jessica, which Cian with his deep listening (sort of a mind reading thing), understood and reacted instinctually. Jessica, who didn’t believe him at first, started believing the things he told her about himself and the debacle (or disaster) he’s in. Cian explains to her that he has to stay out of Lucan’s hand for the next few days before the Halloween. Once it’s done, he’ll take care of Lucan. What he didn’t explain that according to the Unseelie rule, if the tithe isn’t paid, their lives lived so far would be indebted and taken back. That without spilling a little blood, Cian can take care of it; by dying himself which would also kill Lucan. Jessica thought that he’d be free from the mirror and take care of it. But she had no idea about Cian’s plan.

In between, Cian’s attraction and yeaning for Jessica was very apparent, though the Neanderthal won’t say it out loud. There was then, this scene when Jessica jokingly asks him about his time in mirror that tugged at my heart. Here is it, Cian’s answer:

“Seventeen more days,” Jessi breathed wonderingly. “God, you must be climbing the . . . er, walls . . . or
whatever’s in there, huh?”
“Aye.”
“So, just what is in there, anyway?” She tested the glass by shaking it gently, and deemed it secure enough. It shouldn’t slide now.
“Stone,” he said flatly.
“And what else?”
“Stone. Gray. Of varying sizes.” His voice dropped to a colorless monotone. “Fifty-two thousand nine hundred and eighty-seven stones. Twenty-seven thousand two hundred and sixteen of them are a slightly paler gray than the rest. Thirty-six thousand and four are more rectangular than square. There are nine hundred and eighteen that have a vaguely hexagonal shape. Ninety-two of them have a vein of bronze running through the face. Three are cracked. Two paces from the center is a stone that protrudes slightly above the rest, over center is a stone that protrudes slightly above the rest, over which I tripped for the first few centuries. Any other questions?”
Jessi flinched as his words impacted her, taking her breath away. Her chest and throat felt
suddenly tight. Uh, yeah, like, how did you stay sane in there? What kept you from going stark raving mad? How did you survive over a thousand years in such a hell?
She didn’t ask because it would have been like asking a mountain why it was still standing, as it had been since the dawn of time, perhaps reshaped in subtle
ways, but there, always there. Barring cataclysmic planetary upheaval, forever there.
The man was strong—not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. A rock of a man, the kind a woman could lean on through the worst of times and never have to worry that things might fall apart, because a man like him simply wouldn’t let them.
I felt like weeping for him just as Jessica did.

Cian wanted to end his life in Scotland, so he decides it’s better to go in the Highlands, his birthplace and live in a cave or something. But he, in so many actions (kisses and touches) told Jessica that he wants her in his bed. Jessica can’t resist him, yet can’t give in. She is totally confused about this mess she’s is at the moment. The attraction was palpable, so was the danger. There is a scene in the Airport, Jessica was into a little trouble because Cian was back into the mirror while they’re still on the plane. While checking out, she got into a lot of trouble to get to the mirror (a risk they knew they have to take) and a hot scene in the warehouse; though I quite couldn’t believe for one moment they forgot their surrounding and the danger they’re in. But it was nothing new, as I saw in the later parts of the book. When they’re together, they forget everything ... God! Lolz Back to the story... In a store, as they were ‘shopping’ for the camping (sort of), they met Dageus. Cian didn’t recognize him (though Jessica did) because he thought his clan was destroyed after his entrapment. But, it wasn’t of course. Cian’s mother locked all his things, books, diaries away into a hidden chamber (we already know about it from The Dark Highlander) in return that Lucan let them live. Dageus have been reading about them for sometimes, knowing Cian MacKelter wasn’t a myth but a real man. He also informed it to Drustan, his twin. So, in the store, they have this confrontation with Dageus recognizing Cian when Jessica called his name. Cian won’t listen to him; primitive alpha that he is, even Jessica was trying to make him understand. Cian is not up for a ‘new beginning’ at the moment. But, I loved it the way he said “You, lass, are the exception to everything” to Jessica when he saw the hurt in her eyes. Oh, I totally agree Jess; he’s a man of few words but he speaks the most important, sexy, the heart-melting ones.

Dageus, sort of, steals their already stolen car. In the meantime, the mirror sucks Cian back inside. Jessica is left alone and wandering for the car. It was funny, the whole interaction between Dageus and Cian. I loved it; they are so alike yet like to deny that. Anyway, Drustan was a bit worried when he saw Dageus talking to a mirror but soon, he knows what’s going on and utterly in disbelieve. With Cian growling and worried for Jessica, Dageus was on his way to bring her back. Afterwards, they all meet together in the library. Dageus asks how this mirror works and with Cian’s permission, Jessica tells them about the spell. She thought Cian won’t be out again until tomorrow, but he does get out. It was a bit fuzzy since he kept kissing her (he was so anxious about her well being) and forgot who’s where. Understanding what’s happening, the MacKelters leave them alone in the library. And, these two spend the whole night making love. Jessica thought she’s finally found her soul mate but she was yet to know of Cian’s ultimate plan. I liked seeing the MacKelter brothers, mostly Dageus, working to know more about Cian and Jessica. He even tried deep listening to Jessica but just like Cian, he was unsuccessful. It seems like Jessica is immune to their magic and there is a reason behind that. Forgot to mention but Jessica and Cian’s second meeting after he came out of the mirror was really funny because of that.

The next day, understanding Cian told Jessica nothing, Dageus presses him to confide. Cian won’t, he just can’t. And he was so angry when Dageus took it unto himself to reveal the fact that Cian would die. Jessica is stunned, hurt and angry. Cian readies himself for the ultimate confrontation because he knew Lucan, having been unsuccessful so far, would come here soon. He wards the Kelter property himself. Jessica, meanwhile, comes to term with the fact that it can’t be changed. This is the only way to stop Lucan from getting the Dark Book of the Unseelie, which has spells destructive for the world itself. She decides she would just live the life as it is with her Highland lover. She does that too. I loved her ‘memory diary’, giving us a glimpse of what they’ve been doing. They got married soon after, even argued about baby names. Cian, it seems, gave her the Druidic marriage vow (she unknowing what it means) but won’t let her return the words. He made Jessica promise that she won’t see him die and turn into dust, instead remember him as her man. It was pretty sad; I couldn’t even imagine the situation myself. She also asked Dageus if there can anything be done, to which he said ‘no’, just as Drustan. Jessica even thought about contacting Lucan, who’s now in Scotland and paid them a visit already. As she was immune to magic, Jessica, unlike Gwen and Chloe, saw his real face. While Lucan keeps a nice form with magic, he’s anything but. Every single part of his body (it was pretty creepy to read) is tattooed with spells and he looks hideous with slitted red eyes. Cian also has some tattoo in some parts of his body but not that horrible.

When the day came, Dageus ultimately helps them out, through his knowledge of the Draghar (mentioned in The Dark Highlander). He very carefully concealed himself from Cian so far, even the other members of his family so that no one knew what’s going on in his mind. He revealed it only to Jessica later because he needed her help. The ending was pretty strange IMO. I had trouble imagining a few things, lost track of it somewhere between Lucan’s arrival and Aoibheal’s thoughts... Ermm, yah. There was this only scene with the Fey queen (though I was hoping for a glance of Adam, missed him really), who it seems has seen a pretty horrifying future for the humans. I was quite confused about it all; probably it was alluding to KMM’s Fever series. I haven’t read this series but read a few reviews, which led me to guess that it must be. There was no epilogue, only a brief note from KMM, explaining to us that happened to Cian and Jessica afterwards. So, have to admit, the ending wasn’t quite to my liking. This is why I’ve decided on a 4 stars. Also, I would’ve loved to read more about Cian’s life as a laird because whatever was there in the book didn’t really satisfy my curiosity about the man. There was one wrong information about Cian’s years of imprisonment in one of the lines. Nevertheless, overall it was a fun book. I look forward to more Highlander books from Ms. Moning in the future.


Favorite Quote:
Suddenly he smiled, and the sadness was vanquished by whisky heat. “Aye, Jessica, I like you. And I’m not just stuck with you. You fit me here, woman.” He thumped his chest with his fist. Then he shook her hand from his forearm and pushed off with the cart again. Jessi watched him move down the aisle, all sleek animal muscle and dark grace.
Wow. He wasn’t a man of many words, but when he used them, he certainly used the right ones.
You fit me here. You are the exception to everything.
Crimeny.
It was how she’d always thought a relationship should be. People should fit each other: some
days like sexy, strappy high-heeled shoes, other days like comfortable loafers—but always a good fit. And if you cared about someone, they should be the exception to everything; the number-one priority, the one who came before all others.
He was halfway down the aisle from her now, plucking a
can from the shelf—her primal hunter/gatherer procuring food by modern means, she thought, with a soft snort of amusement.


 Nope, nothing about Scotland today, just the picture on the cover of this book... *sigh*


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Punya
I'm a simple girl. I love to read in my spare time and do reviews the books I read. I also write, mostly songs/poems, though I'm not published. I love music and traveling. Sometimes, I wish I could live inside a book, having my own HEA. :)
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