I first discovered the Stonewylde books one Beltane a few years ago, and was immediately captivated by the magical story. It’s a strange kind of fantasy: set in a fictional secluded village in the English countryside, and rarely containing much palpable magic, preferring instead a subtlety which makes the magic, mainly based on ceremonies and meditation, hardly perceptible. A pagan believer might even argue that this isn’t fantasy at all. But I’m going to go with assuming it’s on-topic here; indeed, since the so-called Outside World is hardly involved in the story at all, much of it feels like it could be classic LotR-style fantasy, set in an entirely imaginary universe rather than an esoteric enclave of the real world.
The series consists of five books … wait, did I say five? I meant three. It’s a wonderful trilogy consisting of three books. OK, there are also two more books, set some thirteen years after the first three, but DO NOT read them. The first three books form a magical and beautiful story, like a delicate flower whose love and innocence shines through the darkest of times and uplifts the reader’s soul. The last two are a sickening blot, ugly and brutal in their betrayal of the franchise, like a crippling disease that consumes from within and slays slowly and without mercy; they leave a foul taste in the reader’s mouth. So most of this review will completely ignore the last two books and focus only on the first three. I will avoid spoilers as much as possible, although there will be a short section at the end which covers the last two books and necessarily contains spoilers from the first three.