|P.C. Cast: Elphame's Choice|
Luna Books (Trade Paperback), ISBN 0-373-80213-7
From her birth, Elphame finds herself set apart from everyone else. As the eldest daughter of Etain, the Goddess Epona Incarnate, everyone regards Elphame as a goddess as well. Also, she looks distinctly different from humans -- her lower half resembles a horse, thanks to her centaur father. Despite being marked by Epona, Elphame feels little connection to the magical world of her mother. Eventually she realizes she must leave the temple and make something of herself.
With the help of her warrior brother Cuchulainn and other warriors and centaurs, Elphame sets off to MacCallan castle to restore it and make it her home. Upon arriving at the dilapidated site, Elphame finally feels the magical world as the building's stones speak to her, welcoming her. In short order, the assortment of humans and centaurs begin repairing and rebuilding. Despite a number of willing, flirtatious females, Cuchulainn finds himself drawn to Brenna, a young healer terribly scarred during her youth by a fire. Because many scorned her in the past for her disfigurement, Brenna can't believe Cuchulainn's interest sincere, that her scars don't revile him.
Elphame finds love for herself as well, despite her many years of believing it wouldn't happen. After stumbling during a nighttime run, Elphame finds herself face to face with Lochlan, a half-human, half-Fomorian (and rather vampire-like, with wings, talons and a penchant for drinking blood). The Fomorians died off a century and a half ago, but Lochlan says a few mortal women, impregnated by the Fomorians, survived delivery and raised their children to be as mortal as possible. But the demonic blood in their veins pulls at the Fomorians, trying to get them to kill and give in to the bloodlust and madness.
Lochlan, however, dreamt of Elphame for the past 25 years, since her birth. She will be both his lifemate and the fulfillment of a prophecy -- the blood of a dying goddess will save the Fomorians from their demonic tendencies. The pair seem destined to be lifemates but Lochlan's Fomorian heritage will win him no favors among Elphame's ragtag clan. They hide their handfasting, but Lochlan gets a huge surprise when four of his half-Fomorian clan arrive. He lies to his clanmates, saying Elphame won't fulfill the prophecy, but one of the group senses his lie and sets out to lure Elphame from her castle, in the process setting up a tragedy that threatens to destroy Elphame's new clan.
Despite the wildly twisting story, P.C. Cast does a good job of keeping the action moving and the relationships developing. Her characters display strengths and weaknesses, even the minor characters. The only downside turns out to be the characters' names. Although they use many Celtic deity and hero names, the characters aren't those deities and heroes, which can confuse someone with a passing knowledge of Celtic myth. But Cast wraps everything up with a frantic tension-filled ending that ultimately satisfies the reader.
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