Setting the Fevered Stage II
Fever mythology in Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series
Last week, I wrote a post introducing Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series and her inspiration for transitioning her evolving mythology and story lines to the new Urban Fantasy genre, where they became the Fever series. If you have not yet read the Highlander series, you might want to start with that post.
Today, I’d like to track down where the elements of the Fever mythology first appeared in each Highlander book. I found it fascinating to watch the mythology take shape as I read, and most particularly enjoyed rereading the two series back-to-back, so that I could fully focus on the evolution of the Fever world without interruption.
Beware if you haven’t read all the Highlander books! This post will be very spoilery, because it is hard to explain where Fever mythology appears without mentioning crucial plot points. There are also a couple of big Fever spoilers in here. I will try to avoid spoiling each book’s romantic HEA storyline too much, but proceed at your own risk!
Before she found her voice: the early books
The first two books feature romantic leads who are unrelated to the characters and stories that evolve in the later books. But the side characters eventually become central to the mythology.
Book 1, Beyond the Highland Mist, introduces the Royal Court of Aoibheal, Queen of the immortal race of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, known to humans as the Fae. The Court lounges around on shimmering silica sands, gazing across turquoise tides, in the Fae world/dimension on the Isle of Morar. We meet the unifying character for the series, the immortal Adam Black, who serves on the Court. His tendency to meddle in the affairs of humans is an ongoing source of irritation for the Queen. Adam is legendary for literally screwing human women senseless through the centuries. (This would be where the basic concept of Pri-ya first appears!) I think it’s fair to say that the Wenches who read this book thought Adam was a complete asshole. The Fae come across as bored, unfeeling narcissists who casually wreak havoc upon unsuspecting mortals in an effort to keep themselves entertained.
We also learn that the Fae have the ability to travel (it’s not called sift until book 3) between different time periods and dimensions at will. They travel between the Fae and human dimensions; they can whisk human heroines from their modern-day homes and plop them smack into the middle of an ancient Highland warrior’s castle.
No mythological building blocks appear in Book 2, To Tame a Highland Warrior, though we learn later that Adam Black prevented the hero’s family line, the McIlliochs, from dying out by bestowing the “Berserker curse” upon its men. (I thought this was a silly name for a mythological creature, but according to Wikipedia it derives from Norse mythology.) Adam’s involvement could easily have been Moning’s way of retroactively tying book 2 in with the subsequent books, after she found a clear direction for the series.
It’s worth a mention that we can already see familiar themes at work in these books.
- At first, many Wenches thought every male Highlander romantic lead was simply “the prototype for Barrons”, but we now appreciate each one in his own right and the differences between them.
- Couples seem “fated” to be together (though that can often be attributed to Fae influence here). They feel a very strong attraction when they meet, and the sizzle or shock of electricity when they first touch. In the Fever books, Barrons immediately recognizes something about Mac he cannot explain or resist, and she most definitely feels an electrical charge emanating from his body, but in contrast to the Highlander characters, it takes those two a long period of working together to see past their preconceptions and learn to trust each other.
- Descriptions of all-consuming kisses that steal one’s breath away appear repeatedly in the Highlander books. Not that there’s a thing wrong with that! Suitors are always circling in for seduction, too. We loved it! Moning is clearly enamored of the concept, and we loved visualizing the many variations on a theme, which continued right through the Fever series.
“One day you may kiss a man you can’t breathe without, and find breath is of little consequence.”
~ Barrons, Bloodfever
“One day you do meet a man who kisses you and you can’t breathe around it and you realize you don’t need air. Oxygen is trivial. Desire makes life happen. Makes it matter. Makes everything worth it. Desire is life.”
~ Mac, Shadowfever
And at this point in the series, with a new contract in hand and the number of paranormal romance fans growing, Moning decided to let her imagination go wild instead of trying to please potential publishers. As a result, there’s a more confident and creative direction, and she not only finds her voice, but a powerful story line evolves. For us that means a lot more world building, greater historical detail, and richer character development in each new addition to the series.
Book 3 – The Highlander’s Touch (Circenn Brodie’s book)
The Sidhe/Seelie Hallows
We learn a little about each of the Sidhe Hallows. We also discover the Fae have an elixir that bestows immortality on any human who drinks it, which is kept in a flask that is a sacred relic but not one of the Hallows.
The Sidhe Hallows appear in the Fever books as the Seelie Hallows. As for the elixir, is it the same one that V’lane feeds to Mac? Because if it is, we’ll be troubled about one of the side effects mentioned in Book 6 when we get there.
Moning says that at some point not detailed in these books, Queen Aoibheal restores guardianship of the Hallows to the Fae. But for now, Circenn serves as guardian.
The Fae: Adam Black, Immortality
- Circenn turns out to be Adam Black’s half-human son. In the 9th century, Adam loved Circenn’s mortal mother very much and was heartbroken when she refused to drink the elixir. So Adam tricked Circenn into drinking it without his knowledge, and Circenn hasn’t spoken to Adam since then.
After Circenn reconciles with Adam, Adam has the opportunity to share more details about Fae powers and relics with his son. Circenn fears the madness that immortality seems to breed in the Fae. We read in Fever that the Fae must drink an elixir of forgetting, from a cauldron that is one of the Seelie Hallows, so they won’t go mad. (Which, since this causes them to forget who they have been and start over, makes it difficult for the Fae to keep an accurate historical account of their race.) Adam explains what really causes the madness, and he advises Circenn to avoid this by learning to master his Fae powers slowly.
“There is much to be learned about our kind, Circenn, but you must learn it in stages. The madness doesn’t result from immortality. It is an annoying and temporary side effect of our far-vision. We see how everything interconnects, and if you seek that knowledge too quickly, it can make you lose perspective, even cause madness.”
- Now called sifting, Adam teaches Circenn to travel in time and space, after he convinces Circenn to trust and explore his Fae powers. The only Fae tricks Circenn knows before the reconciliation are those he tried to teach himself—placing curses on objects, for example—with somewhat unpredictable results.
|Source: Moning Maniacs Facebook community|
Book 4 – Kiss of the Highlander (Drustan MacKeltar’s book)
The Fae, The Walls
- We get a little background information on the Tuatha Dé Danaan, who arrived on Earth from another planet many thousands of years ago. The Fae co-existed for eons with Mankind, though most humans were unaware of this.
- The earthly Fae and human realms are separated by invisible "walls", which keep these physically incompatible dimensions from damaging each other. (If you're a fan of the Fringe television series, you can equate the barriers between alternate Fringe universes with the walls between Mankind and the Fae.) Some Fae can cross the walls sometimes, but not humans. In Fever, we see what Mac calls Interdimensional Fairy Potholes, not to mention hordes of Unseelie descending upon Dublin, when the walls break down.
- The Fae educated some humans, who became known as Druids, about Fae secrets, which became known as Druid Arts. Some Druids eventually became greedy and fought among themselves, nearly destroying the world.
|We learn the Keltar men prefer |
kilts to "trews" for
very practical reasons :-) (Source)
- We learn that after the world was almost destroyed, one Highland bloodline, the Keltar, was selected to preserve the most sacred Druid Arts.
- We meet Drustan, Dageus, Christopher, and Christian MacKeltar, four of the five Keltar men who are entrusted to use the Druid Arts in modern times. (We’ll meet the fifth one in a later book.)
- We learn how the family has guarded and passed down their knowledge over the centuries. There are 13 volumes and seven stone tablets entrusted to the Keltar family, which contain dangerous knowledge, geometry, and star guides. A powerful standing stone formation on Keltar lands enables them to perform some of their rituals.
- The Fae taught the MacKeltars how to travel in space and time. The Keltar men can use the standing stones on their property for this purpose, though a vow prevents them from using the stones for any purpose other than saving the world.
In Shadowfever, Barrons travels to Keltar lands to help the MacKeltars make a last-ditch effort to prevent the Walls between the human and Fae realms from collapsing. They perform those rituals in the standing stone formation. I found the descriptions of the disagreements between Barrons and the MacKeltars in Fever, as they argued about how to perform the rituals, much more entertaining after meeting all the Keltar men in these books. They’re all so “alpha”, and they DID NOT trust Barrons!
Book 5 – The Dark Highlander (Dageus MacKeltar’s book)
|Source: Linkin Fever Facebook community|
In this book, Moning fills in details about the history of the Fae’s relationship with Mankind. In Drustan’s book, we learned that the Keltars are the appointed human guardians of essential Druid knowledge and rituals. This book tells us a little more about why.
The Druids and The Draghar
We learn that the Fae eventually chose to separate themselves from humans and take their knowledge with them. A group of 13 ancient Druids, known as the Draghar, opposed that decision. The Draghar set out to become powerful enough to capture the Fae and steal all their knowledge (and resulting power) for themselves. They focused on learning the dangerous Dark Druid Arts, which the Fae had not shared with Mankind.
The Draghar’s attempt to hunt down the Fae by “coerc[ing] a path between the realms” almost destroyed the world. The Fae, “sensing the distress in the...weaving of the world, returned to avert catastrophe.” But the wrath of the Draghar damaged the human and Fae realms beyond repair.
Aoibheal banished the souls of the 13 Draghar to an eternal prison between dimensions, where they avidly schemed and awaited opportunities for escape. Dageus’s unsanctioned use of the stones provided the opportunity and an invincible human host, if they could just bend his will to theirs.
Then, the Draghar would walk the earth again. Then, all the power, all the knowledge the Tuatha Dé Danaan had stolen from them millennia ago would be restored. The Draghar would teach them the Voice of Power that brought death with a mere word, and the secret ways to move through time. When their numbers were many and strong, they would hunt the Tuatha Dé Danaan and take what should have been theirs long ago. That which the Tuatha Dé Danaan had ever denied the Draghar: the secret of immortality. Eternal life, no chancy rebirth necessary. They would be gods.
Christian mentions the Draghar in Dreamfever:
“Just what did you do on Halloween?” Why was Unseelie flesh having such a strange effect on him?
He gave me that killer smile, but it wasn’t killer charming, it was killer cold. “I chickened out at the last minute, or we wouldn’t have failed. We tried to raise the only other power we knew of that had once stood against the Tuatha De and held its own. An ancient sect called the Draghar raised it once, long ago. Barrons didn’t hesitate, I did.”
- We learn that it was after imprisoning the Draghar when Aoibheal selected the Keltar clan to represent and protect Mankind. Because of the damage inflicted by the Draghar upon the world, the walls between the earthly human and Fae realms could no longer stand on their own. They required rituals to be performed regularly to strengthen them. Aoibheal negotiated The Compact with the MacKeltars, in which she promised that the Fae would never spill another drop of human blood. She entrusted them with the knowledge and rituals required to keep the walls standing between the Fae and human realms, so that Fae could not prey on humans. Before Drustan’s and Dageus’s stories, the Keltar had executed their duties faithfully for 2,000 years without ever seeing a Fae, and had begun to suspect the Fae might have died out.
- We see Adam Black develop what appears to be a little more of a “heart”. He defies Aoibheal by continuing to meddle in the affairs of the MacKeltars. We realize he has a soft spot for them, and makes a great sacrifice to save the life of Dageus and prevent the extinction of the Keltar clan. Aoibheal chooses to let Dageus live despite his transgressions. Was it due to Adam’s persuasiveness, or because she thinks she might need him? We’ll have to wait a little longer to answer that question.
Source: Linkin Fever Facebook community
In Faefever, Christian tells Mac that his uncles Drustan and Dageus are “historians”, which I guess is one way to describe family members who were born in a distant century. The Wenches fondly remember the way Christian describes Dageus as the uncle who plays Nine Inch Nails for his wife when he’s “in the mood”, which serves as notice to other castle residents that they need some private time. As Christian says:
“Not all my uncles are as cool as Dageus. Men want to be him. Women adore him. It’s irritating, actually. I never introduce my girlfriends to him.”
- Aoibheal takes the ability to time travel away from the MacKeltars, as much for their own protection as everyone else’s. Escalating lust for power, on the part of humans and Fae, and general human weakness made it too dangerous an option.
I can’t believe I’ve written so much already, and we’re only through book 5! We’ve found a lot of Fever building blocks. I hope you won’t mind if I take a break now and come back to finish this another day. In the meantime, I’ll tease you by promising to talk about the “missing” sidhe-seer bloodline, the “catch” to immortality, and the legendary man in the mirror in our final look at Fever mythology in the Highlander series.
Did you know there were so many Fever “puzzle pieces” in the Highlander books? Did you notice any we’ve missed? Do these pieces help you understand any of the Fever plots and characters better? Let us know what you think of her Moning’s early world building below!
I want to give a round of applause to Wench Olga for assisting with the fact checking while she read the books, tracking down man candy, and creating collages! Thank you, Olga!!!