Fever mythology in Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series
We're down to the last couple of books, so I think we're finally ready to finish our exploration of how Karen Marie Moning slowly created the mythology for her tremendously popular Fever books in her earlier Highlander series. If you missed the first two parts of this discussion, you can find them here and here.
Isn’t it amazing that many of us Fever fans started reading Darkfever with absolutely none of this background? And yet managed to follow along just fine, become hopelessly addicted, and need an intervention to pry ourselves away from Dublin? (Oops, was that TMI?) Fever became all the more interesting to me when I realized how deeply the mythology ran, and how much mythology pre-dated Fever in the Highlander series.
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Click through to resume our discussion with book 6, The Immortal Highlander. And remember that there are lots of spoilers about both the Highlander and Fever books. If you’re new to this set of posts, we recommend you begin with the first part of this discussion.
Book 6 – The Immortal Highlander (Adam Black’s book)
We learn how Fae Adam Black is punished after meddling in Dageus’s situation in the previous book. Queen Aoibheal has made Adam human, stripping him of his immortality and his magic, and also rendered him invisible to humans and unable to see the Fae. He stumbles across a sidhe-seer, Gabrielle O’Callaghan, while searching for his son Circenn in modern-day Cincinnati. When he discovers a plot to overthrow Aoibheal, he works to warn her and win his way back into her good graces.
At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning that, in a feat rivaling what George R. R. Martin did for Jaime Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire, Adam has gone from being the consummate asshole to the favorite Highlander character for many of the Wenches over the course of these books. Not that the Keltar men don’t give him a run for his money! But Adam has definitely redeemed himself.
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We find out what sidhe-seers are and learn a little bit of their history. Adam and the other Fae thought sidhe-seers had died out.
In Darkfever, Mac learns she is a sidhe-seer about two seconds before a suspicious Fae has the chance to reach the same conclusion and end the story right there. She eventually discovers and befriends others like herself in the Abbey, despite their leader Rowena’s best efforts to keep them apart. Gabrielle is descended from the bloodline of sidhe-seers that Mac found in Rowena’s notes in Shadowfever, but this bloodline was not included in the official sidhe-seer records at the Abbey.
In Shadowfever, Adam makes a brief appearance at Chester’s, when he arrives to confirm Aoibheal’s identity, but he does not bring Gabrielle. I wonder whether Mac and the other sidhe-seers in the Abbey will cross paths with (or at least become aware of) Gabrielle in future Fever books. They seem to have lost track of her bloodline.
Because Adam and the MacKeltars frequently cross paths, I wondered whether Christian has met Gabrielle when he tells Mac in Bloodfever that he has met others like her. It would not surprise me if he were referring to others besides Alina.
“I know who you are. And what you are,” he said quietly. “I’ve met your kind before.”
During this book, Gabrielle loses her ability to see the Fae. She and Adam presume that Aoibheal stripped it from her bloodline, yet at the end of the book their young daughter, Tessa, reveals that the “fairy queen” visits and talks to her about her daddy in secret. I am not sure if we are supposed to know whether Tessa is a sidhe-seer or whether Aoibheal simply chooses to reveal herself to the child. Perhaps we’ll find out one day.
The Fae: The Compact, The Walls
- We learn that the Fae King created some rather unsavory types of Fae known as Unseelie, and that the same walls which separate the human and Fae realms also keep the Unseelie imprisoned.
- We learn that Aoibheal personally protects the Keltar lands, so that no Fae can enter to harm them without her knowledge.
The Fae: Adam Black
We learn that Adam Black was the last prince of the Seelie house of D’Jai, presumably the house for whom the Seelie Hallow known as the D’Jai orb is named. Barrons gave the orb to the Abbey in Shadowfever (and it turned out to be booby trapped).
Moning says that she has finished telling Adam’s story, but she included his brief visit to Chester’s in Shadowfever as a nod to his many fans who wanted to be sure he is doing well.
V’lane makes anonymous references to Adam in the Fever books as the Fae who gave up immortality, and only fans who have read the Highlander books would recognize them. He mentions Adam by name in Dreamfever, when he tells Mac, after sharing a kiss that was remarkable for its lack of coercion, that he is beginning to understand why humans fascinated the former prince.
“I begin to understand Adam.”
I blinked. “The first man? You know about Adam and Eve?” V’lane didn’t seem the kind to study human creation myths.
“No. One of my race that chose to become human,” he clarified.
The Fae: Darroc (Lord Master)
We meet Darroc, who holds a position of power in Aoibheal’s Court. He betrays Aoibheal by hiring her Hunters to track down and kill Adam. Without Adam to protect her, Darroc thinks he will be able to seize power and bring down the walls, so the Fae can again prey upon humans. Adam enlists the MacKeltars in a plan to warn his queen, which further destabilizes the walls.
In the Fever books, we find out that Darroc had been Alina’s lover. Known to the Unseelie as the Lord Master, he was still working to bring down the walls. In Dreamfever, Darroc alludes to the Queen not punishing others quite as harshly as he was punished, and he is referring to Adam. Darroc will be punished off page at some time between this Highlander book and the next. And he believes his punishment was worse than Adam’s, though I’m not sure I agree and I definitely feel his crime was worse.
We learn a very disturbing side effect of the elixir that imparts immortality. It turns out that the Fae do not have immortal souls. They have the potential to live forever, but if their physical bodies die, they are truly dead. When humans drink the elixir and become immortal, over time their souls wither and die. This, of course, makes me wonder about the elixir V’lane feeds to Mac in Faefever, which allows her to survive rape at the hands of the Unseelie Princes. Is this a new and improved elixir? I hope so, but I’ve been worrying ever since I first read this book. Wench Olga tried to reassure me with this Shadowfever quote where Cruce tells Mac he had improved upon the original elixir that the king made for the queen, so now all we have to do is convince ourselves we can trust Cruce.
“You were already Pri-ya when I found you. Your life was ending. I gave you my elixir—”
“Your elixir?” the king said mildly.
“—to stem your wounds.”
“What exactly did you give me?”
“I do not exactly”—he imitated my tone perfectly—“know. I have never given it to a human before.”
“Was it the queen’s elixir?”
“It was mine,” the king said.
“I improved it. You are the past,” Cruce said. “I am the future. It is time for you to be unmade.”
- We also learn that a Fae who becomes mortal can grow a soul if s/he is worthy of one. Adam realizes he has grown a soul when his daughter Tessa reveals that Aoibheal told her that her “Daddy is all glowy and golden”. (Fae have the ability to see the human soul as a golden aura.) Once he realizes this, Adam asks Aoibheal to make Circenn and Lisa mortal again. I suspect that this is when Aoibheal decides to restore guardianship of the Hallows to the Fae, since their current guardian has lost his long-term availability.
Book 7 – Spell of the Highlander (Cian MacKeltar’s book)
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Beowulf and Grendel
Cian becomes the fifth Keltar man required to perform the rituals that keep the walls between Mankind and the Fae standing in the Fever books.
Cian also appears at Chester’s in Shadowfever. We learn that he helped tattoo Christian on the night the walls fell. Moning has also said that Dageus and Cian were the Keltars who ran into Mac and Barrons in Wales when they were all trying to steal the amulet.
The Fae: Aoibheal
- This is the third book in a row where some villain tries to wrest power from Aoibheal. We’ve read about the Draghar, Darroc, and now Trevagne. Each challenge to her authority further undermines the stability of the walls.
- She shows herself to Cian at the end of the book. (It is debatable whether she fully intends to, or inadvertently discovers he has the singular ability to see her when she remains hidden from other men.) She also reveals to readers that she has been manipulating some of the events in the Highlander books in preparation to combat a great threat.
The Fae: Darroc
- We learn that Darroc once contacted Trevagne, claiming to have knowledge of the Dark Book and the Fae Court. He was, no doubt, hoping to steal any artifacts or information Trevagne had discovered for himself. This occurred in the past, before the events in book 7 took place and Aoibheal stripped Darroc of his immortality and Fae powers.
The Unseelie Hallows
This book introduces the Unseelie Hallows and tells us more about each one, particularly the Dark Mirror and the Dark Book.
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The Dark Book is the Sinsar Dubh, which Mac, Barrons, and quite a few others hope to acquire in the Fever books. At some point in the past, Trevagne acquired rubbings from some of the pages of the Sinsar Dubh, possibly from Darroc. I don’t know if these are related in any way to the copied pages that Barrons shows Mac in Fever.
- We learn more about the Dark Druid Arts, which Cian has studied. These require the tattooed black-and-red runes of protection, which show up again on Barrons and Christian in the Fever books.
- We learn that Aoibheal has allowed Dageus to retain all the knowledge of the Draghar, but we aren’t sure why until Aoibheal sifts in at the end of the book, which we’ll get to shortly.
- We learn that the Fae do not really understand time, even though they are able to sift time in these books. They can never visit their own future. V'lane mentions in the Fever books that the Fae have lost the ability to sift time, but that must have occurred off page at some point between the end of the Highlander series and the beginning of Darkfever.
Novella - Into the Dreaming
This novella was Moning’s attempt (between Drustan’s and Dageus’s books) to write the Fever story she saw taking shape. It is interesting mainly for this reason, since it doesn’t really further the plot.
The concept of The Dreaming is defined here. It is later referenced in Dreamfever:
“The Hall of All Days collided with the concubine’s realm, with parts of Faery, and some of it crashed into the Dreaming.”
“The Dreaming,” I exclaimed. “There’s actually a Fae realm by that name?”
“It doesn’t belong to the Fae. The Dreaming is far older and belongs to no one. It’s where all hopes, fantasies, illusions and nightmares of sentient beings come to be or go to rest, whichever you prefer to believe.”
So where do we stand at the end of these books?
At the end of Cian’s book, Queen Aoibheal sifts from the Isle of Morar to survey the fruits of her labors. She reveals to readers that she has been setting a plan in motion by tweaking events here and there across the several centuries covered in these novels. She has averted disasters and steered each Keltar man to find his perfect mate, the one who enables him to fully achieve the potential of his essential gift.
Seven times now she’d prevented the extinction of the purest and most potent of the Druid lines.
And positioned the five most powerful Druids that had ever lived precisely where she wanted them. Where they could ally her.
Where they could save her.
Aoibheal has ensured that the five strongest men of the Keltar line are assembled in the current century. In the Fever books, we learn that these five are identified by the the sidhe-seers’ Haven prophecy as essential to the process of capturing and re-interring the Sinsar Dubh. Here’s how we can summarize what we’ve learned about three of them:
- Drustan — Has the purest heart, the unshakable integrity and strength of character that ensures he will never break his vows. One of the interpretations of the Haven prophecy refers to him as “one who burns pure”.
- Dageus — Has retained the formidable knowledge of the 13 Draghar in his memories. Now we understand why Aoibheal allowed this to occur.
- Cian — Is the most powerful Keltar, “a genetic fluke that occurs maybe once in a family’s bloodline”. He was born with all three powers granted to the family. Including the ability to see Aoibheal at the end of his book, though he agrees to keep her presence a secret from his kinsmen for a while.
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And that’s where it ends...and Fever begins. We next see the Fae wreaking havoc upon Dublin, a few years down the road, in Darkfever. Where the walls are crumbling, the Fae Queen is missing, an ancient presence is beckoning from the depths of an old-world bookstore, and a sun-loving, formerly carefree, part-time bartender/student from the southern U.S. is reeling with the discovery that neither she nor the world around her is even remotely what she has always thought them to be.
Whew! Do you think that about sums it up? Have we missed or misconstrued anything? Are there burning questions you want answers to? We hope you’ll let us know below!
I want to give another 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!!!