I always find it clever when an author changes the traditional spelling of a word to indicate its new meaning in a fantasy world. Sometimes, like in Robin Hobb’s books, the first letter is capitalized, like the Wit and the Skill—two magical faculties shared by the few who are blessed with it. In other books, like Ms. Harrison's, were (as in wolf) becomes Wyr, worm becomes Wyrm, vampire is Vampyre and fae is Fae, of the Light and Dark variety (instead of, say, Seelie and Unseelie--are you taking notes here?!). This is one indication that we're in a world not our own.
There are other indications that this is a brave new world as well. Beyond the creatures that defy our reality is a world with rules and structures and possibilities that go beyond our imaginations. This is why I love the genre so much. When an author as skilled as Thea Harrison builds a world, we feel like it exists, not just in our heads, but in reality, although it is an alternative reality for sure. And when characters are drawn so believably, we might find ourselves contemplating their realties and urging them to alternate action, or feeling happy and sad for them, or wishing we could really be their friends. Or lovers. Or mates.
I've written before about the wondrous concept of the mated or bonded male. This is a popular theme in paranormal fiction. It is usually applied to a supernatural being, like a shapeshifter or vampire. The details are sometimes particular, but the upshot across multiple series (including the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the Twilight quartet, and, of course, the Elder Races series) is the same: male bonds with female. Bond is unbreakable and immutable. Death of a mate usually results in death, or serious harm to the bonded male. In some series, a female can feel the same thing.
All of this makes for excellent romance. And serious longing. Who wouldn't want to be the object of that much devotion? I certainly would. I think everyone wants to feel totally secure in the love of our mates, sure that the feeling will last for eternity and stay strong throughout the years, no matter what. Kind of like marriage vows, which, apparently, are only binding on less than 50% of the married population. And how sad is that? No bonding there.
But the aspect I'm most appreciative of in this moment is Thea Harrison's depiction of finding one's mate as coming home. Because it's true. The feeling of mutual trust and security in a good relationship that has withstood the test of time is unparalleled. As I'm sure you're tired of hearing, I'm contemplating time quite seriously these days, and its impact on relationships. I've written about old friends and new friends. I've cogitated on the passage of the years, and how they seem to speed up the longer we've experienced the inexorable progression of moments, minutes, months and years.
The blessing of a life partner who has actually experienced life with us is more precious than anything. It is coming home and being home. It's not worrying about being sick and looking like dog meat. It's believing that no matter what, we will work it out—and there are so many things to work out in life—including work, kids, money, hobbies, friends and family—yours, theirs, ours. It can be overwhelming and difficult at times. And unlike the bonded males of my beloved paranormal fantasy, we can't be sure, at least at first, that our partners will stick around for the long haul and not give up when the going gets tough.
And that is the difference, at least in this case, between truth and fantasy. If I lived in Thea Harrison's world, I could have faith and confidence in my love relationship if my partner were a bonded male, capable of mating for life, no matter what. But in truth, no one can be sure, at least in the beginning, where things will go. We want, and we hope and we make plans. But you know what they say about our plans and the laughter of the gods. I think it's true.
It's only after years and years of steadfast purpose that we can really believe that it's going to last. Or maybe it's just me and my messed up abandonment issues. Maybe others are more trusting. For me though, trust comes with time and a proven track record of suiting up and showing up. Perhaps not perfectly (OK- for sure not perfectly), but certainly well enough for me to believe that home is real. Home is where my love lives.
So I don't believe in the fantasy of the bonded male who knows from the beginning that this is the woman for him, end of story. But I do believe that such bonds are created over time and strengthened with demonstrable acts of love and support. And when that happens, it's just like the fantasy novel—right and true and a blessing beyond measure.