Review: Mortal Skin & Forgotten Vows by Lily Mayne

I was kindly given an ARC copy of Forgotten Vows by Lily Mayne, book 2 of her Folk series. Forgotten Vows directly follows Mortal Skin, and continues where last books cliffhanger left off. These are an MM romance series focusing on Faeries. A single book review seemed like it’d just be confusing – so I wanted to review both books, though focusing a bit more on Forgotten Vows. The following is a spoiler free review.

The Synopsis

I first saw the Folk when I was a little boy. When they started appearing in my garden, with their unnatural, cruel beauty and honeyed words and veiled taunts. I grew up with big green eyes watching me from the forest. Whispers from the trees. Shimmering skin darting between the bushes. Black creatures always lurking in the shadows.
While they were here, I thought nothing of them. It wasn’t until they were gone that I realise it wasn’t… normal.
But it isn’t until I’m twenty-one, when my life is in ruins, that they come back to take me away.
They say I’m not fully mortal. They say I should be among them. The Unseelie Ruler wants me on her land for reasons no one will explain to me, but it’s her aloof, painfully beautiful son who captures my attention and refuses to let go.
The cold, black-eyed assassin prince who strikes fear into the hearts of all Folk. Who I’ve been warned about, repeatedly.
Who watches me always.
I don’t trust the Folk, so I ignore their fearful advice to stay away from him. I ignore all of them except him, despite everything telling me that he can’t be trusted—that he’s just as bad as the rest of them, that he’s playing games with me, the clueless mortal held here against his will.
But I want him.

My mortal skin is gone.
I’m one of them. One of the Folk. And all I feel is anger.
I’m going to kill the Carlin and her sons for everything they did to me. It’s all I care about.
But first, I have to navigate this new world. My new skin. My new brother. And, when I fall into her clutches, my fae mother—the Brid. The Seelie Queen.
I don’t like what I’m becoming, but I can’t stop it. Something’s wrong with me. Something’s missing. There’s a hollow ache in my chest and I can’t fill it, no matter what I do. It’s like I’ve forgotten something vital from my time on unseelie land.
Why do I feel so incomplete? Why do I have an oath etched onto my skin, one I don’t remember making? Why is there a tiny black feather nestled in my throat that I can’t bring myself to take off?
Why do I feel so much longing every time I see a beautiful black-haired, black-eyed unseelie fae, even though I don’t remember him at all?
My life has become yet another game of cat and mouse, but this time it’s not just the Carlin and her sons trying to get me. New threats lurk, and I have to force myself into this new fae skin to be able to fight them.

Reviewing the prose

Lily is an excellent writer – clear, and to the point, without sacrificing detail. The atmosphere of each book is subtlety different – I would say it is warmer for Forgotten Vows, appropriately. She builds characters excellently, and manages to put their pain and growth to paper in a very relatable way. The plot was clear, and when you’re finished, you appreciate the way in which she excellently laid the groundwork for twists.

I felt like the characters generally have strong personalities and great arcs. Lily really makes you attached to her characters quickly. She also crafts wicked villains well.

If I was to have any criticism, Mortal Skin can be very slow to start up. I am not particularly worried about the action starting slowly, as long as the atmosphere and characters are there, so this doesn’t bother me much, but some readers may find they want things to go faster. This is definitely a ‘medium burn’ romance – though not quite ‘slow burn’; the characters are not yet in their happily ever after by the end of book 1, but they do actually have a relationship going.

Forgotten Vows, in return, is a faster, and there is a lot more happening – taking advantage of the excellent groundwork laid in Mortal Skin. I was frustrated with one major decision that a character made at the mid-point of book 2, though I think that Lily did a decent job laying the groundwork for the why – you will still probably want to shake the character and ask “Why are you being such a dumbass?”

Reviewing the Worldbuilding

Lily has clearly put a lot of hard work into building her world. There are a lot of references to classic Fairy folklore and mythology, while giving those old stories a modern spin. This includes classics like fairies being hurt by cold iron, and more obscure details, such as the Breton fairy of death Ankou. Lily also integrates some more modern inventions like “Fairies can’t lie” (did you know that this idea comes from the 1990s?) into the worldbuilding. In all, Lily manages to easily maintain both the wonder (and beauty) of the fairies, as well as their terrible and monstrous nature, which is sometimes a hard thing to do.

I particularly liked the use of a wide range of fairy creatures, most of them recognisable from old folktales but given interesting twists.

In conclusion

Folk is a new favourite series and delivers many of the things I want out of Fairy romances – the sense of dark, monstrousness while not skimping on the beauty, wonder, magic and sexiness. The balance is walked well; old Fae folklore is used well; and the prose is beautiful, the characters have fantastic growth. I’m looking forward to book 3 eagerly.

You can purchase Mortal Skins & Forgotten Vows on Amazon (affiliate links).

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