Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: Warrior by Zoë Archer

Title: Warrior
Author: Zoë Archer
Series: Blades of the Rose 1
Genre: Historical Paranormal Adventure Romance (I had a hard time classifying, so I took this straight from her website)
Release Date: 07 September 2010

After nearly fifteen years abroad serving Her Majesty’s Army, Captain Gabriel Huntley once again finds his feet on English soil. He’s resigned his captaincy, and rushed home, with a letter in his pocket promising a position as a textile agent, and the prospect of a good wife and settling down with a family.

But as he steps off the boat, suddenly Gabriel is plagued with doubts. He’s not sure he even remembers how to act in polite company, much less if he wants to settle down yet.

Wandering and mulling over his future, chance – or fate – intervenes. Gabriel happens upon a man being brutally assaulted and vastly outnumbered. Despising an unfair fight he jumps into the fray in an attempt to rescue the man. But his efforts are not enough and the man lies dying in a dark alley with only Gabriel there for him to exact a promise from.

Unable to deny a dying man’s request, Gabriel finds himself swiftly boarding a ship and heading for Outer Mongolia. He’s got an antique compass, a cryptic message he doesn’t understand, and only knows that he must get both to Franklin Burgess as quickly as possible.

Thalia Burgess has grown up away from the strictures of Victorian England for most of her life. More accustomed to wearing a Mongolian del (the native outfit), than a corset and bustle, riding astride than side-saddle, and shooting rather than stitching, Thalia loves her life, and longs to be a Blade, like her father. She eagerly awaits her moment to prove that she’s ready to join the group which protects magical objects from those that would use them to do harm – otherwise known as the Heirs.

When Captain Huntley shows up on her and her father’s doorstep, bringing a dire message from a fellow Blade, and knowing her injured father isn’t up to the task, Thalia is spurred into action to protect Mongolia from utter destruction and stop the Heirs from gaining an object that could greatly affect the reach of the British Empire.

While sworn to secrecy, Thalia quickly realizes that the Captain’s assistance could come in handy. But it’s not so easy keeping the clever, handsome solider in the dark.

Thalia sets out across the steppes of Mongolia to find the object she must protect, while Gabriel stays close to her just as intent on protecting this fierce, beautiful woman. Racing to outwit the Heirs, and decipher clues, Thalia and Gabriel must maneuver over not only the Mongolian steppes, but around enemies who aren’t at all penitent at their use of magic in their pursuit, through tests of their courage and resolve, and into a growing love between them.

I picked up Warrior because of all the buzz going around the blog-o-sphere. An Indiana Jones type adventure story, with magic, love and the beautiful backdrop of Outer Mongolia; I couldn’t wait! Any one of those things would have piqued my interest, but add them all together and I was anxious to get started. Plus, just look at that cover.

I immediately liked Gabriel and Thalia. Gabriel is a strong, straight-forward, blunt man who believes in honor and respect. He’s also noble, genuine and nice without any of it coming off as over-the-top. Not only is he deeply loyal, but he’s fiercely protective. However, not once does he try to get in the way of what Thalia has to do, only demands that he be there to protect her and to help.

Thalia is a wonderfully intelligent, rich-in-character heroine with a desire for adventure and meaning to her life. But she doesn’t fall into to-stupid-to-live behavior. Just because she craves adventure and being admitted to the Blades doesn’t mean that she’s not smart about it. When she realizes that she genuinely needs the help Gabriel offers she accepts it pretty quickly.

I really liked them together. Too often I run into ‘strong’ heroines who rush dumbly into life-threatening situations just so the hero can rescue them. The hero then is basically all knight-in-shining-armor and the heroine can’t seem to accomplish anything by herself again.

Not so here. Thalia is strong, and independent, but she’s also smart enough to know when she needs help. Gabriel does want to protect Thalia, but he quickly begins to see her as an equal. He trusts in her abilities, and her intelligence. They work together as a team, each with valuable input, and each understanding the others strengths. Throughout their journey we’re shown how their desire blossoms into respect and then finally into love.

I have to talk about the setting. I really loved the descriptions of Outer Mongolia. Not only were they richly detailed, but the people native to the area felt real as well – not just cardboard cutouts of characters. Ms. Archer managed to make me feel both at home, and in some place new and magical. Even without the occasional bit of magic that’s mixed into the story.

Warrior is a classic tale of good versus bad, without many twists and turns along the way. Just two people struggling against seemingly insurmountable odds to do the right thing.

Just a few complaints. There was some repetition to descriptions and thoughts. At times I felt like I was being told something too many times, and that it wasn’t needed because I was being shown just as much. So it got a little frustrating. Also, there were occasional odd word choices or sentence structure. These would pull me out of the story while I puzzled over them. Last thing, the pace seemed to drag in places which could be a result of the previously mentioned issues I had.

Overall, I enjoyed Warrior. It’s a fun, adventure through a land I’ve never seen depicted in romance. Gabriel and Thalia grabbed onto me and didn’t let go until we’d crossed the finish line. I am eagerly anticipating picking up Scoundrel which is the second book in the series, due out today actually – October 5th 2010.

If you like adventure stories, with a strong romance, truly likable characters and a beautiful setting then this book is definitely for you.

Grade: B

Book Link | Amazon (print) | Kindle | nook | kobo | Sony | Book Depository | Zebra

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