Monday, 11 October 2010

CBR2 Book 91: "Warrior" by Zoë Archer

Publisher: Zebra
Page count: 370 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Date begun: October 9th, 2010
Date finished: October 11th, 2010

Captain Gabriel Huntley has spent almost half his life in the army. Just returned to England to possibly settle down with an office job in Leeds, he witnesses a man being attacked in an alley, and steps in to help. The man is brutally stabbed, and charges Gabriel to pass his dying message onto his friend....who is currently in Outer Mongolia. Gabriel, who was having doubts about a staid life in an office anyway, accepts the mission and travels to Mongolia to give the rather incomprehensible message to Franklin Burgess.

Mr. Burgess has a badly broken leg, but is a member of a secret organization, the Blades of the Rose, tasked with keeping magic safe and hidden from the population in general, and away from the unscrupulous hands of those who would use it only for their own gain. The message is a worrying one, meaning that the evil Heirs of Albion (a bunch of English noblemen bent on taking as much magic in the world for themselves and the good of the British Empire) are on their way to capturing a very powerful magic source in Mongolia. He has no choice but to send his daughter, Thalia, on the mission in his stead. Thalia is an unorthodox young lady, raised among Mongolian nomads, and has wanted nothing more than to prove her worth to the Blades since she was old enough to hear about the secret society.

While she is determined to manage the mission alone, accompanied only by a servant, it quickly becomes obvious that she will need help, and Gabriel is just the man for the job. He saves her from an ambush by two of the Heirs, and convinces her that it would be stupid for her to travel alone. At first, she refuses to tell him the details surrounding her mission, but it does not take long before she has to tell him the truth about magic, the Blades, the Heirs and her important task. Now the couple have to fight their attraction while they escape the clutches of the villains bent on killing them, and stealing the Mongolian magic source.

Warrior is the first of four Blades of the Rose novels, and to my joy the books will be coming out in quick succession between now and December. I already have the second book, Scoundrel, loaded onto my E-reader. The first book is a blend of historical romance, fantasy and adventure, reminiscent in tone of the Indiana Jones movies, with possibly a bit more focus on the romance. But the focus of the book is not just getting the couple together, but just as much the quest they are on, preventing the bad guys from gaining a weapon that could threaten untold thousands.

The characters are strong and well developed, and in an interview I read with the author, she talked about how important it was for her that the heroines be just as strong and capable as the heroes, maybe not physically, but holding their own, and by no means being swooning damsels that need rescuing and can't survive without a big strong man in their life. Gabriel is very clever, has years of battle training, can shoot and wrestle and excels at military tactics. But Thalia has been raised to think for herself, and can ride and shoot as well as, if not better, than a man. She is very intelligent, having been raised by her anthropologist father, and Gabriel is not intimidated by her brains, but rather finds this a very attractive feature in her. The couple have a good balance, and make an excellent team. I hope the rest of the series is as fun and exciting as the first book.

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