Monday, September 6, 2010

Street Fighting Man

Swashbuckling adventure, secret societies, plenty of bad guys, exotic locales, and a heated romance - Zoe Archer has really hit upon something with Warrior, the first book in her Blades Of The Rose quartet. This is the stuff of old-fashioned Saturday matinees, Errol Flynn movies and Indiana Jones.

Captain Gabriel Huntley has resigned his commission from Her Majesty's army with no concrete plans for the future. He's got a letter in his pocket from an old army buddy who says he can get him a nice, steady (read: boring) job and help hook him up with a nice, steady, proper English bride (read: boring). Gabriel doesn't have any better ideas, which is why he heads back to England even though he's not particularly anxious to "settle down." It's on his way to a pub to quench his thirst that he comes across a man getting the crap kicked out of him in a dark alley. Gabriel rides to the rescue, but the man is gravely injured. As he lays dying, he gets Gabriel to promise him that he'll deliver a message to Mongolia. Delivering a cryptic message he doesn't understand, from a dying man he didn't know from Adam, is enough to spur our hero into action. Plus an adventure in Mongolia sounds a bit more exciting then the quiet, staid (read: boring) life that awaits him in the English countryside.

It's in Mongolia that he delivers the message to Thalia Burgess' father. Gabriel might have no clue what the message means, but Thalia and her Daddy certainly do! The bad guys are headed their way to steal an ancient magical artifact. Before the bad guys can get their grubby mitts on it, Thalia needs to find it. What she wasn't planning on was the ever resourceful, Captain Huntley tagging along. They don't call them secret societies for nothing, and she's not entirely sure she can trust this Captain - no matter how sexy he is.

What we have here is your classic road romance, with plenty of adventure and derring-do tossed in on the side. Thalia, while English, has spent the majority of her years being raised by a single father and in Mongolia, of all places. She's hardly proper. She's slightly rebellious, smart, resourceful, and just the sort of woman that Gabriel finds himself extremely attracted to. He's been in the army so long, he has no clue how to act around a "proper lady." But Thalia? This is a girl after his own heart. The more time he spends with her, the further in love he falls.

This entire story takes place in the deserts of Mongolia, with the hero and heroine trying to outrun, outsmart, and out-maneuver the bad guys. The plot ebbs and flows, with moments of high action, and quieter moments where the pace slows a bit. It culminates in a final battle scene, and sets up the remaining three books in this series quite nicely.

A word about the fantasy elements in this story. The secret society that Thalia's father belongs to is charged with guarding the world's magical artifacts and protecting them from falling into the wrong hands. As someone who is beyond (as in, way way way beyond) burnt out on anything remotely otherworldly/paranormal, I can tell you these elements of the story are painted with a light brush. Certainly there are fantastical inventions, and magical feats, but honestly this story reads very much like a Victorian historical romance first, adventure novel second, fantasy novel third. For readers who think they're not all that wild about paranormal, but they love historicals? I encourage you to give this one a go.

Plenty of action, intriguing characters, a completely different-from-the-norm setting, and a good old fashioned adventure yarn made this a fun read. I'm looking forward to the next three books in the series.

Final Grade = B


Hilcia said...

Wendy, thanks for this review. I was really not sure about this book because of the paranormal/magical aspects. But it sounds more like an adventure romance. The setting is definitely a draw. :)

Taryn Kincaid said...

Pre-ordered this whole series on strength of word of mouth, something I don't usually do.

Warrior popped into the Kindle by magic.

Looking forward to it!

sonomalass said...

I've read the whole series, and I heartily agree! The magic aspect gets stronger in the later books, but I don't think it ever overwhelms the other aspects of each story. (Of course I'm a fantasy reader, so my perspective on that may be skewed.) The Blades themselves make limited use of magic, so the focus tends to be more on human ingenuity and courage. Even in the later books, where secondary and sometimes primary characters have and use magic, the focus is still on the adventure and the romance.

Phyl said...

I love that Indiana Jones cover! This looks lots of fun. Thanks for the review. I'm going to have to find this one.

Lynn Spencer said...

I'm definitely looking forward to reading this. I plowed through and adored tons of Victorian adventure novels when I was a teenager (even some of the really cheesy ones), so I'm always in the mood for a good adventure romance.

Wendy said...

Hilcia: For me, it comes down to "how would I describe this book to another reader?" And in this instance? I'd mention the fantasy elements, but they wouldn't be the FIRST thing I mention. So while they are present, I never felt they were overpowering in this book.

Taryn: Yeah, for pre-ordering! I'll be reviewing the next three books on the blog as well....closer to their release dates.

SonomaLass: I really enjoyed the adventure aspect of this book - and the rest of the series looks equally as promising in that department!

Phyl: Such a perfect cover for this book. Right down to his clothes and weapons. Really well done by the art department.

Lynn: Really well-done road romance and a nice Victorian back-drop. Just a really solid read.

nath said...

Great review, Wendy. I've been on the lookout for reviews of Warrior, because I'm just not sure. However, I think now, I'll have to give it a try :) Just to be sure though, what time period is this taking place in? Victorian England?

I'm really glad you're enjoying it :D

Wendy said...

Nath: Yes, Victorian. The author mentions the Battle of Balaclava at one point (the Charge of the Light Brigade) - so probably late 1850-ish. I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, but I don't think she ever gives us a specific year.....