I've found Zoe Archer's Blades Of The Rose series to be marvelously consistent, but this third book, Rebel, may just be my favorite so far. Longtime readers of this blog might speculate that it's because with a Vancouver setting, that the frontier western-ish setting is what flipped my switch. And certainly, that's part of it. However the bulk of the credit goes to the heroine, who is by far and away the star of this series (so far!) for me.
While on a mission for the Blades, Astrid Bramfield's husband was killed by the treacherous Heirs of Albion. Holding him as he dies in her arms, something breaks inside Astrid. She returns to England, only to turn around and leave again. Living a life in exile in frontier Vancouver, she's completely shut herself off from the world - to the point where she doesn't correspond with fellow Blade, and friend, Catullus Graves, or her own father.
Nathan Lesperance is Native, having been taken from his home as a child and dumped in a white run Indian school. Nathan took his rage and despair, channeled it, and is now an attorney. Which makes him the ultimate outsider. Not welcome in the white world, or his tribe. It's while at a remote outpost on business that he meets Astrid, and sparks immediately fly. It also unleashes something in Nathan. A power he did not know he possessed. And when the Heirs come a callin' in Vancouver, it doesn't take them long to set their sights on Nathan.
What follows is Nathan coming to terms with his magical abilities, and Astrid rejoining the land of the living, along with the Blades. It's classic road romance with a heavy dollop of adventure mixed in on the side, as the couple tries to find answers, and the Sources, before the Heirs do.
The author changes things up a bit with this third book by giving one of her main characters (in this case, the hero) some magical abilities. It adds some punch to the story, especially given that Nathan must wrestle with what he truly is, and come to terms with his past. Astrid is where this book really works for me though. I have a weakness for damaged and wounded heroines, and Astrid is pitch perfect. She's damaged in a believable way. It's not 1970s historical romance melodrama where the author makes her heroine run the gauntlet. And while Astrid's choices can be construed as selfish, one understands her motivations and her pain. I also deeply appreciated that she truly loved her husband, and the author allows this to be OK. No backhanded shots taken at his character later on in order to make her falling for Nathan "acceptable."
All this being said, I do strongly feel that this book is where the series stops standing alone. The first two books (in my opinion) can easily be read out of order, but this story really relies somewhat on the reader's knowledge of the world-building. I've also found that the final climatic fight scenes between the Heirs and Blades are beginning to run their course. They're starting to bleed together for me. That said, the final chapters here do agreeably set up the final book of the series, which will be Catullus' story, and it would seem that readers haven't seen the last of Astrid and Nathan.
While Rebel delivers more of what readers have come to expect from this series, the author veers off the track ever so slightly to infuse some "different" in this particular tale. I do think this has been the strongest installment so far, and the edition of a supernaturally gifted hero was a nice touch. If you've enjoyed the first two books in this series, this one is a must to hunt down.
Final Grade = B