Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Magic Sources: A Review of Stranger by Zoe Archer

Back in May/June, I read the first three books in the Blades of the Rose series. You can find my review of book 3, Rebel, HERE. After reading all three in a row, I decided to take a break from them, and that break went on longer than I meant it to. But here, finally, is my review of book 4, Stranger.

Catullus Graves is the primary inventor for the Blades of the Rose, a society responsible for the protection of the world's magic. While on a mission in Canada, he encounters a beautiful American reporter, Gemma. Gemma senses that Catullus and the other members of his party are up to something extraordinary and, desperate for their story, she follows them back to England. Soon she's caught up in the Blade's quest to stop the villainous Heirs of Albion from using the Primal Source of magic to enslave all of the world's magic. Along the way, Gemma and Catullus face vicious fairies, enormous monsters, and even King Arthur himself.

Positive Comments:

As usual with Zoe Archer's books, there's a ton of action and adventure. The mythology feeds the action, and is so imaginative and varied that the reader is never sure what to expect.

I loved Graves in the previous books when he was a secondary or background character. Now, as a hero, he measures up pretty well. I was surprised when he was revealed to be awkward with women, but in some ways it was charming. He's clever, original, and very sexy. I didn't connect strongly with Gemma, but I did find her likable. She's charming, smart, and readily accepting of Catullus and all of his eccentricities. They were a bit of an oddball couple for me, but I found their romance fairly enjoyable.

I really liked seeing all of the Blades, especially the couples from the previous books, come together to fight and save the day.

Critical Comments:

The conflicts in this novel are almost entirely external. There's nothing wrong with that, especially in an adventure based novel. But the effect, for whatever reason, is that I connected with the characters only on a shallow level. It's not the kind of novel where you really feel the characters' pain, or rejoice in their happy ending.

Similarly, the character development feels shallow. Catullus and Gemma have a goal, they accomplish it, and then they end up together. There's no big shift in paradigm for either character. I bring this up as a flaw because given the social positions that they occupy (Gemma as a working woman, Catullus as a black man), there could have been a lot of deep character development.

Overall, this is a good book, but it isn't fantastic. I do recommend the Blades of the Rose as an entertaining historical fantasy series. 3 stars.

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