Epic Fantasy Romance
Warprize is the first book in Elizabeth Vaughan’s Fantasy Romance Chronicles of the Warlands series, which continues with her Epic of Palins series. It has everything I like in a Fantasy Romance – a strong hero, sympathetic heroine, great world building and a plot brimming with action and adventure.
In Warprize, XyLara, daughter of king Xyron, of the Kingdom of Xy, has elected to serve her people as a healer until she is required to marry and form a political alliance. After her father’s death, her half-brother Xymund ascends to the throne. Xymund is not the beloved ruler her father once was and is not as competent in heeding his advisors’ advice in defending his kingdom from invasion by the barbarian Firelanders, led by the Warlord, known as the Cat. The city is surrounded by the enemy, many families in the kingdom having fled to the safety of the city walls and the castle of Water’s Fall. Others have ceded control to the Warlord and have paid him tribute.
Lara works hard to heal her people injured in battle with the Firelanders. She also tests her brother’s patience by insisting to care for the enemy prisoners of war, which he permits her to do on the basis that she does not reveal her identity as the royal princess. The war escalates to the point where the Warlord forces Xymund’s surrender. Under the terms of the peace Xy will remain under Xymund’s control, taxes and tithes are reasonable and all prisoners and wounded are to be exchanged unharmed, and there will be no looting or rape. However, The Warlord has demanded tribute in the form of Xylara as his Warprize. Thus the scene is set for a tale of love, action and adventure, treachery and self-sacrifice.
The descriptive power of the author is cinematic and I could not help imagining all the action on the big screen as it pans the mountains, valley and the distant plains. The descriptions of the castle and city community, which evoke a more European type of society, are vivid. This contrasts with that of the Firelanders (or people ‘of the Plains’ as they prefer to be called) with their nomadic lifestyle of tents and horses camped in the valley below. The story is narrated in the first person, by Lara, – thus we are privy to her innermost thoughts, hopes and fears, and this is especially effective as we can see the differences between the two cultures through her eyes. This first person narrative is well balanced by Lara’s questioning nature as she seeks to understand her new life and as such we learn much about the contrast between the life and the customs of the two societies
The two main characters are well matched and the chemistry between them is immediate and strong. Lara takes her duty to her people seriously, even though she is clearly terrified, fearing abuse and dishonour, she accepts her fate as Warprize with bravery and tries to make the most of it. Lara is kind and compassionate to all around her, yet firm with her patients and Keir, the Warlord, when she needs to be. She also makes friends and allies easily in the Firelander camp, such as Gils who wishes to be apprenticed to her to learn her healing skills and Atira the female warrior.
Keir is a strong alpha male, loyal to those who serve him, who strives to be fair and listen to the views of all, even when he does not like what they say. In contrast to Lara’s initial fears he treats her honourably. I loved the various scenes in the book where Keir stands up for Lara, especially against her half-brother and how he protects her against any perceived threat and cares for her when she is hurt or injured. He also seeks to understand the vast differences between their two cultures and seeks to find a middle way, which I found laudable.
There are a host of secondary characters, too many to mention in this review, one of my favourite is Marcus, Keir’s man and token bearer who cooks and cares for both Keir and Lara. Marcus often scolds Lara for forgetting to eat and sleep and is sometimes irreverent to Keir, with whom he has a strong bond. Xymund by contrast is not only an incompetent ruler, but also insanely jealous of Lara and his treachery towards her and in threatening the peace becomes apparent as the tale unfolds. He is truly evil and it is his actions which drive much of the plot towards its startling conclusion.
I feel that the author could have been more graphic in the sex scenes. However, due to much of the book being concerned with the growing attraction and sexual tension between the main two characters, I found that this did not undermine the romance and perhaps makes the book more attractive to a wider audience. I was happy with the ending, but it kept me wanting to know more about what happens next in the relationship between Lara and Keir and I will certainly be reading more books in the series.
I would recommend this book to lovers of romance, fantasy romance and fantasy adventure novel enthusiasts. Lovers of historical romance would also do well to consider it.
Reviewed by Tina Williams