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on March 16, 2011 :
I really enjoyed this book - occasional missing prepositions and all (and the cover is just gorgeous). My .epub file says it's roughly 300 pages and these are needed to bring this arc (I assume there will be more in Darest as this is the 1st in a series) to a satisfying if a bit too abrupt conclusion.
As this book is told from the viewpoint of Soren, the champion, your enjoyment will depend on how much you like her. Personally I really liked getting to know the dead-end situation she starts out in, directed by her role as champion to a reigning house that no longer exists and ignored by the current court for the most part.
When the power of the Rose - protection of the kingdom - suddenly awakens after 200 years and drags her along, this situation only intensifies - but instead of becoming dark and moody and despairing, Soren decides to try and fulfil her role as the champion, to be what the country seems to need to the fullest extent of her good intentions even if she has to face off against the acknowledged but uncrowned current king.
The way she recovers a king of the previous dynasty is well-told on the one hand, a bit too hasty on the other (not to mention that a horse doesn't quite work that way - but at the time of the book's writing Judith Tarr's Writing Horses wasn't out yet ^^).
If you've read the Booksmuggler review that made me finally buy this, you'll be aware that there is rape at this point - but with the way it is initiated and explained and acted upon (never ignored) in the book I thought the developments were believable, (view spoiler)[there were no (human) instigators of the rape, but two victims. One had the luxury of becoming aggressive and the other had to pacify, as that was part of their role in life and in that society. It might even have been more realistic to me if Soren had developed an antipathy in the long run. But then I have never been raped myself... so at least be aware that there is this trigger.
The author has a gift with characters: the lost prince now king, the uncrowned but acknowledged leader of the country who has worked tirelessly for years to stave off the end of the misery, the court members jockeying for position in the new array of power (nasty and nice, former friends, ambitious lovers, the dethroned queen) are - if they have any dialogue at all - interesting people and no carbon copies of each other. My favourites were Jansette, the duchess of Rothwell, Halcean, Aspen, Frick and Aristide.
The particular difficulty of the situation of the kingdom, the rose power that is able to overrule the minds of the people it is supposed to protect, a murder mystery, the triumvirate and their interactions who have to solve all the problems and make the transfer of power externally and internally ultra-smooth (the question of whether all three of them actually are working towards the same goal AND the desire for friendship and love) all build up to a satisfying climax whose decisions I could follow.
I just wanted more epilogue ^^.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on Dec. 30, 2010 :
loved this book -- especially if you like roses, fantasy and excellent characterization. Only problem is that its too short, because I would be happy to keep reading stories by this author for several more hours! recommend this one very highly; solid plot, deft characterization and decent world building. I'll be buying her others as they come out.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)