Where are the half star options? This is really a 3.5 star book, but I’m always generous and rounded up.
This is book 1 in a series of 4, and I bought the whole four book bundle without ever having read this author because the descriptions sounded like so much fun. They are historical romances set in the Victorian era, BUT with non-traditional heroes and heroines, settings outside of England, and there are magical elements involved.
This first story takes place in Mongolia, and the heroine, Thalia, is an Englishwoman that has been raised by her father there for most of her life. Her father is a member of the Blades of the Rose, a group dedicated to protecting Sources, which are inanimate objects that hold all the magical power of the world. The Blades are fighting against the Heirs, a group of British aristocrats who are trying to gain control of the Sources and bring the entire world under British control. Our hero is Gabriel, a career soldier who finds himself honor bound to travel halfway across the world and take a message to Tahlia’s father. Together Gabriel and Tahlia team up to cross the Mongolian plains and the Gobi Desert to protect the nearby Source. Magic and mayhem ensure, along with (what I imagine to be very gritty) sexytimes.
This book was fun, if not particularly compelling. I loved that it was a totally different setting. There was a sufficient discussion of Mongolian culture that made it *feel* that it was set someplace else without bogging down the story with too many details (for me – I know there are readers out there who want five pages describing the landscape, but that is not my cuppa’). I have no idea how good the author’s research was, but it came across as an ‘other’ place experience. The hero and heroine were both incredibly strong and you could really feel the pull between them and why they would be attracted to each other. Thalia is no damsel in distress and kicks a ton of ass (and saves Gabriel’s ass more than once too). Gabriel is not some younger son with a purchased commission – he is a true career soldier who worked his way up and only recently left the army and now finds himself at loose ends. Together they made a wonderful team and their personalities and skills really compliment each other.
There is a ton of action in this book. I usually like quieter stories, but I think the cover of this book represents it well – there is a total Indiana Jones feel to it and I was along for the ride. On the other hand, I’m not sure how I feel about the magical elements. I almost could have done without it. Like, they could have just been protecting great artifacts of the world instead of magical ones, and it almost would have made for a smoother story. I don’t really read fantasy books, so I can’t compare to that, but I really thought that since Archer decided to go the magic route, she could have done so much MORE with it. The Blades are not allowed to use magic, but the Heirs do, and the true owners of the Sources do, and I felt like the few times we saw the magic it was awesome and I was surprised she didn’t put more of it in the story. I actually prefer the skills and ingenuity that the Blades use to accomplish their goals, and I’m really looking forward to the next story in the series.