Warrior by Zoe Archer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's very true that if you do something well, people will notice. That's how I feel about this book. Zoe Archer did a fine job with Warrior. If I were to imagine a dream book based on my favorite historical action/adventure movies, with the romance ramped up, then this is a very good example.
Warrior has a couple that I totally loved. Gabriel is a man's man, and I adored him for it. He's not macho and overbearing. Nope. He's just a rough and tumble guy who's spent his life as a soldier, and it's made one heck of a man of him. He worries about his lack of social polish--but his worries are groundless as far as I am concerned, and Thalia too. I adored him. I liked his confidence as a warrior, his ease with dealing with very hostile situations, his deep sense of honor. I liked how he committed himself to protecting Thalia and seeing her fulfill her mission. He was willing to stand up for a cause that didn't even make sense to him. And he showed a remarkable ability to adapt and to react to the very strange situations he found himself in. I loved how he adored Thalia for who she was, and didn't feel the need to change her into the average Englishman's ideal woman. She was his ideal, instead. Gabriel might consider himself rough and unpolished, but he definitely knew how to take care of his woman.
Thalia was an awesome heroine. I liked that she wasn't the typical English rose. She'd been raised in Outer Mongolia, and was a woman of that world. She'd yearned most of her life to take up her father's work with the Blades, and when she got her chance to prove herself, she was determined to do so. Thalia respected Gabriel for who he was, admired his strength, and the innate essence of him. She realized that he was the man she'd been waiting for, but couldn't believe that he'd want her and not a perfect English lady. Seeing their love affair unfurl like a blooming flower was such a pleasure. This book is very steamy, and wildly romantic. A perfect combination. There are many sigh-worthy scenes between Gabriel and Thalia. I was very invested in this couple, and I was cheering for their happy ending together.
On top of the great romance, this is a fantastic historical adventure. I loved the setting and the way that it was as much an integral part of this story as the romance. I think Ms. Archer did a great job of bringing this rollicking, good old-fashioned (in the vein of Indiana Jones and Stephen Sommers' the Mummy movies) story to life. Ms. Archer showed a respect for the Mongolian culture and its people. Before this book ended, it felt so familiar to me, I could have been on the Mongolian steppes myself.
The action and adventure aspects were fantastic. There is a sense of risk throughout this story, right from the beginning. I loved the fact that although Gabriel was a formidable warrior, he was not blood-thirsty. He respected life, but was more than willing to fight and kill for a worthy cause. Conversely, he went out of his way to save others. (Sigh break required) I liked the fact that Thalia could more than defend herself. I loved how things unfolded in the final confrontation in this book. Thalia didn't get shut out of the action, just because she was a woman. In fact, she plays an integral role in fighting the Heirs.
I think that Ms. Archer handled the multi-cultural aspects deftly. There is no preachiness here, but she addresses the imperialistic drives of the British Empire, using it as a backdrop in which there is a struggle between two groups who differ in their attitudes about how the British Empire will succeed. One group, The Heirs, wants to use the magical treasures of various cultures around the world to expand Britain's influence. The Blades of the Rose want to protect the cultural heirlooms and preserve the heritages of the various countries. I loved the fact that there were major players of various ethnicities in this story, and none stereotypically portrayed. I am already enamored of Catullus Graves, who is the intellectual giant of the Blades, constantly inventing nifty instruments to assist them in their endeavors. And the best part is he's black (and very British). I love to see the breaking of cultural stereotypes that portray people of color as intellecutally inferior (when the truth is that people of black heritage have been responsible for many scientific advancements in society although they typically remain unacknowledged for it). I remember talking to Ms. Archer on an Amazon forum about multicultural characters in urban fantasy. She posted about Catullus having a book of his own, and I put this series on my wish list right away, not just for that reason, but because I love historical adventure, especially with fantasy elements. She is my heroine!
The magic was very grand in this novel. There were some very novel elements, and I loved how the magic of the Sources was such an intrinsic, naturalistic force, tied to the people and their lands. It was beautiful. Ms. Archer has a great imagination, and she put it to very good use in this book.
I must say that the praise for this new series is well-earned. I had to think long and hard about what I was going to say in this review, because I hate being repetitive. I want my words to count here. A great book deserves a well-written review. It's the best tribute to an exceptional author and her work. I am a huge fan of Ms. Archer now, and I cannot wait to read more of her books.
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