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REVIEW: Altered Destiny by Shawna Thomas

Dear Ms. Thomas:

I’m always on the lookout for a good fantasy story. They are rare in romance, perhaps because those writers that are devoted to this sub genre are more interested in exploring heroic tropes that are common in fantasy rather than romantic tropes.

Altered Destiny by Shawna ThomasThe setting is in some fantasy old world country and there are two basic types of beings: humans and Svistra.  The Svistra are fed by blood and are known to be great fighters.  There numbers are small.  The Svistra were hired by human kings to fight in battles but because of the Svistra’s predilection for blood, the humans cast the Svistra out and drove them to a northern, inhospitable climate.  Unbeknowst to the humans, the thirteen different tribes of the Svistra have united under one leader, Torin, and they are going to war to claim land in the South. This was land that was promised to the Svistra in payment for fighting for the human kings.

Jaden, Torin’s son, believes that fighting will be disastrous to the Svistra because so many of the small numbers will die and war increase the humans’ distrust and hatred against the Svistra.  Jaden leaves his people, a voluntary outcast.  Keldar, Torin’s other son and Jaden’s half brother, is war hungry and when his father doesn’t move fast enough toward war, Keldar kills the father and begins to mobilize the Svistra.  The only challenge to his rule is Jaden, considered to be the legitimate heir and held in esteem by those who seek peace. Keldar attempts to kill Jaden several times.

It is after an attack that Jaden seeks refuge in the stable of a tavern owned by Selia and her friend Oren.  Oren is a bit slow but he is muscle to Selia’s swift thinking and they view each other as family.  Despite their fear of Svistra, Selia and Oren nurse Jaden back to health.  Unfortunatley, Oren is then conscripted to fight in the impending war between the humans and the Svistra.  Oren is not a fighter and Selia knows Oren will not be safe.  She decies to travel north to get him back.  Jaden helps her as the journey is perilous.  Selia is a capable fighter but she’s unfamiliar with the secrets of the land.

There are a couple of things I thought were particularly well done. One was the building of Jaden’s character.  In the beginning I had doubts that Jaden could be a leader.  He seemed very soft spoken and his abandonment of his people, without even seeking to pursue peace, made me wonder how his people would truly embrace him if he returned home.  But the journey with Selia combined with the news of the impending war weighs on Jaden and you can see his transformation driven by guilt and love. Second,  Selia is a great heroine.  She wielded her brain and her knives with equal thoughtfulness and skill.  I appreciated that the story was written in such a way that Selia is presented as an equal to Jaden

While the romance between Jaden and Selia builds as they are forced to rely upon each other during their journey, it builds a bit too slow for me.  I would have liked more time with the two spent together.  This is actually related to my second complaint.

Like many fantasy stories, this story involves political manueverings, threats of war, unexpected heroes, and a large landscape.  Unlike many fantasy stories the entirety of the war is encompassed in this one  story.  Because of that, I felt that the book lost steam toward the end because all of the problems that arose throughout the story including the difficult political issues are resolved in the last couple of chapters.   Further, I felt like key confrontation scenes were totally skipped. Obviously the racial tensions on an individual basis still exists and any peace that is struck is tentative and therefore there is plenty left to write about, but I did think that the resolution didn’t match the intensity of the build up nor the pacing. Either the first three parts needed to move faster or there should have been more than one book to tease out the resolutions to the weighty issues.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. Angela
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 08:11:56

    I’m always looking for good fantasy romance too, I think I’ll check this one out.

    One of my favorites is the Nine Kingdoms (original) trilogy by Lynn Kurland. Starts with Star of the Morning. Second book has a bit of middle-book-itis, but I still really enjoyed.

    Do you (or anyone) have any other recommendations?

  2. Amy Kathryn
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 09:42:48

    I picked this up over the weekend during the Carina sale. I remembered you and others had mentioned it as being good. I can’t wait to read it.

    Angela, I enjoyed CL Wilsons Fading Lands Books. I must admit that I have only read the first 3…I got a little fatigued with them and haven’t finished the other 2 yet but really loved the first one especially.

  3. Darlynne
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 10:18:40

    I second both C. L. Wilson and Lynn Kurland for great romantic fantasy. The surprise for me, late as I always am to the circus, was Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks, probably now one of my favorite reads.

    Sometimes fantasy feels so ponderous: weighed down with awkward names, strewn across continents, peopled with a cast of millions. Maybe this one will be different.

  4. Jane
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 10:20:41

    @Angela: I haven’t read Kurland in years. Maybe will have to try her again.

    @Amy Kathryn: I hope you enjoy it.

    @Darlynne: Another vote for Kurland! I didn’t feel that this was ponderous but I would have liked a map. For the most part, forests were called forests and water was called water and the entire time everyone seemed to move north and that was enough for me.

  5. Angela
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 10:30:40

    @Amy Kathryn: I’d forgotten about C.L. Wilson, and I just read the series about 3 months ago. Really enjoyed it, though it bogged in the middle – half of book 3 and almost all of book 4 were pretty slow.

    @Darlynne: I’ve had War of the Oaks recommended to me before, so I’ll definitely have to check it out!

    @Jane: The Nine Kingdoms series is pretty similar to Kurland’s other books, but I really enjoyed them. Morgan and Miach are two of my favorite characters.

  6. Jane
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 10:35:24

    @Angela War of the Oaks is a tremendous book. Loved it. Not much of a romance but a great UF.

  7. Amy Kathryn
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 10:47:37

    @Angela: The bogging may have been why I set aside the Wilson. I need to go finish–do you think I could just skip book 4? I have the first 3 Nine Kingdom books waiting, maybe I will read those first.

    @Jane: Thanks for the heads up about War of the Oaks. I just can’t do UF at the moment, all burned out.

  8. Angela
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 10:58:02

    @Amy Kathryn: I think if you read a good synopsis of what happens in book 4, you probably could skip it. There’s a few key things that happen, but most of it felt like repetition, and not much else going on.

  9. Ruth (CO)
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 12:17:39

    I will try this book. I was scared away a bit by the cover as it seemed to look like the old Native American/Western romances.

    I always recommend Chalion by Lois McMasters Bujold as is fantasy with romantic pieces.

    I also enjoyed Grace Draven Master of Crows and Robin Owens’ books.

  10. Shawna Thomas
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 13:20:07

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review Altered Destiny.

    I am so glad you found so many things to like about the book. Jaden and Selia are two of my favorite characters.

  11. Estara
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 14:22:52

    @Angela: Did you read the Elizabeth Vaughan series already? Both trilogies intersect and she’s returned to the Warlord trilogy once more. The first trilogy focusses on one pairing, the second trilogy and the newest Warlord book all have one pairing per book.
    http://www.goodreads.com/series/40913-chronicles-of-the-warlands
    http://www.goodreads.com/series/51301-star
    She does both worldbuilding and characters really well – and she continues to improve in the plot. The stories really mesh – one clever twist in the first Star book was that it explores what happens when you have more than one True Chosen of the gods ^^. And the hero of the second Star book was part of the enemy crowd in the first one.

  12. Angela
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 07:36:42

    @Estara: I haven’t read that one yet, sounds interesting – definitely adding to my list!

    Thank you :)

  13. Estara
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 13:45:05

    @Angela: I love successfully bookpushing enabling new book purchases ^^ for books I enjoyed, so thank YOU.

  14. Tonya Knapp
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 23:04:36

    Shawna I’m so very happy for you. I need to get this book, sounds like the type I love to read.

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