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REVIEW: Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughn

Dear Ms. Vaughn:

When your debut book, Warprize, entered the market, it was 2005. High fantasy romance wasn’t (and still isn’t) thick on the ground. I fell in love with Lara, the Warprize, and Keir, Warlord, and their attempts to teach each other the best of the urban and plains’ worlds. A couple other books followed and then the series was abandoned while you explored other storylines. Warcry is essentially a return to Lara and Keir’s storyline only told through Heath, a city dweller, and Atira, a Plains warrior.

Warcry by elizabeth vaughanThe backstory of Warprize can be read a bit in Jayne’s review linked above but essentially Lara is the Queen of Xy who was offered as a prize to Warlord when Keir attacked the city of Xy. The two fell in love and together they have begun to forge a new society combining the best of both the city cultures and the Plains cultures. But integration is difficult and while many in Xy welcome the return of Lara and to witness the birth of her child, the future ruler of Xy, others plot against Lara and harbor resentment against the Plains’ warriors.

Heath departed to protect Lara when she was offered as Warprize and fell in love with Atira. He has asked her to bond with him, which is similar to marriage in modern society. Atira resists. First, because it is not the nature of the Plains people to form close bonds with any one person. It is a freer culture sexually and only special people form a bond, people like Lara and Keir or other warlords. Bonded pairs are considered unique within the Plains’ culture and Atira does not understand why Heath cannot be satisfied with simply sharing her blankets.

For Heath, his idea of love is wrapped up in his societal expectations. In Xy, people wed and make promises to love and cherish only one.

The social commentary in this series has always been one its bright points, something that set it apart from other books in the genre. There are good customs and bad customs in both societies. In the Plains, there are people of every color because and no one’s sexual preference is deemed unnatural. Many of the Plains are quick to anger but also quick to forgive, using systems of “tokens” to speak freely without giving offense. In the city, however, they are harnessing the elements of the earth to create. The Plains people are raiders and take everything but in Xy, they actually create such as swords and cloth. The Plains people take the children away at birth to be raised by those designated to raise the children where in Xy, children are raised by their parents. In the Plains, when one bonded pair dies, the other kills themselves, as custom requires them to follow the other into the “snows”.

Lara and Keir’s love and devotion to each other is used as a teaching tool for Atira who comes to recognize that the bond isn’t just for those who have elevated status nor is it a constraint designed to hem her in. Heath’s character arc is more static as his acceptance of Plains’ culture occurred in previous books.

Problematically, Heath and Atira’s romance was dull for me. I felt that it retread many of the things that I had read in Warprize and Lara and Keir were more dynamic. I found the relationship to be more treacly than agnsty, the emotions of the characters were so obvious and the foreshadowing done with a heavy hand that there seemed to be little for me to do but read the words on the page. It didn’t engage me on any deeper level.

About half way into the story I began to see an overarching series plot that could carry me into further books with the development of Keir’s attempts to reclaim his status as Warlord and my interest began to be engaged again.

I felt that the delay, though, in the publication of the War stories dampened my interest in the series. Whereas once I eagerly looked forward to more War stories, I barely recalled that this one was going to be released. I think I’ll be interested in future stories if we return to Keir and Lara because they are more dynamic and the storyline that is shaping up for the future involves them more directly. Heath and Atira’s story, however, felt thin as if it were a novella that had been expanded into a more full story by including a Warlord/Warprize subplot. C

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

6 Comments

  1. Kati
    May 12, 2011 @ 14:32:34

    Unsurprisingly, Jane, I felt much the same. I love Lara and Keir and invested fully in their story. I just wasn’t captivated by Heath and Atira. Although, what Keir is trying to accomplish is going to be enough to keep me reading.

    Someone commented on my blog that Ms. Vaughan is not actually contracted for additional Warlords of the Plains books, and I feel like it will be a crying shame if we don’t get to see Keir get his Warlord status back.

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  2. Jane
    May 12, 2011 @ 14:34:32

    @Kati: Ah man, that is bad news. I thought the Warlord and other spoilerish things that I am sure you know to what I am referring were going to be really interesting. Battles! Shenanigans! Posturing! what about Liam and Marcus!!!! Damn.

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  3. Has
    May 12, 2011 @ 14:53:45

    I really really hope we get more of this series, I want to know more about what happens next especially about Liam and Marcus and will Keir ever become War-King which has been heavily hinted throughout the series. I felt that in a lot of ways Heath and Atira’s relationship was a bit of a secondary one and the major plot was with main plot line. I enjoyed it and Heath never really appealed to me in the previous books but I liked how assertive and showed a different side in this one.

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  4. Tamara Hogan
    May 13, 2011 @ 06:58:59

    I’ll follow Vaughan anywhere she wants to take us with this series because the world she’s created is so very thoughtfully considered and well-executed.

    To the possibility @Kati mentions that Vaughan doesn’t yet have a contract for additional Warlord of the Plains novels…given the rapidly shifting publishing landscape, with alternate routes to publication seemingly opening up by the week, I have high hopes that, somehow, someday, we’ll see Keir’s journey fully realized.

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  5. Makita
    May 17, 2011 @ 22:44:19

    Awesome series and I hope she continues!

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  6. Estara
    May 18, 2011 @ 12:46:31

    I’ve finally finished reading this, too and can only agree with you in most points. I thought the book really took off when it did NOT concentrate on Heath and Atira’s dilemma but on the side characters and the political situation and the exploration of the different lifestyles (the girl the plains women saved from being forced to marry, and the clever way Lara dealt with that, Atira’s TOTAL fascination with the blacksmith – when she actually saw something in town society that would make her want to stay here for her own sake and not just for Heath).

    I liked the bits about the intrigue and I LOVED the whole manoeuvring around Lara because of her pregnancy and giving birth. I HATED that Atira had to even get into the danger she got into at the end, even if she was allowed to fight to the best of her abilities, she HAD TO be saved by Heath.

    Really, I think the fantasy itself gets stronger and stronger, especially when you remember the mythical light at the end of the book and realize that this connects to what happens in the third STAR book Destiny’s Star, which was also set on the plains – so all of these books interconnect in some way.

    I wish she’d get a pure fantasy contract, in addition to her fantasy romances, but I will follow her to the next book for sure.

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