REVIEW: Lionheart by Thea Harrison
Dear Thea Harrison,
Warning: Series spoilers follow.
There was a lot to wrap up in this book. At the start of the trilogy, The Dark Fae Other Land of Lyonesse was cut off from Earth, with all of the crossover passageways blocked by Morgan Le Fay’s magic and King Oberon lay in a coma, the victim of an assassination spell from Morgan, at the order of Light Fae Queen Isabeau. The war between the Dark and Light Fae in the UK raged on. In Moonshadow, the passageways were re-opened and access to Lyonesse restored. In Spellbinder, Morgan Le Fay was freed of the geas he had been under which forced him to obey the orders of evil Queen Isabeau. What surprised me a little in that book was that it ended without Morgan reversing his assassination spell and restoring Oberon to health.
I always knew the final book of the trilogy would involve the final battle between Oberon and Isabeau, and, presumably, her final defeat. But when Lionheart begins Oberon is still in a coma. So he has to be awakened somehow, healed from the spell he has been barely holding off for the past 200 Earth years (15 or so Lyonesse years), fall in love and defeat Isabeau. There’s a lot to do and perhaps it was a little ambitious for under 300 pages.
Dr. Kathryn Shaw has been a regular in the original Elder Races books, being on retainer to Dragos. She is approached by Oberon’s cousin, Annwyn, to come to Lyonesse attempt to awaken and heal Oberon. Kathryn is a falcon wyr (shifter) and a passionate doctor/trauma surgeon. She has had input from Morgan about what the assassination spell involved and suggestions from him as to how it may be negated. But it is a clever spell, working something like a virus which adapts to its host.
Kathryn agrees and travels to Lyonesse where, because reasons, she ends up in the capital alone with the comatose king. As it happened, the waking up part was easy and anticlimactic. The blurb for the novel, which references Oberon being unable to feel emotions is a little misleading, as it suggests that is the main portion of the book. It is not. After Oberon wakes, he and Kathryn begin verbal sparring; neither being particularly enamored of the other initially. They come up with a plan to remove the spell – which is a thin silver needle, at this point mere millimetres from Oberon’s heart. A little deus ex machina-like magical equipment, combined with the talent and determination of Kathryn, and Oberon is free. Now he has to heal and then he will need to deal with Isabeau.
As part of Oberon’s efforts to heal himself before he put himself in stasis, he embraced his own wyr nature and became full wyr. (His animal form is a massive white lion.) For those familiar with the Elder Races series, wyr mating will come as no surprise. Kathryn and Oberon begin to mate and decisions are needed to be made. Kathryn had been intending to return to her life in New York – if she mates with Oberon her life will change profoundly in just about every way. His life is in Lyonesse and he belongs to his people.
Unfortunately, the mating got a little bit in the way of the romance for me. I didn’t quite see enough of them falling in love. Their initial relationship and mating was almost feral – there was little that was soft or sweet at first. When Oberon shakes off the last effects of the assassination spell which robbed him of emotions, Kathryn sees the man he is and does like him but there is a force to their relationship which was quite volatile and felt a little uncomfortable for me occasionally. By the end however, they had fallen deeply in love and that softer, more sympatico intimacy was also present. I’d have liked to have seen more of the development of it but there just wasn’t time.
I deeply appreciated Oberon’s thinking about why he adored Kathryn.
She was everything he had ever hoped to find in a partner—she was strong, analytical, caring, and ethical, and deeply feminine and sexy. She surprised him and made him laugh. She made him rock hard with desire.
She was someone to rely on when you had to face the worst challenges of your life. She was someone to trust when you had to place your life in her hands.
There you are, he wanted to say. I’ve been looking for you all my life.
And I laughed at this:
You were perfect, and I wanted to laugh out loud from joy except I had too many assholes to kill.
I did wonder sometimes if Oberon’s language felt consistent with his long period of stasis – in Earth years, it had been two centuries – but he had a very modern syntax.
So much happened in the story that it felt a little like not everything got quite the attention it deserved. I did enjoy the final battle with Isabeau. It made sense and was fitting in the context of the rest of the novel and the series. I enjoyed Lionheart and found it terrifically easy to read; I finished the book in only a couple of reading sessions in fact. It was just a little… thin compared to the heft of the earlier offerings, particularly considering all that happened.
I know you are planning other Elder Races books, even though the Moonshadow trilogy is done. I’m hoping for a book featuring Rowan Nyghtseren next (hint hint).