In a realm beset by natural disasters, only the bonded Pairs–Source and Shield–make the land habitable and keep the citizenry safe. The ties that bind them are far beyond the relationships between lovers or kin-and last their entire lives…Whether they like it or not.
This was a strange one for me: I liked the story, but couldn’t stand Dunleavy, the book’s first person narrator.
The novel begins in the Matching Circle, a ceremony which will bind Dunleavy’s Shield to a Source; the pairing is out of her hands. That’s not to say that Dunleavy doesn’ t have her preferences, and Shintaro Karish is at the very bottom of her list. From the back cover: “…the legendary, handsome, and unbearably self-assured Lord Shintaro Karish. Sure, he cuts a fine figure with his aristocratic airs and undeniable courage. But Karish’s popularity and notoriety – in bed and out – make him the las Source Lee ever wanted to be stuck with.” And so my problem with her began from the moment they bonded and she let her interactions with Karish be ruled by heresy and gossip.
Throughout the whole of the novel Dunleavy, or Lee, seems vaguely blind to all but her own preconceptions. If she learns anything from someone else’s actions, something that may go against her belief in them, it’s acknowledged and quickly swept under the rug, sometimes left there, it seemed, to be forgotten. Most of the time I wanted to shake her for this.
Granted, she never admits to being the most gracious of persons, and instead takes full responsibility for her traits: “But I was a seflish person. I knew this about myself.” And she is, mostly, exhibiting that selfishness in her thoughts more constantly than through outright actions. I had a very, very hard time warming up to her. Actually, by novel’s end, I still hadn’t warmed up to her. She didn’t seem to grow (much) and her personality barely bent to allow for newfound revelations (such as Karish’s reputation, which may or may not be quite what it seems.)
I sincerely hope that she changes in the next book, if only slightly, because I dislike disliking the main character in a book I was otherwise engaged by.
And I definitely was engaged. It took me no time at all to read. I liked Karish and several of the secondary characters – including one we “meet” only through letters (which probably makes him little more than a periphery character. Still. I liked him.) And the concept of a Source and Shield, a bonded pair able to avert natural disasters, was nicely handled. It certainly required a varied form of magic and was, in fact, the only magic to be had in the story. There was also treachery – always good for quickening the pace – and betrayal. All good.
Other than Dunleavy, the only thing I could pick at would be that rather big events were ushered in with one sentence, usually at the beginning of the chapater. I was usually left saying “Whoa! What happened there?” or “Huh? Really?”
Still, I will definitely be reading The Hero Strikes Back and, most likely, Heroes Adrift. Unless I still want to throttle Dunleavy. Which is a definite possibility, but even then, I’m intrigued and so may opt to stew and grumble as I turn the pages instead.