Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Guardian of Honor by Robin D. Owens

The TBR book for March should be a historical but as I haven't read an historical all year. I'm going with a fantasy (actually April's TBR category) and will try and squeeze an historical in later in the year.

Guardian of Honor was published in February 2005 and although it hasn't been on my TBR pile quite that long, it has been on there for a year or so. It was recommended on one of the yahoo groups and I thought I'd pick it up. I finally got round to reading it when it was chosen as the February book for Kelley Armstrong's book club.

I haven't graded this review, because although I loved the majority of the book there were a couple of things that didn't work for me.

So onto the story.

Alexa Fitzwalter is pulled from our world to Lladrana. Once there she is expected to help the Marshalls defend the land from an invasion of horrific creatures bent on the destruction of the Lladranan people. She can barely understand the language, let alone the politics of the place. Added to that they expect her to take a lover to cement her bond to the land and pretty soon she is feeling over her head. Almost despite herself she comes to care for this land and its people, but when the chance comes for her to return to Earth, will she take it?

First off the niggles.

Alexa for me, was too perfect. She always seemed to be in the right, and everyone else in the wrong. Every other character had a flaw which made them much more well-rounded and interesting. She didn't seem to be able to do any wrong, and although not all the other characters loved her, as the story is written in her point of view, there's the feeling that it's the other characters fault that they don't 'get' her, rather than anything in her own character.

The other thing I struggled with was the talking furry animal / shapechanger - Sinafin. Talking animals are something I shy away from. I think they are hard to do well and the cuter they are, the more off-putting I find them - this is a personal thing, like the ghosts. (Exceptions being Anne Bishop's Kindred and Meljean Brook's hellhound. In both these cases the authors gave the animals their own animal identities.)

Still with me? Apart from those two things. I thought this was incredibly well written. With some genuinely shocking and disturbing imagery. The frinks, a truly digusting animal - maggot-like creatures that come down in the rain and infect the weak-minded - are going to stay with me for a long time.

The characters that people Lladrana are well-written and interesting. The Marshalls - some of the most manipulative characters I've read about in a while - even when they agree to stop manipulating, they carry on, they can't seem to help themselves. Bastien and Luthan the sons of Reynardus were well drawn, they had the closeness of brothers but very different outlooks on life. The society was multi-layered and complex, and I think it would take more than one book to get everything sorted out - the sorcerers, for example, are only briefly introduced here, though it's made clear they will have a larger role to play in the next books.

I particularly like how we come to understand the character of Reynardus just at the end of the story. All the way through he had seemed like a two-dimensional ego-maniac, at the end in his conversation with Bastien we come to understand the choices he's made and why he is the way he is.

I liked that it wasn't immediately obvious who Alexa was going to end up with - Bastien or Luthan. Though it's probably more obvious to Alexa. And when she does finally make a choice it doesn't go smoothly, as he puts it:
"...I handled it badly. The afterward I handled badly. I was my usual superb self in bed."
LOL - my absolutely favourite quote from the book.

I can see why people love the series so much. And I think if the next book in the series was easier to get hold of (they are now out of print and seem to be quite highly priced on Amazon) then I might give it a go. But I'm not sure I could face reading another cute furry animal giving its opinion on everything.


Renee said...

Interesting book! I've always been curious about Robin Owens. I see her stuff when I cruise eHarlequin's site for new Luna and Mira books (my favorite imprints of theirs,) but haven't yet taken the plunge. It sounds like this one might be worth hunting down at, since it's sold out at eHarelquin.

Great review!

DonnaB said...

I was looking for this book for the Kelley Armstrong book club and couldn't find it! But now I hear they're re-issuing it, so I'll check it out.

FantasyAuthor RobinDOwens said...

Thanks for the lovely review! I will note that Sorceress of Faith has a hamster that may be too much for you, so you might want to see if you can get the book from the library. I try not to make the animals too cute, but I've found that my idea of not-cute is not others'. Sigh. And Sinafin DID (and does) have her own agenda.

I did receive info from my editor and agent that the books are now back in print.

Thanks again,


LesleyW said...

Renee and Donna - I definitely think it's worth checking out.

Robin - thanks for dropping by and letting me know the books are coming back into print. (And I will confess that I have a soft spot for hamsters).