Estara's Reviews > Dagger-Star

Dagger-Star by Elizabeth Vaughan
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Nov 01, 10

bookshelves: ebook, re-read, read-in-2010
Read from October 30 to 31, 2010, read count: 2

** spoiler alert ** I'm not sure why this author isn't more popular in fantasy romance circles. I thought this series a good follow-up to the Warprize universe (they even intersect in the third novel), which seemed to garner more attention.

I like E. Vaughan's mix of characters, worldbuilding and plot (with the most emphasis laid on the first). The heroine here is a mercenary with a dark past (but no world-shattering secrets, just personal tragedy) called Red Gloves, very matter of fact and of a philosophy that people should help each other (called Way of the Twelve in this book and lovingly explained inside a tale told), trying to find more work together with her fellow merc and sword sister Bethral (with a Clan background that comes into play in the third novel in the series) who believes in her own version of the gods, much like most of the country they have now reached. They find shelter for the night at the hovel of a single farmer, living in a countryside whose vitality has been sorely depleted.

The farmer Josiah, former High-Baron for this part of the kingdom, discovers that Red Gloves has a birthmark that destines her to save the country from the low level civil war which has reigned for five years since the assassination of the royal family and various high nobles.

What makes this story stand out from other saviour-based fantasy is that we get a look at the construction and deconstruction of a saviour-legend, at the work that has to be put in to make a country ready for a new regime, at the various solutions that were in place without Red Gloves and at the people in this country who were working towards making the legend of the Chosen a reality and why they are doing so. Without bogging down into too much detail we get meetings with possible supporters, the preparations necessary for actually acting on a plan already five years in the making, the disruption caused by the insertion of Red Gloves in the role of the saviour, etc. To leaven the tension we get some lovely vignettes of comedy (with Josiah's goats or with the highly pregnant wife of the Elvenborn High Baron, etc.).

The author does that by introducing well-described characters from the various interest groups and keeps the story going by following along with the preparations for the uprising to come, some dangerous adventures included. The romance part is ably served with the bargain made between Red Gloves and Josiah of his favours in bed for her taking up the prophecy (she and her fellow merc had sensibly gone on their way the first time they heard about it, until circumstance - and a new character - forced them back to the homestead). They slowly both come to realise that they care for each other and that they have to offer each other something new. The two or three fully developed sex scenes illustrate that beautifully and are hot and tender at the same time, but this isn't erotic romance.

There is a lovely twist in the whole plot regarding the role of the Chosen and a satisfying comeuppance for the bad guys, as well as a working solution for the heroes (although I think the misunderstanding right at the end was a bit artificially constructed).

I hope this second series did well enough that Ms Vaughan was able to sell more books. I'll certainly try any other ones.
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I read the second one in the series before the first one, as the reviews I had read weren't all that encouraging, but in retrospect I like the first book even better than the second one in this series.
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