Vaginal Fantasy Book Club discussion

Warrior (The Blades of the Rose, #1)
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Sep 2013: Warrior > Official Discussion Thread for Warrior *SPOILERS*

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message 1: by Felicia, Grand Duchess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Felicia (feliciaday) | 740 comments Mod
This is our MAIN PICK for Sept, have at it! (ITS NAUGHTY)

message 2: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Marae This book as been on my 'To Read' list for a long time! So glad it's been picked for this month. :)

message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 27, 2013 09:26PM) (new)

INDIANA JONES!!! I have wanted to be Indiana Jones, the adventuring academic, for as long as I can remember. SO excited!

Read some reviews, but could someone please confirm in a cut tag whether there is any rape or child abuse in this book? Triggers. Thank you.

message 4: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire (cacromwell) | 221 comments Yay!! I've had the whole collection sitting on my Kindle for a while, glad I have the kick in the pants to read it now!

message 5: by Michele (new)

Michele | 128 comments Author is? I find a lot of books with that title....

message 6: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (amandapearl) so when we say "naughty" do we mean like, rapey assaulty naughty, or just kinky but consensual sexy times? I can handle weird stuff as long as everyone is on board.

PointyEars42 | 476 comments Amanda (Pearl the Book Girl) wrote: "so when we say "naughty" do we mean like, rapey assaulty naughty, or just kinky but consensual sexy times? I can handle weird stuff as long as everyone is on board."

There's the eternal VF question.

I couldn't bear to read enough of Assassins in Love to even get to the sleep-sex/rape scene, but I thought it was... eye-opening... that people would have such different memories and/or interpretations of what happened in that scene.

I really hope this month's books let us avoid discussing the consent topic altogether.

message 8: by Felicia, Grand Duchess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Felicia (feliciaday) | 740 comments Mod
I remember it just being very explicit, not assaulty but def wait for someone else to vouch as its been a while since I read!

message 9: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (amandapearl) I haven't seen anything in the reviews I've read. I think I'll take a chance and if there is assualt be prepared for a rant in the discussion haha. That's how I roll.

message 10: by John (new) - added it

John Glinatsis (Jedrion) | 1 comments I started the book this morning... so far it's a quick read, no sexy time discovered yet but plenty of tension...

message 11: by Sara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sara (laras213) | 3 comments If it helps, I read it a few years ago, and I don't remember any assault in it. (Hope my memory is not faulty here. I will have to reread.)

Samantha (samanthadelayed) | 20 comments I kind of wish people would stop using the word "rapey". I understand the intent, but if people have a problem with a perceived rape in a romance novel they should just use the world rape or the term sexual assault to describe it. Just my opinion. Sorry if this was discussed elsewhere.

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you Felicia, Amanda, and Sara for the reassurance. Can someone who has just read or re-read the book please confirm for certain? Thank you.

message 14: by Jon (new)

Jon  | 91 comments Just finished my first read through and can second Felicia's comment explicit but no assault. The unspoken threat is there on a couple of occasions but that's as far as it goes.

message 15: by Rio (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rio (minxxa) So far I'm really enjoying this book. I'd guess I'm about 1/4 of the way in, but I do like the characters so far. They are pretty fleshed out (ha ha!) with their pasts and motivations and both assured and clueless depending on the situation. I am truly getting to *like* them, and their quirks are not annoying, just human. Plus, I have now added "blue blooded bung-holes" to my list of favorite insults!

message 16: by Jess (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jess (jessro) | 1 comments I finished this one a couple days ago. For reference since someone asked, there was no activity I would define as assault, assault-like, etc. I do seem to recall a couple bad guys indicating their "bad guy-ness" by mentioning intent/willingness to do so - mostly the main baddie.

I quite liked it - thanks for making this the pick for the month. As soon as Felicia said the words "Indiana Jones" I was on board. I would say the book actually very much reminded me of the feel of Indiana Jones - it seemed very cinematic to me. Lots of sweeping vistas and scenic backdrops for the action. In terms of explicitness, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is Georgette Heyer and 10 is the porniest fanfic I've ever read, I'd give it maybe a 5.5. I'll save further comment on plot/characters until more people have had a chance to read it.

Kendra (kendizzle88) | 5 comments I enjoyed this one more so than last months picks (which I just recently read), the descriptions of mongolia and the desert really take you there. It totally does feel like an Indiana Jones story to the point where I imagined Huntley with Indy's hat.

I would like to keep reading the books in this series, unlike last months picks.

message 18: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire (cacromwell) | 221 comments Just finished Warrior and immediately started the sequel, Scoundrel. I bought the 4-pack of the series when it was on sale for Kindle a while ago, and now I'm really glad I did! Loved loved loved it!!! As Jess above me said, very cinematic descriptions of the scenery and I could clearly picture in my head the places they were traveling and the people around them, even though I have never been anywhere near Mongolia.

I also loved that it was set somewhere "foreign" that is actually probably pretty unknown to most people. I feel like a lot of action-adventure stuff takes place in a steamy jungle somewhere (mostly so the characters can get as naked as possible?)or in a slightly less-visited European country. Archer did an excellent job with her research and writing, making the language and culture easy to understand, but not dumbing it down too far. So far the sequel (set in the Greek isles) is equally good at immersing you in a sense of place.

Thalia and Gabriel were such a refreshing couple to read. They had normal, understandable, relatable fears, and not once do I recall the author inventing a conflict between them by having one of them withhold important information just for the sake of causing drama. I hate when books do that!

It may not be entirely accurate that a man like Huntley would accept Thalia as a capable woman with her own skill set as easily as he did, but that's why its called fiction, right? He treated her as an equal and she had total agency over her choices throughout the story. Even when those choices were tough to make and resulted in the loss of life, he never coddled her unduly or treated her as a child to be talked down to.

Basically, I really really liked this book and hope that everyone else does too! I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun adventure with a side of sexytimes (nothing seemed that explicit to me in this book, sorry Felicia!), and also to anyone looking for a series featuring non-white characters. The last two books in the series feature a hero of African descent with a Caucasian heroine, and the other has a hero who is American Native.

message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 02, 2013 12:00AM) (new)

Thank you! Indy Indy Indy :)

Jess wrote: "I finished this one a couple days ago. For reference since someone asked, there was no activity I would define as assault, assault-like, etc. I do seem to recall a couple bad guys indicating their ..."

Jon wrote: "Just finished my first read through and can second Felicia's comment explicit but no assault. The unspoken threat is there on a couple of occasions but that's as far as it goes."

message 20: by Rio (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rio (minxxa) OK, so I did finish this and really liked it. I have a few really minor thoughts on some things I noticed that brought me out of the story, but MINOR. Mostly I really adored the characters, I loved the setting-- it was a part of the world that is completely foreign to me so I really did feel that remoteness of the landscape. I'm going to wait on any other comments until more people finish, but I am planning on reading the rest of this series as time (and $) permits!

Vanessa (mudnessa) | 6 comments I really liked this. Great characters, relationships, settings, and adventures. It really played like a movie in my head. One minor thing bothered me, Gabriel's sudden ability to speak the language. Minor thing but for some reason that took me out of the story for a brief moment.

message 22: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill | 1 comments Just in case it hasn't come up before... the four Blade of the Rose books are bundled at Amazon for 9.99.

message 23: by Rio (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rio (minxxa) Jill wrote: "Just in case it hasn't come up before... the four Blade of the Rose books are bundled at Amazon for 9.99."

Wish I would have just done that! LOL, but 3 books for $9.99 is a pretty good deal, so I will most likely do that!

message 24: by Rio (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rio (minxxa) Vanessa wrote: "I really liked this. Great characters, relationships, settings, and adventures. It really played like a movie in my head. One minor thing bothered me, Gabriel's sudden ability to speak the language..."

I agree. I think maybe if he'd alluded to his language ability previously (I don't think that happened), and it was close to one he *did* know, that would have set it up for him picking up on it sooner. But yes, that did pull me out for a second, too. Not a biggie, but more like "huh."

Elanor | 18 comments I Really enjoyed this book, it was an easy and enjoyable read. I liked that the author focused on world building before starting on the sexy-times. I find it frustrating when sex is used as a substitute for plot, something this book does not do; "Warrior" did a fantastic job of creating a believable universe with a strong current of romance at the centre.

While I felt some elements of the story were a little far-fetched (as others have mentioned before for instance the sudden emergence of Gabriel's language ability) or the general acceptance of Thalia's abilities as a woman (which was a little unbelievable for me given the historical context) it is explained within the universe of the story. I still found it odd that so many people who didn't belong to the Blades (who have female operatives and a liberal approach) would be so accepting of a woman in Thalia's position.

As a fantasy book however, I feel that there is nothing wrong with a little 'suspension of disbelief' it was fantastic fun. I look forward to seeing how she expands the universe in the other books in the series, which I will definitely be reading.

I will definitely be recommending this book for anyone interested in the genre. It reminded me a little of Jayne Anne Krentz 'The Arcane Society' Series (which ranges from regency era, through modern to sci-fi futuristic) Though I felt that Zoe Archer did a better job of avoiding a lot of the obvious formulaic faults that Jayne Anne Krentz falls into (if you read too many of her books in a row it can become a bit repetitive) I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Shannon (sceriddle) | 95 comments MORE INDIANA JONES-Y FIC PLEEEEASE!

Love it. I think so many women that grew up on Indiana Jones have ladyboners for this kind of romantic fiction, you'd think it would be easier to find! But I imagine it's a tough genre to write in.

About the book: loved the characters, loved the relationships, loved the story, really loved the setting (VF field trip to Mongolia, anyone?). I had few qualms, Batu going from "I will kill you if you touch her" to "Ok, so you banged, but you're a good guy, so I hope you do right by her" seemed lame, and as others said, the sudden linguistic ability. And sometimes the descriptions the lovers gave of each other were a little OTT, but that's not exactly weird for a romance novel.

But peeking ahead at the reviews for the later books in the series, they only get better, so I'm excited to continue in the series!

And, hey, Felicia picked a main that people like, well done! We'll see how the alt stacks up (but after a couple chapters, I'm not thinking it's going to beat out the main)...

message 27: by Jo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jo | 16 comments about 70% through, a good easy read with interesting world building. I'm also enjoying the equality in their relationship. Though thus far this book gets 5 stars simply by using the following phrase: '... an eyeful of genuine English sausage.'

message 28: by amanda. (new) - added it

amanda. (abigail_redhouse) | 12 comments I'm half and half with this book. I loved the change in setting and the Indiana Jones vibe that everyone has posted on. I really liked their relationship as two capable people that enjoy adventure and it didn't feel too forced or ham-fisted. The battle scenes were interesting and kept good pace.

However, the characters were so poorly developed and even though their relationships were explained their actions didn't seem to connect or "fit". I was occasionally annoyed with some of the romance given the setting and their mission.

It was a really fun and engrossing read though!

message 29: by Sue (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sue I'm not finished yet, but one thing in particular is bothering me. You can't tell me that no one in that particular tribe ever drank tea from that kettle and then had sex. Not once in all of those years?

Jillian (_berryprincess_) I finished the book and as others mentioned I felt this was one of the better, more enjoyable romance books I've read.

I got more of a "Warehouse 13" vibe than Indiana Jones. (A secret society collecting artifacts to protect a world that doesn't know magic exists). But I thought the book was a more realistic portrayal of that scenario than the tv show.

I also really liked that Thalia admitted she needed Huntley's help. There was a specific passage near the beginning where she knew Huntley was following them so she was going to wait until he caught up then tell him to stop. Then she was ambushed and Huntley helped her win. Instead of throwing a fit on how she didn't need his help, could have done it alone, or the other whiny stuff I hear from heroines in romance novels Thalia thanked him and admitted it was useful he was there. Very refreshing. I did notice Thalia became more lovesick and dreamy as the book went on but after a strong first impression it wasn't enough to make me dislike her.

Kungtotte Right, so, this is my first foray into the world of romance novels so I don't really have a frame of reference here, but I'm wondering if I've been reading the same book as everybody else.

I liked the setting a lot, too many SF books are set in the same kind of "It's totally not medieval Britain, we swear" generic setting and it gets old pretty quick, and Indiana Jones is awesome so there's that too.

The overarching conflict and the whole setup of the magic in this world was also neatly done, and while certain antagonists suffered a little bit from the cartoonishly evil trope it was nice that the whole organisation of the Heirs weren't mindlessly evil people hell-bent on destroying the world. They acted pretty much like all colonial powers acted back in the day, only they had magic on their side.

My main problem with this book was how easy everything was for the main characters. It might just be the Joe Abercrombie fan in me talking, but really is it too much to ask that there's a couple of setbacks for the protagonists? Can a whole plot be a Mary Sue? Because that's what it feels like.

Oh here we have Thalia and Batu being ambushed but here comes Huntley to save the day. Then they splash around a bit in a river but don't worry, they find a nice little cave to warm up in afterwards. Now they have to compete in some kind of Mongol triathlon, which they of course win by barely breaking a sweat. Only it turns out they didn't even have to do it, because they magically stumble (almost literally!) over what they were after. Now for a daring escape across the Gobi desert, where they run afoul of a band of marauders up to no good. Oh no, this surely must be a sign of some kind of consequence for our characters? Nope, not only do these marauders offer to escort our protagonists across this blasted waste, they stand guard while they get with the sexy-times and also end up fighting alongside them when they could just have scampered off into the desert where the Heirs really wouldn't have bothered them any more.

Also, conveniently, the three members of the Blades that were more or less crucial to winning the fight at the monastery happen to have already showed up on a literal Deus Ex Machina, and the monks just happen to be Shaolin monks. After a bit of a scuffle, everyone who wasn't a badguy gets to stand around clapping each other on the backs. Jolly well done!

Can a character please pull a hammy or *something*? I didn't expect George RR Martin levels of suspense out of this book, but I didn't expect a near absence of it either :\

Jillian (_berryprincess_) Kungtotte: I find that most romance novels have more "Disney" type problems like the ones you describe rather that deep meaningful plot points.

I read them because sometimes I enjoy a light, quick read without much stress. This one was better then most - sometimes they can get so boring!

Katie (katie_jones) | 348 comments I liked this book a lot more than last months, but it would rank a 3/5 on my normal scale. The one thing that I LOVED in the book was this gem 55% in:
"She heard Gabriel shouting his support from behind her, yet, while his words warmed her, she didn't take her encouragement from him. It had to come from within. If she relied on something, someone, outside of herself, then she would be no good to the Blades. She must be strong on her own."

Hells. YES. Thank you! A beautifully written paragraph!

Other notes that I made while reading:
1. I was a little pissed in Ch. 12 when he ripped her chemise in the ger, mostly because putting myself in her position, I didn't imagine she would have packed tons of underthings on this all-important mission. I was proved wrong later, when she pulls a new one from her pack. *sigh*
2. To answer someone's earlier question, there was a clear threat of rape at one point; however, if you screen out all such-threats you will almost never read a book in this genre. Also, it would be incredibly unrealistic to remove a real-life threat from literature just because it is offensive. It's meant to be offensive. The instance in this book in any case is brief and serves to prove the heroine is capable of protecting herself from any such threat without the help of her man.

Overall, I enjoyed it, although all the "Indiana Jones" talk built it up a bit too much in my mind, which left me unsatisfied afterwards. Like eating good popcorn, but getting no real nutritional value from it. I probably won't continue the series, just because I was a little bored for much of it. I did enjoy the characters, and thought it was a great addition to this book club simply based on the heroine.

Elanor | 18 comments Katie wrote: "I liked this book a lot more than last months, but it would rank a 3/5 on my normal scale. The one thing that I LOVED in the book was this gem 55% in:
"She heard Gabriel shouting his support fro..."

I have to agree with you Katie, it didn't feel very Indiana Jonesy to me...not entirely sure why that is as it is certainly filled with action/adventure. As I mentioned previously though I feel it falls more into the category of Jayne Anne Krentz 'Arcane society' or a multitude of other 'secret society' series, possibly because Indiana Jones is the main focus of his stories whereas this series has a broader focus.

Having read the entire series now I find myself less satisfied with the overall arc of the story. I felt that a lot of the characterisation suffered as the series continued.

By far the most frustrating thing about it was the almost naive approach to love, the way that it seemed to 'fix' everything. From the deepest of emotional scars, to an inability to talk to women. Men (and women) who refused to even think about emotional intimacy or were unable to express themselves emotionally within chapters were sprouting prose and promising eternal love and commitment.

It felt almost as though these characters that had some depth and potential for growth were lessened by 'love', as though it was a cure-all for every ailment and every heartbreak. Which in turn seemed to cheapen and lessen their burdens to the point of inconsequence. It just didn't feel realistic at all, and I felt the story suffered for it.

While I greatly enjoyed the first book in the series despite many aspects that stopped me from engaging on a deeper level with the universe, I wouldn't recommend reading the entire series in one go. It is worth a read if you enjoyed the first book but to avoid frustration I would suggest reading them interspersed with other books.

After the first two they became a little formulaic to the point that I knew when their first sexual encounter was likely to occur simply by how far into the book I was. It is an enjoyable series and it is nice to read about women who like men but don't NEED them, (though the author is fond of the 'profound bond' concept) and none of the women became spineless milksops after their first sexual encounter which was refreshing.

Overall though I would give the series a 3/5, worth a read and a fun universe but lacking that extra zing that would make it worth re-reading. This however is likely influenced by the fact that I read all 4 books in 2 days, if I had paced myself a little more I think I would have enjoyed the stories a lot more and been more forgiving of its faults.

message 35: by Jon (last edited Sep 06, 2013 08:02AM) (new)

Jon  | 91 comments Katie wrote: "I liked this book a lot more than last months, but it would rank a 3/5 on my normal scale. The one thing that I LOVED in the book was this gem 55% in:
"She heard Gabriel shouting his support fro..."

I agree with a lot of your points Elanor,
Although it wasn't directly "Indiana Jones" it did remind me a lot of the old black and white adventures which have been quoted by Lucas and co as the inspiration for the whip wielding hero.
Although I concur with your comments about the depiction of the magical power of love, I wonder how much of that is adhering to the old adventuring tropes of the happily ever after.
I haven't read the whole series but really enjoyed my two readings of this book. Living in the uk and growing up on tales of Burton and Speke, as well as other empire adventures I got a lot from the book.

Elanor | 18 comments Jon wrote: "Katie wrote: "I liked this book a lot more than last months, but it would rank a 3/5 on my normal scale. The one thing that I LOVED in the book was this gem 55% in:
"She heard Gabriel shouting h..."

You raise an excellent point Jon, I think that is probably a part of it, certainly the 'stronger in love together' aspect, but that is taken to much greater heights in the following books in the series.

I don't want to ruin it for anyone but particularly in books 3-4 there is an almost mythical nature to the connection of 'love' the protagonists share which pulled me out of the story a little as I felt it was perhaps relied upon too much by the author as a means to further the story. A kind of magical cure all 'you know all those things you couldn't do before? the power of love has helped you overcome it!'.

I understand your point about the old adventure style of the book, but I felt that this particular element cut the suspense a little as Kungtotte mentions above, as soon as there is a serious danger, circumstance or the results of the 'mythical love-connection' the characters share somehow overcomes it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, and to a lesser extent the rest of the series too. It was a fun time, however being Australian I haven't had much experience with the empire adventure novels you mention so perhaps I am lacking some of the historical understanding which would help me get more out of the book.

I would definitely recommend the book to others to read, I loved the exotic settings of the book. Mongolia, Greece, Canada and finally England. I think Zoe Archer did a very good job of painting a rich tapestry exploring the environs, and the history that influenced each source, she gave them all a unique power and place.

I think the main thing is that some of the characters story arcs I found unbelievable or a little frustrating, mostly because of the love aspect (but I always have a bit of difficulty believing someone can find and fall in love with the 'love of their life' in a few weeks, which is usually the time line of these novels and is by no means unique to Archer. It is more of a personal quibble).

I think this series would make for a fantastic movie though! I would definitely go and see it in the cinema. It has a nice balance between world, romance and adventure.

message 37: by Jon (new)

Jon  | 91 comments Jon wrote: "Katie wrote: "I liked this book a lot more than last months, but it would rank a 3/5 on my normal scale. The one thing that I LOVED in the book was this gem 55% in:
"She heard Gabriel shouting h..."

Again I agree with a lot of your points and it got me to wondering what the book would have been if the author had used the same setting, but stepped outside the established tropes and mythical "love" connection to offer a realistic depiction of the relationship?
I'm not sure I would call it "historical understanding" I think the setting just provoked a wild sense of nostalgia.
But, as the alt pick is doing nothing for me this month, would you suggest I read the rest of the series?

Elanor | 18 comments It would have been fantastic if the author had done so. If the depiction of the relationships had been more realistic I would have loved these books and not just liked them. I think the main issue with having a series where every single hero and heroine finds 'mythical love' is that it undermines the unique nature of the connection.

Instead of conflict and compromise and the hard slog involved in two people creating a life together, in all of the books there is a tipping point where love conquers all and the rest is insignificant.

Oh, by historical understanding I was more referring to the level of engagement with the historical setting and the influence on the story. I am a bit of a connoisseur of historical romance books (no I am not ashamed, though the covers was a primary reason for me purchasing a kindle....there are only so many times you can shamelessly read a book on public transport with a swooning heroine one deep breath away from nipple anarchy without feeling the silent judgement.) and I have to say, it is frustrating how many authors have little to no knowledge of the history, and the rules that bound the society they write about. (if you are primarily writing an historical romance, it makes sense to have your characters bound by the rules of the society you are writing about.)

I would never claim to be an expert but I have stopped reading books when the story is too unbelievable within the historical setting. (a fine example is one book I started reading and never completed where the heroine of the story not only attends a gentlemans club but also gambles in a game of cards playing against said gentleman. In the first chapter! a regency novel to clarify)

This series for me had no such obvious and frustrating anachronisms (though the fantastical nature of the story meant I was far more forgiving than I would have been if it had been straight historical) when I said historical understanding that is what I was referring too. I liked that those elements of society weren't central to her story, more a canvas upon which she painted an alternative history.

I would definitely say give it a go if you enjoyed the first book. I enjoyed the series enough to buy the whole lot and not stop after just two or three of the books. It is a fun time and she keeps the adventure element strong throughout.

Otherwise I can recommend plenty of other series or stand alone books. I have recently become a little obsessed with urban-fantasy romance series and have amassed a fairly impressive collection of them on my kindle.

I would love to hear any recommendations you might have as well. I couldn't get into the alt pick this month either so any recs you have would be greatly appreciated. Otherwise I might end up reading more shifter romance novels (which I am slightly ashamed of)

message 39: by Jon (new)

Jon  | 91 comments Oh no don't say that I'm partial to some great shifter romance books, In fact one of the best depictions of a relationship I've read recently involves at least one shifter.
If you haven't checked out Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series most of the relationships are realistically rendered and well rounded, with allowances made for artificial drama needed for literary excitement and interest.
I agree with the cover comment tube travelers can be very judgemental, especially if you're a man reading romance. Digital books are your friend!
I empathise with your historical bugbear, I have a similar Issue with fantasy authors who establish a rule set and then ignore / forget them immediately.
"nipple anarchy" Is my phrase of the week.

message 40: by Rio (last edited Sep 06, 2013 11:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rio (minxxa) I actually really like Kelley Armstrong's urban fantasy stuff, which is mostly based around shifters though there are a lot of other characters.

I do like it when people find the right connection for them-- as in, a strong woman finds a man who isn't intmidated by it at all (a little projection there, I'm sure), but the whole "mythical", "we were born to be together" stuff really isn't my bag. But, it seems to be pretty popular with romances, so if the characters are strong and I can relate to them, and the story is interesting, I can overlook that part a bit easier.

And "nipple anarchy" is now stuck in my head!

Shannon (sceriddle) | 95 comments I didn't think the "mythical love" was nearly as bad in this book as I've seen it in other books. The love felt realistic, it seemed to me like the non-stop, over-the-top descriptions of Gabriel's sexiness and the not-terribly-challenging-challenges just made it seem more mythical than it was. I guess I just like that there was a lot of mutual respect in the relationship which isn't always something you see a lot of, which I think also contributed to the impression that the challenges weren't challenging. We're seeing everything through the eyes of the main characters, so if they're confident they can accomplish something, and the other main character respects their ability and has faith in them, then it's not going to seem like that big a deal. Whereas in a lot of romances, there's more doubt, particularly in the woman's ability to accomplish things.

message 42: by Gary (last edited Sep 06, 2013 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary I got more of a Romancing the Stone vibe than an Indiana Jones vibe off this one. That is, RtS was derivative of the whole Indiana Jones theme, which was itself a kind of homage to old adventure serials. Warrior was rather derivative of that film, right down to the giant precious gem. There were, of course, other elements in the book... but overall, it doesn't quite rise to Indiana Jones in quality. (Well, at least, not the first or the third films.)

Just to throw a little controversy into the mix: is anybody bothered by the way race was portrayed in this book? There are more than a few Brit stereotypes (the villains are effete and/or jingoist-imperialists) and the Mongols are portrayed in black or white as a sort of "noble savage" or as the opposite, abject villains bent on subverting white man's ways into their own dictatorial power.

There's a long tradition of entertainment products that engage in other cultures--but present them through the perspective of the white guy. In this case, it's a white gal, of course, who is the British-Mongol, so there's at least a little gender equity in the sanctimony... but in many ways this book goes right into a standard of Western (particularly American) entertainment. It makes a culture palatable by presenting it from the POV of a European, and then makes that European not just a presenter of the culture but a superior member of it.

In this case, a couple of Brits (or one Brit and one Brit-Mongol) show up and are better at things like Mongolian sports than are the Mongols themselves. The idea of a pair of Europeans showing up out of nowhere and are allowed to pair up and participate against natives in special contest for an ancient treasure is not unlike saying you can just walk into the Olympics with your gym bag and compete. What's worse is that the Westerners become--predictably--the champions of the tournament, out riding Mongols, out shooting them with bows, and then out wrestling them in their traditional style. That makes What Men Can't Jump look like a documentary.

Of course, this is light fair, so one shouldn't be overly concerned about it, but it did nag at me as I read. Did it stand out to anybody else?

message 43: by Shannon (last edited Sep 06, 2013 01:02PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Shannon (sceriddle) | 95 comments To be a little picky, neither British people came first in the race or in the archery competition, they just did well enough to make it to the last round, and beat out the bad guy. And, had they competed individually instead of as a team, they would have clearly lost.

message 44: by Gary (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gary Shannon wrote: "To be a little picky, neither British people came first in the race or in the archery competition, they just did well enough to make it to the last round, and beat out the bad guy. And, had they competed individually instead of as a team, they would have clearly lost."

Fair enough. They didn't superhero their way through events, and it did require two of them to do it.

Still, my point is that they manage to walk into the event more or less cold and walk away with the grand prize. Granted, there are rationales behind that victory--she's been raised more Mongol than Brit, he's an experienced soldier with heroic physical abilities--but that's still kind of the problem. Westerners are often portrayed as generally better at another culture's core skills than natives of that culture.

The "cultural imperialism" trope as it's sometimes called is a pretty standard thing in a lot of entertainment. Crocodile Dundee, Tarzan, Madame Butterfly, Dances with Wolves, etc. I'd argue that the White Savior trope is in play here also....

Of course, certain dynamics differ, but here's a poem that captures some of the ideas:

Shannon (sceriddle) | 95 comments I think it's part of the romance genre to make the leads the best at everything, or at least I the top few, and it's true regardless of the specific setting. I think the bigger problem its more indicative of is that romance novels are almost all about white couples. If the main characters were PoC, or even an interracial couple, they'd still probably always win, but apparently the industry only thinks people want to read about white main characters.

Sarah (jomonster) | 1 comments Gary, I really appreciate your comments about the book. I found the portrayal of race and "exotic foreign lands" really problematic. The whole theme of the book seemed to be, "only these super special white people can save MONGOLIA! Zomg there's a Mongolian traitor! But don't worry, we have these awesome white saviors to preserve the innocence of these simple yet kind indigenous peoples!!!"

And yes, I did roll my eyes at how the magical white folks were better at Mongolian sports than actual Mongolians. Sighhhh.

Elanor | 18 comments Elanor wrote: "It would have been fantastic if the author had done so. If the depiction of the relationships had been more realistic I would have loved these books and not just liked them. I think the main issue ..."

I am really proud of that 'Nipple anarchy' statement actually (which should tell you a lot about me) :P

Oh yes there are some wonderful romance shifter books, on perusing my Kindle I realised I was basing that statement on one series. The ones I have slight embarrassment about reading are by the same author who wrote 'Dragon actually' which was picked ages ago. She writes under a different pseudonym though as Shelly Laurenston. Don't get me wrong they are a fun time, loads of steamy sexy-times and kick-arse characters. Again it is simply that they become very formulaic (and in any book not a characters own they come across as massively one-dimensional and unlikeable which grates after a while) Basically, you read them for the over the top wild animal sex ahahaha.

I have been meaning to read the Kate Daniels series for a while actually. And on flicking through my kindle realised I actually do have a few quite good shifter romances (though the romance aspect is minor which is probably why i didn't think of them at first) The Blood destiny series by Helen Harper is quite fun, though it does rely on the 'inability to communicate feelings and general misunderstanding causing angst and stopping the love interests from getting together.' trope which after the second book had me wanting to tear my hair out.

Mark Henwick's Amber Farrell novels are really great as well, though shifters don't become a big part fo the story until the second book. If you are wanting complex relationships this is one to check out! (so long as you aren't squeamish about polygamy which is canon in the series)

Ilona Andrews 'The Edge' series also deals with shifters though from memory it is only "Bayou Moon' that has them as central. Though they are integral to universe, it is quite fun.

So basically I retract my embarrassment over shifter romances :P (if anyone has recommendations where there is a stronger romance aspect and the plot is still good I would love to hear it!)

I read a lot of fantasy as well Jon (though I confess I am more into sci-fi at the moment) and that point you raise about the rule set being ignored. It is in fact one of the reasons I tend to steer clear of epic fantasy novels, so many of them do just that.

Elanor | 18 comments Shannon wrote: "I didn't think the "mythical love" was nearly as bad in this book as I've seen it in other books. The love felt realistic, it seemed to me like the non-stop, over-the-top descriptions of Gabriel's ..."

Gary, I think you raise some very good points (they become even more problematic in the following books) I think though it is always difficult to write in an historical context and not allow your knowledge of the future to impact your stories.

Imperialism and the British empire have been demonised for decades now, particularly when discussing world economics and development. It is probably unsurprising then that the more brutal aspects of colonialism are represented by the antagonists of this series. After all, within the historical context of this story the blades are the anomaly not the heirs.

I am not saying that all British people were evil or as close-minded as the heirs, but our modern day concepts of equality and multiculturalism were in their infancy at this time. To think of another culture as equally important as your own, if different, was a rarity. It is during this period after all that Anthropology, Sociology etc started to become serious fields of study (though again it was very different to our modern understanding)

I definitely felt frustrated by the one-dimensional aspect of the 'bad guys' (though for me, having read the whole series, the use of the sexual-sadist bad guy bent on raping the protagonist was far more worrisome) I was perhaps more forgiving of those elements as within the universe Archer wrote, those kind of British citizens would certainly be the ones interested in the Heirs mission.

As for the 'Noble Natives' aspect, again I feel that our modern understanding of historical events impacts this portrayal. In so thoroughly demonising Imperialism there is an element of 'whitewashing' native culture and history. (excuse the pun)

In that I mean simply that the negative aspects of culture tend to be downplayed and the positives emphasised. So take the Mongols for instance. The grand, noble nature of their nomadic lifestyle is emphasised instead of literacy rates, child mortality and womens rights. Or the brutal nature of the Mongol history (which included wife stealing and raping as a form of war play)

While I by no means condone these elements, when writing historically they are almost an inevitability. In Historical romances women tend to have a stronger belief in their equality, men tend to be more liberal minded, medicine (or what the characters believe about medicine) is almost eery in its prescience.

It is nearly impossible to remove our modern day understanding from our historical writings. And in fact I would argue if we could we would probably enjoy them less, it is that fantastical nature of the story that allows us to enjoy what we read.

I don't know about you, but I find it infinitely sexier when a character has good hygiene! (again a concept in its infancy at the time). The complaints you (rightly) raise are I would argue an aspect of this anachronistic writing. I am not saying that excuses it, merely that it has a broader context within the historical romance genre.

message 49: by Jon (last edited Sep 07, 2013 04:18AM) (new)

Jon  | 91 comments You'll have not forgive me if this question has been asked before, I can't quite remember.

Are these rose tinted spectacles, whether it be for race or relationships, an inherent part of the romance fantasy?

Would we even want to read this book if it's depiction of the empire and relationships was period accurate and realistic?

Kungtotte It's probably an inherent part of historical romance because they are sort of necessary for any romance to actually be romantic.

How many women in the late 1800's had lives that even remotely resembled that of Thalia Burgess? And even if we assume such a person existed, how likely is it that a person like Gabriel Huntley existed at the same time who was completely and utterly accepting of this anachronistic woman?

I think that the depiction of the empire and the world could probably be kept fairly period accurate and realistic, but for characters and relationships there almost certainly needs to be some kind of departure from reality for the story to even make sense much less be romantic.

I guess that's what makes it historical *fantasy* though; I don't think historical romance fiction where a 16-year old girl is more or less sold off to a much older man only to die in childbirth after her fifth child at age 20 would be particularly romantic or fun to read.

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