book reviews by Althea

The Heldan – Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore **

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Read this because I have a goal to read all of the Del Rey Discovery books. Some of them are very, very good. This one, however, is not.
It reminded me of a not-as-good, much shorter version of Kate Elliott’s Jaran. (This was published two years later.) The stories aren’t that similar, but the mix of romance and fantasy gives it a similar feel. However, Jaran’s romance won me over. The romance here didn’t work for me at all. The people who fell for each other did so out of the blue; I didn’t feel their attraction at all. In the case of one couple, it was completely mystifying – in one chapter you see the guy completely abusing and humiliating the woman, she hates him, and in the next chapter they’re a couple. Huh?
The main relationship in the story wasn’t much better.
The main character, Senea, is somewhat befuddling as well. She seems pretty ordinary – but everyone she meets either instantly hates her or loves her. Why? The emotions in this book, overall, just don’t work.
The plot felt pretty typical – young village woman is recruited into an elite-but-feared caste of warriors. Each walled town in this area has a cadre of warriors who are in conflict with one another but aren’t allowed to communicate with each other in any way. The lead warrior (and romantic interest) wants to either make peace or discover forgotten magical secrets that will allow his group a military advantage; unfortunately there is dissension within the ranks.
The setup didn’t really make much sense – there wasn’t enough background to convince me or explain how the peculiar social system described came into place.


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