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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Author: Susan Grant
Series: THE LOST COLONY (Romantic Fantasy)
Ratings: V4; S4; H3
Publisher and Titles: Harlequin: The Last Warrior (2011) 

     According to my own definition, this series is not paranormal fiction, because it takes place in a make-believe land rather than in a relatively realistic modern world. Instead, let's call it romantic fantasy. The action is set in a faraway galaxy in the land of Tassagonia. According to their ancient book, the Log of Uhrth, Tassagonia was settled generations ago by humans who arrived in arks that traveled across the stars from the mother land, Uhrth (Say "Uhrth" out loud and you'll have a clue as to their actual planet of origin. Another clue is the mention of a Dr. Seuss book.) The humans are divided into three rivalrous groups: the Tassagons, the Kurel, and the Riders. An early king decided that the ills of the colony were the fault of technology, which he denounced as sorcery. Since the Kurel were the intelligentsiathe scholars of science, literature, and technologythey were exiled and forced to live in the isolated Barrier Peaks, far from the Tassagons. Eventually, some of the Kurels returned, but they are still required to live in a ghetto outside the city gates. The  Tassagons and the Kurel have a kind of geek-jock relationship. The Tassagons value power, strength, and victory, while the Kurel value education, history, and science. The Tassagons are illiterate and primitive and proud of it, while the Kurel look down their noses at the warlike, book-hating Tassagons. Meanwhile, the Riders (think Old West cowboys) live out in the wilderness, traveling on horseback, stealing cattle, and keeping away from the other two groups. There are two more groups in this land, and both are enemies of the humans. The Gorr, who are wolf-like, barely sentient monsters, arrived by ark shortly after the humans and immediately started a war that decimated both groups and pushed the humans' civilization back to a more primitive time. The second anti-human group is the Sea Scourge, a gang of pirates who rule the seas.

     As The Last Warrior begins, King Xim sits on the Tassagonian throne soon after the death of his father. Xim's queen is Aza, and her brother is Tao, general of the Tassagonian army in the field. In the opening scene, General Tao is returning home to great public adulation after a long series of victorious battles against the Gorr. Xim is insanely jealous of Tao, seeing him as a threat to the throne, and Beck, head of the home guard (who also hates Tao) encourages Xim's fears. Meanwhile, Elsabeth ("Beth"), a Kurel is the tutor of the royal children, and she has been secretly teaching the queen and the children to read, which is an illegal act. Almost as soon as Tao returns, Xim arrests him for treason and Beth helps him escape, with the additional aid of the sympathetic Field-Colonel Markam, who is Tao's long-time friend and Aza's wannabe lover. Got all that? 

     The remainder of the book follows two threads. First and foremost is the progression of the romance between Tao and Beth. The second thread follows Xim's attempts to track down and eliminate Tao. The overall theme of this book is the importance of tolerance and understanding, as each group takes a few small steps toward peace.

     Grant has built her world carefully and impressively, and it is elaborate enough to have plenty of room for additional love stories and inter-species conflict in future books. The relationship between Beth and Tao is more complex than the usual SMR romance. The lovers come from two entirely different cultures, and it is interesting to watch them begin to understand and then to love one another. The villains are also relatively complexnot completely and thoughtlessly evil, but instead, allowing tragedies in their past to turn them into bitter, suspicious haters. So far, this is a good series for romantic fantasy readers.

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from The Last Warrior.

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