Friday, January 9, 2015

Wolfblade by Jennifer Fallon

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Marla Wolfblade of Hythria is determined to restore her family's great name, but conspirators surround her:  the Sorcerer's Collective, the Patriots - even members of her own family.  She must make sure her son, Damin, lives to be old enough to restore the Wolfblade name to its former glory.

Elezaar the Dwarf, is a small man with big secrets - but that doesn't matter to Marla Wolfblade.  Her brother is the High Prince of Hythria, and, in this fiercely patriarchal society, her fate will be decided on his whim.  She needs someone politically astute to guide her throug the maze of court politics- and Elezaar the Dwarf knows more than he lets on.

As Elezaar teaches Marla the Rules of Gaining and Wielding Power, Marla starts on the road to becoming a tactician and a wily diplomat - but will that be enough to keep her son alive?

As I've mentioned multiple times over, I suck at reviewing high fantasy.  As much as I love to read fantasy, it's hard to summarize, or even articulate what worked or didn't work for me as a reader.  High fantasy tends to have a huge cast of characters, story lines within in story lines, and generally covers a pretty huge geographical area, and that all tends to become to much to turn into bite sized impressions.

This, and it's two sequels, are a reread for me, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time around.  Marla is one of those characters that you can't help but fall in love with.  Yeah, she does some pretty ruthless things by the end of the book, but it's all done out of a need to protect her child.  She is fiercely loyal to those she holds close, even when they may not deserve it.  She is as intelligent as anyone else around her, if not more so, and she isn't afraid to let others take the credit, if it allows her to keep working to protect her family.

Outside of Marla, there really isn't a weak character in the bunch.  They are all fully fleshed out characters, with strengths and weaknesses.  Even the "bad" guys have dimensions to them.  Even Alija Eaglespike, the one actual bad person in the book, has depth to her.  Yeah, she is about at ambitious and morally bankrupt as they come, but there is a deep love of country behind what she does.  It's all for selfish gain, but she does try to justify it at least.   My only quibble in the way the charaters evolve over time is with Nashan Hawksword.  Here is a guy full of life and promise, who I think really does love Marla, turned into someone you really don't like by the end of the book.  It can all be laid at Alija's feet, but we don't see the corruption on page.  It's all done off page, so you are left not knowing if he really did turn, or if Alija's put a compulsion on him.  Either way he was weak, but he is one character that I really did feel bad for.

And I know I said I had one quibble, but it's really two.  I've mentioned this before, but I really can't stand when an author gives us a strong hero character, only to kill them off half way through a book.  Laran Krakenshield, Marla's first husband and the father of Damin, is one of those men you can't help but admire.  He wasn't in love with Marla when they married, but he did understand the need of it and treated her well.  He was honorable, loyal, strong, and a true nobleman.  Hell, I would have married him in a heartbeat.  And just as I'm falling for him, as a reader, he is killed off.  I get the reasons, I really do, but it still sucks.  His death serves so many functions.  Without it, we wouldn't see the weakness of Nashan or the continued corruption of his brother Makhas.  It allows Damin to become the man he does, and allows a whole host of characters to come on stage later on in the series.  I just wish it hadn't been necessary.

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