Are you ready for a hero who is more than merely tortured? How do you feel about lengthy separations? Could you stomach your hero and heroine coming up against the Dark God? How you will react to Leopard Lord is very likely dependent on the answer to those questions.
When he was newly born, Varian’s father sacrificed the boy’s soul to the Dark God, with the understanding that Varian’s soul would be taken (and his father’s freed) when Varian reached maturity. The years pass, and Varian grows into a conscientious and capable warrior, with the help of his foster parents.
When he is called home to Leopard’s Gard, Varian is forced to face the truth both about what kind of man his father is, and what fate awaits Varian himself. Soon after, the old baron dies, leaving Varian lord in his stead. But the Dark God craves his amusements, so, in the shapeshifted form of a snow leopard, Varian is compelled against his will to hunt the night and commit atrocities, even killing his own villagers. In desperation, Varian strikes a bargain with the God – he will hand over his bride in exchange for the safety of the villagers. So, Varian seeks out and marries the fair Cathlin, a trader’s daughter. The God delays the bargain for his own reasons, and tender feelings begin to flourish between Varian and Cathlin.
Varian is a good man held against his will by the hands of absolute evil. He keeps telling himself that one woman’s life is a small price to pay for thousands of others, but why does it have to be Cathlin? And even if her life can be somehow saved, how could she ever learn to love a shapechanger? While Varian tends to introspective agonizing, it is easy to see that this is not a lazy habit; it is founded in good cause.
Cathlin comes from a loving and rambunctious background. While she very much admires her husband, she had never expected to be a lady. She has difficulties understanding Varian’s way of keeping his emotional distance from her, and misses her family. Yet, she is both down-to-earth and brave, likely the braver of the two, and able to adapt to almost any circumstance.
Leopard Lord has some difficulties from a romance reader’s perspective.
- Cathlin and Varian spend more than half the book apart. While a build-up of the land and the character is necessary in a good fantasy read, here it detracts from the romance.
- A rivalry between Gods isn’t standard fare in romance novels, and here it can be seen as an excuse not to put more stress on character development.
- The bargain demands that Cathlin be a virgin, which rather limits the sensuality, given that the final confrontation takes place at the very end.
As a whole, I rather liked Leopard Lord, since I tend to enjoy both fantasy and romance genres. As a romance, the book has some problems, yet overall, I found it a fairly enjoyable read. This is Ms. Morland’s first fantasy, and I’ll keep a lookout for future releases.
|Review Date:||April 19, 1999|