I’ll admit it. I love cheesy adventure films. Most especially, cheesy treasure hunting adventure films. From quality films like Raiders of the Lost Ark to not so memorable films like Congo I love ’em all. It is rare that a book captures the sense of adventure, mystery and excitement that a treasure hunting film can engender but Zoe Archer does a remarkable job of doing just that.
Nathan Lesperance is a born fighter. Good thing, since he is the only Native American attorney in Victoria and has had to fight harder than most to earn the respect that should rightfully be his. When an important client dies, he takes on the tedious and uncomfortable task of heading into the Northwest Territories to bring back the man’s belongings. But the territories have an odd effect on Nathan, bringing some wild part of himself closer to the surface. As he stares up into the hills that were once his grandmother’s home, he feels a calling. But all that calling does is make him determined to head back to civilization where he belongs.
Astrid Bramfield has been running from the sorrow of her husband’s murder for many years. Unfortunately, even being here in the wilderness is not far enough to get away from her deep grief. A brief meeting with Nathan to return his client’s belongings wakes something up in her she has not felt for a long time. When she finds Nathan later that night, naked and beaten, she takes him back to her cabin. Quickly, the two become embroiled in a quest to find a rare shape changing tribe and the totems that hold power over that magic. Can she and Nathan find the treasure before the men who nearly killed him catch up with them? And on this dangerous journey, can it be possible that the most endangered part of her be her heart?
This is the third book in the The Blades of the Rose series, which deals with a diverse group of people determined to keep magical Sources from people who would exploit them for evil. You don’t need to have read the others to enjoy this one. In this novel, like in the two previous books, the Blades’ biggest enemies are the Heirs of Albion, a group ruthlessly determined to turn the British Empire into a global empire, with most of the world serving as pseudo-slaves. Astrid and her husband had once been Blades, and it was on a mission to save a magical Source that he died (in her arms, I should add, with her enemy enjoying watching her pain). She is determined now that the Heirs who killed him not add any more power to their magical arsenal. To that effort, she brings all the skills learned as a Blade – search and rescue, the following of old legends, mountain climbing, wilderness survival, and a whole avalanche of others – to find Nathan’s ancestral people and keep their shape changing powers from evil.
Nathan lacks Astrid’s long experience with the Heirs, but his own encounter with them has left him more than ready to do battle. This is probably the defining trait of Nathan’s character – that he never backs down from a challenge. I liked that this fact was interwoven throughout his history – from a young man who became an attorney when the odds were against him, to the barrister who fought for the underdog and won, and finally to man who found out he contained surprising magic and used it to defeat his enemies.
This is an adventure tale from the word go. Up and down mountains, searching for dangerous people with even more dangerous men behind you, magically protected artifacts which you must find by unraveling riddles, and epic battles between the forces of good and evil. There are wolves made of ice, bears made of bones and even a moment of sled-free lugeing. If you have been missing action in your romance novels, this is most assuredly the story for you.
The blend of romance and action is nearly perfect. Surprisingly, Nathan and Astrid’s love story didn’t seem rushed, but grew out of their shared experiences. Astrid appreciated that Nathan never treated her as “the little woman” but followed her and listened to her advice. Nathan appreciated that Astrid saw beyond his skin to the person he really was. Because there was such a deep connection, you didn’t doubt the HEA or how they were going to make it work.
I have read many good stories in the paranormal market but what made this one unique was that it read very clearly as a romance to me. More specifically, it read clearly like a historical romance. If you are not a fan of that genre, this may not be the novel for you. But I really liked the way the author blended the two genres and had it come out with such a strong romance flavor.
My quibble with this novel was how very twenty-first century The Blade’s sensibilities are. They believe hugely in diversity, have no problem with couples who are openly living together without marriage and spout modern political beliefs at the drop of a hat. I found that more than a bit unrealistic and, it yanked me out of the story often enough to keep it from being a perfect A.
A quick note because I have heard others describe this as a steampunk series. There was not a lot of that here. That could be the nature of this particular novel – they were on a trek through mountain territories and deep wilderness so technology wouldn’t have fit the tale. Just wanted to offer a warning to anyone looking at this for that particular trait.
This is as close to a perfect action-adventure historical romance as I have ever read. If you like paranormals and historicals, I think you will find Rebel a great read.