Desert Isle Keeper
Warning: Warlord is the third book in a trilogy, and it must be read as such. If you haven’t read the first two books, you could probably follow the story well enough, but the emotional impact, climax, and conclusion will be seriously lacking. Luckily, Warprize and Warsworn are both fantastic reads, so if you haven’t picked up Elizabeth Vaughan before, you will be getting three great books in one fell swoop.
The trilogy follows the story of Xylara, a princess of the kingdom of Xy, and Keir of the Cat, a Firelander. Not to delve too deeply into back story, Keir and his warriors conquer Xy and take Lara as a warprize. The two then must journey to the Heart of the Plains in order to cement Lara’s position within the tribe as both warprize and Keir’s mate. Warsworn ends with the Heart in sight, and Warlord picks up at the next moment.
By the beginning of this third novel, Keir and Lara are very much in love, but will be parted as Lara prepares for her tasks as warprize by the Elder council. According to tribal law, Lara must submit to judgment to determine her worthiness. Further, she may be courted by, and choose from, any of the warlords who wish to attempt for her affections. Though she loves Keir, she must submit to the council’s will and rules. In the meantime, Keir continues his struggle to bring change to his people, with some very powerful – and dangerous – opposition.
Though a fantasy novel, readers will find a lot familiar in Warlord. The Firelander people have much in common with certain Native American tribes, especially their mysticism, lifestyle, and knowledge and understanding of the seasons and their environment. There’s also a smattering of eastern history, culture, and philosophy, though it’s not as obvious. Finally, the concerns and emotions that Lara faces as she struggles with a new people far from her home are about as universal as they get. Watch also for Vaughan’s gentle handling of some touchy subject matter.
I was completely swept away. From the very first page, the author’s lush world-building – using elements of the familiar but twisting and changing them to create the Kingdom of Xy and the Heart of the Plain – catapults the reader in to an emotional and enthralling story. The plots are strong, the writing deft, the love story luxuriant and tender, the explanations of the cultures and customs skilfully integrated
But what I love best, what really sends me into (rather embarrassing) raptures every time I recommend this series, are the characters. Lara and Keir, as main characters are, in turn, touching, sweet, sexy, stubborn, bold, giving, persistent, poignant, and tender. But the characters that really stand out are the fleshed out secondaries who defy cardboard to take on full personalities of their own, each playing their own important part in the story. Main characters have a strict role to play; though each is different, they have certain rules they must follow. Secondary characters, however, are free to be as diverse as the author’s imagination, and Vaughan makes full use of hers. Her secondary characters live and breathe, laugh and cry, and add enormous depth and feeling to her story. I was bereft when I turned the last page, knowing that I’d not get to meet with them again.
In this, the third and concluding novel of the trilogy, the main story threads are tied together, without compromising the future of the characters. As readers, we are invited to mourn the loss of old friends and celebrate new life, step up to great challenges and enjoy quiet times in the arms of a lover, learn and adapt to new cultures and teach about our own. The stories of Keir, Lara, the Xy, and the Firelanders will stay with readers for a long time, and my copies of the novels are sure to become dog-eared, worn, and frayed from being read and re-read again and again.