Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Not just another romance

Since my last post, I’ve read a couple of really good books— works which stand out from the rest of their genre. Like many authors, I write what I enjoy reading. One of my favorite scenarios, and one which is a perennial favorite of fiction writers, is to take a character out of what is usual and normal, and to have that character face all the conflicts which are generated by being away from one’s comfort zone. The kidnap/capture theme is one way to do this, but it’s not the only way, and both of these novels manage it without a kidnap scene.

Elizabeth Vaughan’s Warprize, a debut novel from Tor Romance, introduces the reader to Xylara, a heroine who is both a healer and a princess, while she is in the midst of trying to save the life of a warrior with a severe wound. With attention to detail, sure plotting, and dramatic world-building, the reader follows Xylara from the battlefield tents to the palace, where she learns that the war can end and her people be saved from what seems to be certain destruction. The price: Xylara must be offered as tribute to the Warlord, whose warriors had caused the very wounds she was treating in the opening scenes. Soon, she is way out of her comfort zone, taken from her dual role as master healer and stepsister of the king, to the Warlord’s tent, as his Warprize. Gradually, Lara learns about the culture of her captors and of Keir, the Warlord of the plains— an entertaining and suspenseful journey of the heart with plenty of politics, warfare, and culture shock for good measure. This page-turner kept me up half the night, and I can’t wait for the sequel, which will be released in April.

Tiger Eye, by Majorie Liu, is a paranormal romance, sans blood sucking. Oh, there is magic aplenty, which begins in a splendid opening sequence set in modern day China. Liu also supplies a hero who is truly timeless, a heroine who is both resourceful and witty, and a villain who is sufficiently evil to deserve the hatred of all the characters and the reader. Liu’s plot moves swiftly, and there is plenty of action and suspense, right until the end. This book is sassy and sensual, and while it introduces characters for a series, it stands alone quite well.

I’m a fan of paranormal romance, but I really don’t care for vampire books, and it is difficult to find good stories in this genre which don’t seem to be written for gals who just couldn’t get enough of Buffie, so I found Tiger Eye to be quite a treat. While the heroine, Dela, isn’t removed physically from her comfort zone, the intricate plotting against her and her lover provide some out-of-the-ordinary conflicts to resolve.

If anyone asks what my writings have in common, I invariably think of the kidnap/capture method of getting my characters into a mess. In both The Gift Horse and Trinity on Tylos, the heroines are physically and emotionally removed from what seems normal, and each of these characters must deal with the ensuing conflicts, whether they be physical threats or emotional ones. After all, we read fiction to see how characters work through their problems. If it were not for that, I really think libraries and bookstores would have only nonfiction books on the shelves. As much as I enjoy reading how-to books, I certainly would miss being able to transport myself into other places and other people’s minds, as they solve the dramatic conflicts of their lives. Life would be so boring and mundane without fiction!

Book review links for Warprize and Tiger Eye:

• Fallen Angels Reviews gave Warprize five angels and a "recommended read."

• Coffee Time Romance's review of Vaughan's novel is here.

• FAR also gave Tiger Eye five angels and a "recommended read."

• Coffee Time Romance really liked Tiger Eye— Look here.

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