Four months, four books. Each month from September through December last year, Kensington released a new installment in Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose series. Appropriate to release them this way, really, as so many of the elements that Archer employs are reminiscent of old movie serials: adventure and danger and exotic locales and damsels (though not of the in-distress variety) and feats of derring-do. And, after devouring Warrior
back-to-back over the course of about 48 hours, I made myself wait until Stranger
was available before picking up Rebel
and tearing just as quickly through the last two books of the series.
Our story starts in England where Gabriel Huntley witnesses a stranger being beaten in an alley. As these things often do, Huntley’s interference leads to his being responsible for fulfilling the dying man’s last wish and setting off for... Mongolia. And that, right there, is your first clear indication that there’s something very different about this series. Because, really, Mongolia? Aren’t our heroes always supposed to go somewhere exotic, but kind of familiar, like India or Egypt or Shanghai? And, wait, what’s this? Our heroine is not some shy violet who tries very hard to be a lady in this “savage” land? In fact, she kinda hates the whole ladylike thing? Hallelujah!
Okay, so you can see where this is going, right? Of course there are bad guys. And chasing. And fighting. And... other stuff. But, there’s also magic. Big magic. Old magic, rooted in various cultural traditions that are treated with respect, rather than imperialist disdain (except, of course, by the bad guys). And, there’s also science — kind of steampunk-y science — which is manifested in super-cool inventions. And all four books are like this. Each one has a unique hero and heroine on their own quest in a different part of the world, but the core elements remain the same throughout the series. Different readers will have different favorites among the books (for many, it’s Scoundrel, but I have a soft spot for the emotionally-damaged outsider, so Rebel tops my list).
Reading this series made me remember why I loved the first Indiana Jones movie so very much. The heroes were smart and strong, but smart and strong enough to realize that the women in their lives were just as smart and strong. There’s never any doubt that the good guys are going to prevail, but there are moments when you’re on the edge of your seat with tension. And when it all ends on a kiss, you find yourself dazed and dazzled and stunned by how much time has passed in the real world while you were swept away to one far more dangerous and enticing.