Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Warlord's Daughter by Susan Grant

Category: Romance – SciFi

Series: Yes – Book 2 of The Borderlands series

She’s the most wanted woman in the galaxy.

The war is finally over. But Wren’s life is in tatters. The only living offspring of the notorious Drakken Warlord, her genes could very well start a new dynasty of terror. And the Coalition can’t have that.

She alone holds the key to finding a legendary treasure. Having seen enough bloodshed, shy, petite Wren vows to destroy it before anyone, Drakken, Coalition or Earth, can get their hands on it – but she’ll need help.

The Drakken’s ruthless evil turned Aral toward the Coalition years ago. War is all he knows, until he finds passion and love in the most unlikely of women – the Warlord’s daughter. But will trusting each other with their secrets risk not only their hearts, but their lives?

This is the 2nd book of The Borderlands series but you need not have read the 1st book, Moonstruck, in order to understand and enjoy it. However, I would strongly recommend that you read Moonstruck too, simply because it’s a fantastic story. Also, the heartfelt story of the secondary couple, Hadley and Bolivarr, continues from the 1st book and it would be a shame to miss the first part of it.

I read this eagerly awaited book with Kat and Mel (my wonderful reading buddies) and our discussion is as follows. Please be aware it may include some mild spoilers.

Overall impression

Jace: I liked this story a lot. It was more complicated than Moonstruck in terms of the extensive plot, expanded world-building, and numerous secondary and minor characters. Despite of all the distraction, I thought Aral and Wren, and Bolivarr and Hadley, took centre stage as the primary and secondary couples.

Mel: I, too, liked this more than Moonstruck and for pretty much the same reasons you did. The multiple story lines didn't bother me at all and kept me interested.

Kat: I loved this book. I was hooked right from the start. I was so happy to see Hadley and Bolivarr again. I liked it that they got enough space to develop as secondary characters and theirs wasn’t just a random story.

The story and characters

The Drakken Horde are one of the inhabitants of the Borderlands world. Led by their leader, the Supreme Warlord, they are the fearless marauders and brutal killers who are hated and feared by all. For over a thousand years, they have waged war with the Coalition (which comprises other peoples who inhabit this world).

The Supreme Warlord has a daughter, Awrenkka, whom he keeps hidden away. On her thirteenth birthday, she is summoned to meet her father who, to her, is a terrifying stranger. The shy, scrawny and half-blind Wren meets not only her father that day, but a boy not much older than herself, Aral, who looks into her eyes and immediately she knows – a kindred spirit.

They share just that one look. It’s ten years later that they see each other again. The war has ended. The Supreme Warlord is dead. And it’s all due to one man. Wren’s protector and care-giver is dead too. Wren is on her own and on the run. Aral stops at nothing to find her, his promised bride, until she literally falls into his arms. The fugitive battlelord and the warlord’s daughter reunite.

Wren has to find Ara Ana – and make the galaxy whole. But who or what is Ara Ana? And where can she find her/it? And how can Wren make the galaxy whole? Aral is not going to leave Wren’s side; he’s determined to protect her and love her.

Jace: Was it believable to you that Aral met Wren only once while they were teenagers, and they only looked at each other, then he spent the next 10 years engineering everything so that he could claim her as his one day?

Mel: I felt that Aral saw a kindred spirit in Wren that day and that was what drew him to her in such a way that he focused all of those years toward the goal of getting her.

Kat: Usually I'd doubt that, but in this case it worked beautifully for me. I thought they were true soulmates and recognized each other in a heartbeat, so why not?

Jace: I agree. They recognized each other as victims – both sharing the same pain, alienation and oppression in the hands of their respective father. It was believable that Aral wanted to save Wren from his own father because Aral knew firsthand how evil that man was and what he would do to get what he wanted. Also, Aral himself was naturally a protector (as he protected his brother from his father all those years).

By the way, I love her full name – Awrenkka.

Kat: I like it too. It sounds strong.

Jace: I also like Aral’s name. (The author named him after the Aral Sea.)

What did you think of Wren’s transformation – from a timid, naïve girl to a strong woman who was willing to sacrifice herself for peace? Was that transformation believable?

Mel: Wren was so sheltered on that planet Barokk and was protected by her care-givers, that she never had the chance to become a stronger woman. Once she was on her own, she grew up fast.

Kat: She had led a very sheltered life and that made her insecure, but she was intelligent and strong and I loved how she grew into herself and didn't back down. I loved it too that she didn't really need a hero to rescue her but stood up for herself.

Jace: I believed in the growth of her character too. She had to learn very fast to survive by herself, and she was marvellous in her intelligence. You know, even if Aral hadn’t turn up in Zorabeta, she would have made it out of there somehow.

Captain Hadley Keyren has just taken command of her first ship. She is inexperienced and very determined to prove herself. She is to take her ship, Cloud Shadow, on an expedition to explore a remote and mysterious planet, rumoured to be the birthplace of the Goddesses. One of her crew members is Bolivarr, the amnesiac ex-Drakken wraith, also her lover.

On the way to their destination, Hadley rescues a ship in distress. There are four on board – Aral, Wren, Kaz (Aral’s second-in-command) and Keir Vantos (the pilot-blockade runner who is aiding Aral and Wren for a price).

Jace: Oh, I simply loved Bolivarr and Hadley’s story! It was so great to have the continuation of their story. They were such a great couple. I thought Bolivarr’s anguish and uncertainty over who and what he was (before his memory came back) was quite heartbreaking – he loved Hadley so much yet couldn’t totally commit to her. Hadley was so understanding and supportive of him, but she couldn’t help feeling disappointed that Bolivarr hadn’t asked her to marry him. Their emotions and conflict were well done.

Mel: Bolivarr and Hadley's romance really stood out for me. It was so nice to see their relationship grow.

Kat: I was so glad that they got their story. My heart bled for them both.

Jace: When Bolivarr regained his memory, and Hadley’s heart was breaking, my heart broke with hers. She had to stay strong and still be the captain despite all the anguish she was feeling. And she was willing to let Bolivarr go. I loved my heart being wrenched like this.

Mel: My heart was breaking right along with Hadley's! I thought it was good that Bolivarr was honest with her about his confusion in his feelings. I was also glad it worked out for the best.

Jace: Yes, the fact that he needed time to sort out his feelings made their relationship believable and their love all the deeper in the end.

Kat: I almost couldn't bear that moment. I felt so much for Hadley, when her heart broke into a thousand pieces. Thank you, Ms. Grant, for giving us moments like this!

Jace: And Ms. Grant didn't have to go all melodramatic about it either! Just a few simple sentences and we felt Bolivarr's joy and Hadley's anguish. That scene was fantastic!

Did you feel that, although this was essentially Aral and Wren's story, it was Bolivarr and Hadley's love story that was the stronger and more heartfelt one? I certainly thought so. I thought it was because we already knew them (and liked them) from Moonstruck, so they were familiar characters. Their story tied in seamlessly with the plot in this one through Bolivarr’s history.

Mel: To be honest, Hadley and Bolivarr were the more vivid couple for me. I fell hard for Bolivarr in Moonstruck so it was nice to get more from them. Usually, I dislike it when a secondary couple takes center stage but in WD it works.

Jace: What did you think about the Goddesses, Keys and Keepers? At first, they confused me a little. And what role(s) did the goddesses play in this world? They were worshipped, certainly, but did they have divine powers? So far, nothing was said about that, I think.

Mel: I was a little confused about that as well, but it was quite interesting. I hope we will find out more about the Goddesses in later books.

Kat: I wasn't confused by them but they made me curious. I’m really looking forward to read more of this world.

Jace: I thought this story was a good mix of great characters and thrilling action-adventure. I really liked all the planet-hopping and space battles.

Mel: I liked that too. They certainly did some traveling.

Kat: I was always a sucker for space adventure and I couldn't get enough of them!

WD is the first book by Ms. Grant that didn't take me some time to get into it. If one likes this genre, it's really easy to slip into her world. It took me longer to get into Moonstruck!

Jace: I thought the ending was a little anti-climactic and hurried. The elimination of the villain seemed too easy, and he was supposed to be a wily old hand at war. Wren fulfilling her destiny seemed too easy as well.

Mel: The ending was a little abrupt and I thought it could have used a few more pages to complete the story. Oh well, such is publishing and word counts.

Kat: The ending was satisfying and it left me curious for more stories. I hope that Keir will get his own too. Perhaps he and Kaz will get their happy ending in the next book?

Our rating

Jace: 4.5 out of 5. I really like it. It’s fantastic, a keeper. Sensuality: Subtle.

Kat: My rating is the same as yours, J.

Mel: I give it a 4. Sensuality: Mild.

Additional comments

Jace: K, I remember you mentioned some time back that one has to be of a certain emotional maturity to TRULY appreciate Ms. Grant's writing and the depth of her characters. I agree with you totally. One has to take the time to READ and take the journey with the characters. M, do you agree?

Mel: I do, J. Even though I haven't liked every one of her books I've read so far, I do think she's a very skilled, talented writer. Also a very gracious one. One of these days, I'll have to get through the rest of her backlist – I bought them all!


Read an excerpt of this story at the author’s website.

Read a great review of this book at ParaNormal Romance.

Read a Susan Grant interview at Harlequin’s Paranormal Romance Blog, where she gave us a hint of what to expect in the 3rd Borderlands book.


Susan Grant said...

Thanks for the fantastic commentary! I'll come back but wanted to stop in to say it's so great to see things I hoped would work for readers of my story actually did! The part about the two mistreated kids "recognizing" each other as kindred spirits, which IMO lays the foundation for a much more lasting relationship that instant blazing lust. Some might call it love at first sigh, but I saw it more as "recognition" at first sight (or a soul mate).

As for Aral's vow to destroy the Drakken Empire, in my mind I saw him motivated as much by hatred for his father (and everything the man represented) as by wanting to save Wren. She was simply the final straw, the spark that lit what was already smoldering. It wouldn't be easy going against your own government. He needed more than one motivator to do so.

I too wish I had more fully fleshed out the killing the villian scene! I KNEW it wasn't enough, and asked to rewrite it, but it worked as is for my editor and she does have a really good eye. I blamed it on my being too critical and picky about my books, a perfectionist. but I still wish I could have added a few paragraphs. Maybe I should run a fan fic contest for a rewrite of Karbon Mawndarr's agonizing and humiliating death. Mwahahaha.

I will return to comment some more, but NEED to get going on my writing for the day. Thank you for saying my stories are for the most part of a certain level of emotional maturity. I like to think that, too, and know that if someone reads too fast, they do miss some of the stuff i layer in there. It was really cool to see you guys "get" and even appreciate what I hoped to convey. I don't always do the best job of it, but do always try. :)

Jace, there are a lot of us out here who love the commentaries you do with Kat and Mel. It's pretty unique in blog-land. It's like sitting in with a bunch of friends all discussing a book in a coffee shop. i'm so happy you can still do them on occasion. If you didn't, they'd be missed!p

Frances said...

Jace, Kat, and Mel, you did an awesome analysis.

And Susan, thanks of the additional commentary. I'm a sucker for DVDs with commentary. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm going to buy Moonstruck and then this one. :D

Thanks for the great comments!

Mel said...

J, you did such a great job of putting our thoughts together!

Moonstruck and WD were both awesome books and I can't wait for the next one in the Borderlands world.

Susan, thank you so much for the additional comments on writing WD.

Brandy said...

I like the back and forth review! Very informative. I'll be sure to add this to my TBB file.

Jace said...

Susan, thanks so much for taking time off your very busy schedule to share with us your thoughts re: WD.

I've always said you write just the most heartfelt and gorgeous characters - especially the heroes :D - and Aral, Wren, Bolivarr and Hadley just tug at our heartstrings. I truly won't mind seeing Bolivarr and Hadley in the next book. ;)

As for the "emotional maturity" part, I feel that you incorporated a lot of your own life experiences into your stories, especially the emotions. Kat said you "live to write a scene" and that shows. :)

I'm glad that you like this format of discussion-review. It's not often the three of us can read a book together anymore, since everybody's so busy, also our varying reading moods. But we'll certainly try to with authors/books that we like. :)

Jace said...

Frances: Thanks! Glad you think so. :D

Taja: Oh wow ... we've convinced you, eh? LOL Seriously, I think you'll like MOONSTRUCK, since you like the Linnea Sinclair stories. :) I'm already looking forward to your opinion on MOONSTRUCK. :D

Mel: You and K did an awesome job feeding me with your thoughts. It's always so nice to read books with both of you, and discuss the heck out of them later. LOL

Brandy: Have you read MOONSTRUCK? :) Another Linnea Sinclair fan - I think you'll enjoy Susan's books too. :)

kat said...

thank you for making such a wonderful review out of our comments and your own thoughts! I love it.
I enjoyed reading WD so much and I can't wait to get the next installment.

Jace said...

K, what shall we read next, while we wait for the 3rd Borderlands book? *** Susan, absolutely no pressure! :D ***

I always enjoy knowing your and M's thoughts because both of you make me see things a bit differently, or make me notice things I've missed. I especially LOVE it when we don't see eye-to-eye! LOL Oh, the intense back-and-forth comments! But we're still friends at the end of the day. LOL

Kristie (J) said...

I really need to get back on board and get back to reading this one. I can't remember the last time I've started so many books at the same time

Jace said...

Kristie, I'll be looking out for your review. :)

Christine said...

Hi Ladies! :)
I skipped over most of your discussion since I wanted to avoid even the mild spoilers, but I wanted to let you know that I've had Moonstruck on my wish list since the three of you reviewed it months ago!!! Now I can't believe the second book is out and I still haven't read the first. Guess what I'll be buying at the bookstore on my next trip?

Jace said...

Hey, Christine. :) You've so many books to read and review so it's totally understandable that you'd take some time to get to those on your wishlist. No worries. I'd love to know your opinion on MOONSTRUCK when you get to it. :)