Make room on the bookshelf, here’s volume three of The Blades of the Rose! This is Astrid’s book, and she’s my favorite Blades heroine. (That’s saying a lot, because I love these kick-ass smart women.) Astrid’s a little older, always a selling point for this reader, and a lot wiser than many romance heroines. She’s smart and self-sufficient, living alone on the Canadian frontier, having been badly hurt by the death of her husband at the hands of the evil Heirs of Avalon. Of course you just know she’s going to get drawn back into the work of the Blades, and she does, thanks primarily to our hero, Nathan Lesperance.
Nathan is a Native American attorney, which is as unusual in this fictional historical world as it would have been in ours. He is not a Blade, but he has a connection (of which he’s unaware) to magic Sources that the Heirs are anxious to exploit. He and Astrid, and eventually other Blades (including Catullus Graves, the Black inventor, making a more than cameo appearance!), fight for the freedom of natural magic and the cultural traditions that the Heirs would like to assimilate into the British Empire and then destroy. (Why yes, the Heirs DO remind me of the Borg.)
Some of what I love about this book is what I love about this whole series — the action, the adventure, the hot romance, the terrific world building, the powerful archetypes of good and evil, and the excitement of a group of interesting, diverse heroic characters working together. Although I said the Heirs remind me of the Borg, I could as easily have said the Galactic Empire; Rebel, in particular reminds me of The Empire Stikes Back (the best of the Star Wars movies, right?).
What I love about this book as distinct from the others has a lot to do with the central couple. While this is a world of instant sexual attraction, part of the way Zoe Archer writes romance in this series, Astrid fights against it in a way previous characters haven’t. She actively does NOT want a relationship, because she had a good one and it almost killed her when her husband died. (I loved that Archer didn’t need to denigrate Astrid’s first marriage in order to make her romance with Nathan seem right.) Also, Nathan is younger than Astrid — that isn’t a match that often works for me, but in this case, I was completely convinced that they were right together. Watching this couple form a partnership, watching them learn to trust each other and even to let each other go into danger, was really powerful for me.
In this book, unlike the previous ones, each of the two main characters is the rebel of the title; I think it’s fitting that this book shows the two of them on the cover, because they have a lot of work to do to make themselves a couple, far beyond the recognition and acceptance required of the couples in the previous books. Once they get it worked out, Astrid and Nathan are a formidable team, and it was a real joy for me to read about them in action.
These books are a lot of fun to read, too — again, like watching adventure fantasy movies. I suck at hierarchical thinking, so I have a terrible time picking “best” or “favorite” anything, but at least when I’m reading it, Rebel is my favorite book by one of my favorite authors.