>> Tuesday, June 12, 2012
In a realm beset by natural disasters, only the magical abilities of the bonded Pairs—Source and Shield—make the land habitable and keep the citizenry safe. The ties that bind them are far beyond the relationships between lovers or kin—and last their entire lives…Whether they like it or not.When I started this, I was not quite sure what I was getting. I must have read a review some time ago to make me pick it up, but all I read before starting it was the blurb. I knew it was fantasy, and from the sound of the plot, I thought it would be a sort of traditional fated mates story (which I wasn't crazy about). It wasn't at all.
Since she was a child, Dunleavy Mallorough has been nurturing her talents as a Shield, preparing for her day of bonding. Unfortunately, fate decrees Lee’s partner to be the legendary, handsome, and unbearably self-assured Lord Shintaro Karish. Sure, he cuts a fine figure with his aristocratic airs and undeniable courage. But Karish’s popularity and notoriety—in bed and out—make him the last Source Lee ever wanted to be stuck with.
The duo is assigned to High Scape, a city so besieged by disaster that seven bonded pairs are needed to combat it. But when an inexplicable force strikes down every other Source and Shield, Lee and Karish must put aside their differences in order to defeat something even more unnatural than their reluctant affections for each other…
The setup reminded me a bit of some of JAK's Jayne Castle books. Earth colonists find another planet to settle in, but they find more problems than they'd expected and end up isolated. Their technology is useless in their new world, and after a while, some of them develop psychic abilities.
In this case, the problem is that they land in a world where natural catastrophes are frequent and devastating. But after a while, a small number of people start developing the capacity to detect those natural disasters as they are about to happen, and defuse them. Unfortunately, doing this blows their minds and they die, but then, after a while, another small number of people develop complementary abilities, and are able to shield the first group while they head off disaster, ensuring they're not killed.
The action of the novel is set centuries after that, and all sorts of traditions and bureaucracies have developed around Shields and Sources, including them functioning only as bonded pairs. Our narrator, Dunleavy is a Shield, and she's been trained in a special academy since a very early age. We meet her right before the ceremony where Sources and Shields who are not yet bonded are paraded before each other, to see if any pairs bond. Dunleavy is hoping for a particular source, a woman with a reputation for stability and calm. Instead, she bonds with Lord Shintaro Karish, a man with a reputation for being wild and charming and irresistible.
As I mentioned, this is not a typical fated-mates story. For starters, the bond is not a sexual or even necessarily emotional one. You could turn out to be bonded with someone you like and get along with fine, but you could also end up with someone you can't stand, just because your talents are compatible. And Moore doesn't sugarcoat the potential hell of having this sort of bond that you don't choose and you can't reject, as well as the problems that can arise. Clashes of personalities and temperaments, conflicting priorities, the unfairness of having the consequences of one person's actions fall on both... the lot. I thought that element of it was well done, and it was one of my favourite things about what was really a quite fresh and interesting world.
The issues between Dunleavy and Taro are not the worst we see, but to say they don't take to each other right away would be an understatement. Dunleavy, especially, seems determined to not warm up to Taro, no matter how many overtures he makes and how many times he demonstrates he can be trusted. She's decided based on his reputation that he is untrustworthy, and that is that. I found her quite frustrating, as you might imagine.
As I mentioned earlier, I liked the world-building, and I also liked the idea of the story. However, the execution of the actual story and characters weren't up to that standard. It's not just Dunleavy being bone-headed, it's also that the whole thing felt pretty shallow emotionally. For instance, there's a point when something really bad and huge and completely mysterious happens, and Moore just completely skims over the next few days, no real exploration of what really should have been a terrifying time. Loads of people she knows and likes have died, and yet Dunleavy doesn't seem to be particularly fussed. We're told she's sad, and all that, but it just doesn't feel real. And then they don't seem to spend much time trying to understand what happened. It's kind of like "oh, that was weird", but no real speculation, contrasting of how the event (which was felt on the psychic plane) felt to each of them, nothing like that. Maybe we're supposed to assume it happened off-stage, but that just didn't work for me. And this was how a lot of the second half of the book felt, it was very distancing.
Additionally, there's the issue of expectations. I was expecting fantasy romance (not sure if fairly or unfairly), but although there's a bit of a beginning of something here, and Moore even kind of sets up a love triangle for a while, there's no romantic tension at all, and I never believed any of these characters were attracted to the other.
Much as I liked the world here, I don't think I'll be continuing with this series.
MY GRADE: A C.