by Susan Grant, futuristic (2009)
HQN, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77361-9
The Warlord's Daughter follows the excellent Moonstruck. While I think this story can stand alone quite well, I'd suggest that you read the previous book first if you haven't done so because there are recurring characters that play a big part in the plot. Having read Moonstruck can only make it easier to appreciate this story. Oh, and given that I am not fond of repeating information when it comes to books in a series, I'd invite you to read the review of Moonstruck to get the lowdown on the setting and the events leading up to this story.
In this story, we meet Awrenkka e'Rakuu, the daughter of the now disposed Supreme Warlord of the Drakken Empire. The Drakken Empire is no more and the tatters of the Drakken civilization is at the mercy of the Coalition army, being forced to live in cramped and overcrowded camps while the Coalition powers-that-be try to figure out how to deal with them. Sounds like something you'd read in the newspapers today, no? Fortunately for Wren, her existence is a well-kept secret, being that the late Supreme Warlord didn't bother to acknowledge a mere daughter, especially a sickly short-sighted one at that. But with her father's death, Wren realizes that her safe existence is no more. She's now wanted by both the Triad for being a threat and the loyalists of the old Drakken Empire for her blood line. When her guardian dies while trying to get her to one of those Drakken camps in a distant planet, Wren will have to come out of her shell for the first time and, who knows, embrace her father's more savage side if she wants to survive.
Our hero, Aral Mawndarr, was a key traitor of the Empire that helped catalyzed events that led to the bloodless coup that ended the Empire. He did what he did not only because he was an idealist sickened by the tyranny of his father and the other powerful lords of the Empire, but also because he wanted to be free, in a way, to have Wren as his wife. It's a long story - you've best read the story yourself if you want to even try to understand how this fellow thinks. He soon locates Wren, but with a Triad crew hot on Wren's heels, he and wren soon find themselves in a space adventure with a roguish Han Solo wannabe in a quest to locate a holy place.
The plot is pretty busy and hard to summarize in a few paragraphs without giving away major spoilers, so I do apologize if the above synopsis feels disjointed. All I can say is this: this is a fabulous space adventure. If Moonstruck reminds me a taut and gripping Star Trek-type story, this one is like Star Wars, with chases and destiny-fulfilling quests and all. With great pacing, superb build-up, fabulous and well-realized world building, and likable characters, this one is one fun rollercoaster trip through space.
The biggest downside to this story is the romance between Aral and Wren. You see, I have a hard time understanding why Aral does the things he did in this story. For a guy chasing after a woman he met as a kid, the lengths he goes through seem pretty... obsessive, especially considering how little he knows of Wren. I also don't see the attraction Wren has for him. The romance is presented in a lukewarm "Yeah, yeah, they're in love, just accept that and move on!" manner. I find Aral's interactions with a long-lost sibling more interesting. I also find Wren's relationship with her guardian and her feelings about her parentage more well-developed than her feelings for Aral. These two characters have pretty well-developed personalities in their own right, but as a pair of lovers, their chemistry feels forced.
But The Warlord's Daughter is a very enjoyable story despite the flat romance, so this book is still alright with me.
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