Berkley Sensation, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-24152-3
Fantasy Romance, 2011
Lord and ladies, all hail Keir, Warlord of the Plains, Overlord of Xy, and Xylara, Queen of Xy, Warprize… and Master Healer.”
There are times when I wonder whether Ms Vaughan has ever wished that she could turn back time and name her heroine something else that isn’t “Xylara, Queen of Xy, Warprize… and Master Healer”.
Warcry is the fourth book in Elizabeth Vaughan’s Chronicles of the Warlands series, but it has a self-contained plot that serves more like an epilogue to the previous three books in the series. The synopsis in the back cover suggests that the focus of this book is on a pair of characters that play secondary roles in the previous books, but the real focus is still on Xylara and Keir. This may be good or bad news depending on how enamored you are of that couple. If you are new to the series and you are curious about the history of Lara and Keir, feel free to take a look at my review of Warprize.
Where the previous three books left off, Keir and Xy are happily married and painting colors in the wind. But with Lara heavily pregnant, these two and an entourage take off to Xy. To those new to the series, Xy is a city while Xylara is the queen, so let’s not try to confuse these two. At any rate, not everyone in Xy is happy with these two, so these villains plot to welcome Xy and Keir with a homecoming they will never forget. In the entourage are our hero, Heath of Xy, and our heroine Atira of the Bear. Like Keir, Atira is from the plains, running down hidden pine trails and crying to the blue corn moon. Like his spiritual sister Lara, Heath is a former bloke from the city who embraced the ways of the Plains. Heath loves Atira but she refuses to be controlled by a man so she’d not accept any relationship with him that goes beyond a romp in bed. This is the sole conflict between Heath and Atira that stretches the entire story because the rest of the story is devoted to the plot against Lara.
As a result, Heath and Atira are flat one-dimensional characters with very little depths beyond being devoted members of the Lara + Keir fanclub. Poor Atira has to keep telling Heath no, so she comes off as a bit of a shrill shrew with an overzealous “I don’t need any man!” stance. Worse, poor Atira waves her fists and bares her teeth often, spoiling for a fight all the time, but when she has her opportunity to shine, she goes down for the count against some loser villain and has to be rescued by Heath. How embarrassing for that darling!
Still, Warcry will still do if the plot to take down Lara is interesting. But the villains are very obvious, the main characters spend more time explaining things to each other for the sake of letting the reader catch up, and the playing field is stacked against the villains as Lara is surrounded by friends and allies while the villains are completely incompetent. There are also scenes that have me scratching my head. For example, after an attempted attack on Heath and friends, Heath and Atira retire to his room (Atira is playing his bodyguard). Atira, the sharp one, wants to open the window because she is not used to sleeping in a room, and Heath sensibly tells her that the open window will give the villains a nice way to finish off what they started. But then Heath decides that the room is really uncomfortable so he brings Atira with him to sleep in the great wide open, and then they proceed to… you know. What happened to being careful again? In this story, some of the decisions made by Lara and other principle characters seem to be for the sake of allowing conflict than anything else.
Warcry is a regression after the author’s Epics of Palins trilogy, and it is better off read by fans of Lara and Keir who want to spend a little more time with these characters. There is not much here to recommend this book to everyone else.