Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Dark Lady's Chosen by Gail Z Martin

January 2010, Rebellion (Solaris)
608 pages, Paperback
Review copy


Cushions: 5
Daggers: 4
Paperclips: 1 (language infrequent but strong)
Smiles: 5
Tissues: 3
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Summary from Solaris

Treachery and blood magic threaten King Martris Drayke’s hold on the throne he risked everything to win. As the battle against a traitor lord comes to its final days, war, plague and betrayal bring Margolan to the brink of destruction.

Civil war looms in Isencroft.

Finally, in Dark Haven, Lord Jonmarc Vahanian has bargained his soul for vengeance as he leads the vayash moru against a dangerous rogue who would usher in a future drenched in blood.

Before I'd even read a single line, I already liked the book. Take a look at the cover - the costume design is fashionable, and gives me the feel that this could be a fantasy along the lines of some video games I enjoy. (It is!) Another cool feature is that fact that instead of being divided into parts, the book is divided into days. Most of the action happens within a week, which is another appealing point for me. It might sound a bit strange, but I enjoy stories which happen over a shorter period of time. I like the detail of the action, and can really get into the character's heads by following almost every little detail of their life.

Oh! Oh! Vampires! At least that's what the vayash moru sound like from the ways to kill them. Further reading confirmed this book includes vampires, spirits, shape-shifters and lots more. I'd started the book with an expectation of the story that got turned inside out as I read on. I love fantasy with a high focus on magic. I've recently become a fan of fantasy with vampires, werewolves etc. To have both play a significant role in Dark Lady's Chosen makes it a delight to read.

Any world which marks time by candlemarks is usually one I enjoy in a story. I'm not sure why that is the case. Additionally, what I liked (besides the whole story) is the fact that amon the major events going on, ordinary people's lives carry on. Love blooms, friendly teasing occurs; these finer parts of life add to the vibrant story.

Although magic didn't feature in all the scenes, it was pretty magical stepping into pregnant queen Kiara's shoes and being transported with the few people she trusted by sleigh to a hunting lodge. That type of setting is my kind of fairy tale (this book contains fairies of the fanged variety).

Surprisingly, despite having over five point of view (pov) characters I easily remembered what was happening. The number of subplots didn't overwhelm me or get confusing, which can sometimes happen in epic tales. Neither did starting this series part way through hamper my understanding. Small descriptions of background story are given at appropriate moments in the story.

Revenge is a great motivator for a character. I think having strong feelings for Carina meant that Jonmarch would happily lose his life, if hers could be saved. This led to me to have a strong attachment to Jonmarch before I reached the third page.I kept this sense of liking him throughout the story.

Carina's character touched my heart. Her predicament is as tough on her as her friends. They go the extra mile to make sure all her new needs are met. The level of esteem she is held in by society is shown by their actions to her: many of those she helped in the past stay by her house keeping vigil. I nearly bawled my eyes out when the ghost Raen solidified a little to comfort Carina. The future could be a bleak one. Somehow she finds the strength of will to live on in her new state. I like how Carina's actions at the beginning of the book occur again near the end. The sense of ritual reminds me what has changed for her over the story.

Kiara is a strong natured woman, with a practical outlook on life. She needs it in her position (see the next paragraph for details).

liked it that for different reasons both Kiara and Carina needed to rest, but both rested the bare minimum so they could remain involved in the action. Had they been weaker willed, both women could have just stayed in bed. The courage within them gained my symapthy and almost instant liking for both of them. Kiara is battling something as unusual as Carina. Most people don't have to deal with nearly constant assassination attempts while being queen and pregnant. That's excluding all the political goings ons of a court.

Tris, like Kiara, has a personality which makes him a fair, compassionate monarch. I like how being a king doesn't corrupt him. He is able to distinguish between the two sides of himself. There's Tris the man, who is a loving, devoted husband away from his beloved wife. And there's Martris the king, who has tough decisions to make. Tris even refers to himself in two ways, at least to Kiara

Characters which are armed to the teeth, as long as they aren't the antagonist, are ones I root for. As I reader I know that watching them fight will be enjoyable, and maybe a little entertaining if the enemy is overenthusiastic.

I didn't expect to see a shaman work among both humans and non-humans. It added a different feel to the story -a good one. I'll be remembering this book for a long time.

The enemies felt like a real challenge to the protagonists. It wasn't going to be a walk in the park to defeat them.
As well as all the heart in mouth and tissue moments, having the pov of the enemy provided light relief. It always amuses me when the antagonists sidekicks argue with each other or make mistakes that bring them under unwanted attention of their evil master. What I found even funnier was that even when dead the antagonists are arrogant and mouthy.

There are some parts which are a bit gruesome and had me going a bit pale, but the story is chock full of action, not all of the fighting kind.

It was quite an emotional read for me, not in a soppy way. At a crucial part I was mentally yelling 'no' at the book for 2-3 pages, and was so scared for a character thst I held a page too tight and there's now a 1 cm tear on the edge of the page. I've never had that happen before! I will try not to hold the book in a death grip at the height of an action scene again. Italso took me a minute or two to continue reading as one plot was wound up. I was so happy I burst i to tears.

With conspiracy theories, treachery, scheming and a case where arson saves a life, I can't honestly praise Dark Lady's Chosen enough. I certainly hope to get to read more in this fantastic series.

Details about this series can be found at Gail Martin's website.

If you like vampires and fighting, try My Heart Lies Bleeding by Alyxandra Harvey.

For a magic centred epic tale, try Threshold by Mary Douglas

No comments: