Note: This is a late review from my 2010 book log, posting as I’m trying to get caught up. The 2011 book log will commence once the 2010 reviews are up to date!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stranger, Book 4 of Zoe Archer’s “Blades of the Rose” series, is hands down my favorite of the lot–in no small part due to the awesomeness of its hero, Catullus Graves. I was afraid he wouldn’t live up to the buildup he got in previous books, but I was happy to discover I was wrong. Sure, he’s a romance novel hero and therefore in many ways is a very typical one: i.e., he’s hot, he’s a competent fighter, and such. But what really sells him for me is his intellect; scientifically inclined heroes for the major, major win! And like many a nerd in real life, Cat’s got his issues talking to women, so I found him quite endearing as he established his relationship with our heroine, reporter Gemma Murphy.
I liked Gemma just about as much as I did Cat, since she was adept at finding the right things to say to draw him out of his reclusive shell. They actually talk quite a bit during the course of the plot, and because of this, they come across to me beautifully as genuinely liking each other as people, above and beyond the obligatory percolation of each other’s hormones. In other words: my favorite kind of chemistry!
Plus, partial I am to tales involving Celtic mythos, I have to give this book props for having Cat and Gemma have to venture into Faerie. There’s some nicely creepy stuff there, and that whole sequence would have fit well in any fantasy novel. Not quite as awesome for me was this book’s choice of “monster”, but on the other hand, you can hand-wave that if you remember that the “monster” is supposed to be more the “villains’ perception of what he should be” rather than a straightforward lifting of his mythos. (Which is all I’ll say about that, lest I delve into spoilers.)
While I’m sure this is not the last of the Blades books, this does neatly tie off the story arc begun in the earlier ones. Thus this is not a good place to start if you want to check out the series. There’s followup here with the lead characters from Book 3, as they’re still critical to resolve the ongoing crisis with the Heirs of Albion, and we do see a bit more of the leads from Books 1 and 2 as well, making this much more of an ensemble cast affair than the previous installments. I found that apt, given that this was the Big Final Crisis of the arc. The villains overall were still kind of flat for me, but perhaps due to this being the end of the arc, the main villain at least felt like he had a bit more to bring to the table. All in all, fun stuff. Four stars.