Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Moira J. Moore - Resenting the Hero

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.
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…

Comment: I had this book in the pile for 12 years. I wrote down with a pencil the date on the inside cover of the book just so I knew and now, I finally picked it up. Although I liked some things, the overall effect wasn't one I ended up loving...

In this fantasy world, some people have powers to control natural disasters, namely those who are Sources (they control the forces) and the Shields (who can help the Source to maintain control). Sources and Shields have to make a bond, which lasts for their whole lives, and how they come to be partners follows very strict rules of conduct and usually Sources and Shields cannot mix in case they can bond by chance, something not desirable. 
Dunleavey - Lee - Mallorough is our heroine and she is a very practical young woman, only wanting to do her job well, meaning she wishes for a good match in her Sourse. However, she is paired with lord Shintaro Karish, a known aristocrat, and she fears her life will be all but stable and professional... at least until something weird starts to happen to bonded pairs and Lee and Karish are the only ones left to find out what's going on...

Reading the blurb of this book made me think of two things: people had to work as bonded pairs  - it reminded me of the mates idea in shape shifter stories - and Lee and Karish would be at odds with each other, making their relationship perfect for this to be a enemies to lovers trope, which I tend to enjoy.
Then, one has to look at that cover (it seems most readers dislike the art work in all the covers of this series, not just of this first book) and how not to imagine right away this would fall into the fun or comedy side of things? My mind supplied the rest, romance, adventure.. I obviously created some expectations on what the book would be like.

At first, I was quite happy with the way the story was going, we start by having information on the world and why the existence of bonded pairs, I could see this would be a key element in the development of this story but I kept expecting the lighter/fun side of things to be a bit more obvious than what was being said. However, the book is entirely told by Lee, we only have her POV on everything, which can make things too limited but if her voice were to be a good one, this wouldn't matter.

Sadly, if there was one part of this book I feel wasn't a good decision was definitely the characterization of Lee. I thought she was serious and wanted to keep everything professional and I kind of liked that. I figured the challenge would be for her to enjoy life, to see the good side of having a bond with someone different and that they would learn to work together. They would slowly start liking one another or respecting/trusting one another professionally so that their personal relationship would become better too and, at some point, perhaps they could be more than professional partners, even if not already in this book.

This was not the path taken by the author. Lee was judgmental, rather too reserved, lacked sympathy towards others who weren't as stoic as she was and she never got to go past the initial opinion of Karish. This wasn't a case of thinking he was careless and learning otherwise; she never gave him a chance to be her true partner, only being in his company when necessary and only at the very end of the book, when all the plot related issues had been more or less solved, did she admit she liked him after all, but no serious conversation happened between them. It can be said Lee is naive and has to develop skills that allow her to be a better judge of people but I confess I felt annoyed by her attitude.

I feel a little disappointed, not only because what I thought would be the path for the series isn't so, but because the cover induced me to think this would be more along the "cute" label and it isn't so either. I know sometimes cover can be misleading but this one is so...specific, I was quite discouraged by the decisions the author made, which don't seem to match the idea marketed.

As for the plot, there were interesting ideas debated in relation to bonded pairs and the need to have them... I don't think this book was as well done as it could so this aspect wasn't explained well, since we only have one character's POV, all things are filtered by her and if she isn't a good enough narrator, what can we expect... so, in terms of writing, I don't think the plot was presented in the best way for it to be fully meaningful.

There is a twist close to the end which wasn't such a surprise, although it was a bit confusing why Lee didn't see it, her naivete is clearly part of the intentions, because at the end, in the chapter where all is explained, Lee admits this but I don't think she had to be that naive. The villain is a villain because bad happens were planned and done but the actual motivation seemed quite justifiable, to be honest.. or I didn't pay enough attention to all details or the reason for the villain's plan wasn't that bad. Only that people died and such made it so, I truly would have liked that idea to be more important in the series.

This book has good elements and I did want to see what would happen, how the problems would be solved. But at some point it was a chore to endure Lee's POV so, since she is always the narrator, I won't continue. I've read plenty comments by other readers on the following books and that is enough to give me an idea of where this is going.
Grade: 5/10

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