Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Dark Champion, by Kinley MacGregor [3]

***/***** (3/5)

Read this a while ago, adding the review now though --

Very enjoyable at times, but I thought the plotting suffered from the frequent shifts between: the Brotherhood history/Brotherhood background, the who-done-it assassinations, the tournaments, and the actual romance, all very jarring. I felt the novel lacked a seamless integration of so many of these plot threads, and it seemed like one plot thread was dropped and instantly resolved for another with little sense or logic.

The most entertaining portions of the novel involve Rowena & Stryder's belligerent interaction early on and then sprinkles of their growing love until the end. I really liked both lead characters, and fortunately enough, I didn't find the heroine to be this uncompromising, stubborn girl who will only accept her man on all of her terms or none at all, forcing him to give up everything he is or ever wanted to be -- plotting we find all too often in romance novels towards the end.

The blurbs are a good place to gauge the general story, but again, I felt there were too many other weak and insubstantial plot threads intermingled with the romance, handicapping the entire reading experience. Still I had too much fun with the romance to find too much fault with the novel as a whole, and I would definitely recommend this one.

The Story (briefly).

Beautiful Lady Rowena is an extremely gifted singer, and the heiress to rich and strategic lands for the King of England. Rowena spurns warriors, finding them little more than oafish barbarians. She resolves to marry someone of her own choosing, and never to marry a warrior. Rowena has lost her warrior father to a war and abhors fighting in general.

The King's champion Stryder is such a warrior, tall, dark and handsome of course. Stryder and Rowena meet at a tournament for troubadours and warriors and after discovering each other's identity, they hate each other. It was refreshing to read about a lead pair going at each other rather than just the heroine insulting and jabbing at the hero. Usually it's the heroine who puts the hero in his place verbally, while the hero is "intrigued," and counters with seduction. Not so in this case. Both verbally spar with each other and equally hate each other.

The King and Queen however hatch a devious scheme to marry Rowena with their champion Stryder. The King will allow her choice to marry only if she's able to teach and train Stryder the finer arts of entertainment. If Stryder is able to win the troubadour tournament under Rowena's tutelage, the King will grant Rowena's wish to marry whomever she wishes. Otherwise, the King will implant someone he trusts as Rowena's husband and gatekeeper of her rich lands. Either way, the King and Queen believe they win.

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