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Some years ago Elizabeth Vaughan wrote a fantasy trilogy. It was her first published work and was greeted with much acclaim not only by fantasy fans but also by a wider audience. The story of Keir of the Cat and his Warprize, Xylara (known as Lara), was entitled the Chronicle of the Warlands and it was an exceptional one and many people were sorry that the trilogy came to an end as they felt there was still plenty of mileage left in their story. However, Elizabeth Vaughan chose to write about other characters, still more or less in the same world she'd created, but excluding any mention of Keir and Xylara. Warcry is a story which it's claimed not only concludes the story of Heath and Atira but continues that of Keir and Xylara and I couldn't wait to read it.
Things are not well in Xy and there is a faction of dissident nobles plotting against Queen Lara and her warlord husband, Keir and danger is everywhere. Lara and Keir are returning to Xy as Lara is due to give birth to their first child. In their entourage are Heath, a childhood friend of Lara, and Atira of the Bear, a female warrior, both of whom get swept up into the political intrigue which is rife in the city state of Xy..
I absolutely loved the first three books in the Warlands series telling Lara and Keir's story but have found the subsequent spin-off books rather hit and miss but when I read that this particular title was being heralded as book four of the Chronicle of the Warlands and featured a return of Lara and Keir, I immediately put in my order with Amazon. However, I'm afraid I've been rather disappointed by this book on several levels.
Despite being trumpeted as being the fourth book in the Warlands series featuring Lara and Keir they're actuality only secondary characters in this story and the main action taking place centres around Heath and Atira, two characters who I felt were not really strong enough to carry the book. Heath is originally a city dweller, a childhood friend of Lara who he chose to accompany when she went into the Plains as the Warprize of Keir. During his time living on the Plains, he met and fell in love with Atira, a female warrior and part of Keir's army. Their story began in a previous book, Destiny's Star, in which they featured as secondary characters and where a relationship developed between them but cultural differences proved too much to overcome and though Heath would like to form a more permanent bond with Atira, she is reluctant to do so because she feels they are too different. Those differences are the main premise of this current story but are never really explored very deeply.
This was my first problem with this book. Heath just doesn't come across as being a particularly good catch for any woman; he's not overly masculine in his demeanour, not a bad thing in itself but neither is he very decisive and so, like Atira, I couldn't see the relationship working. The object of his affections, Atira, on the other hand, is a very macho sort of woman, rather along the lines of a Xena, warrior princess, only a lot more aggressive and a good deal less feminine. This is supposed to be a match made in heaven but I found that a man who spends a goodly part of the book behaving like a smacked puppy and a woman who seems to trample on his hopes and dreams at every opportunity are hardly the ideal couple.
Another problem I had was with the delivery of the story. In all three previous books of the Warlands series, the narrative was told in the first person from Lara's perspective. This book, however, is told in the third person, which allows everyone's point of view to be known, but also alters the dynamics of the series somewhat and making it a tad uneven into the bargain. There are several hints in the story that there will be more books in this series which are likely to feature Keir and Lara more strongly which makes this particular one more of a bridge between the last book in the trilogy and a return to the series, if that makes sense.
I don't want this to sound too negative a review because I can't say I hated the book as there was certainly enough action and political intrigue within the plot to keep me reading but there didn't seem to be enough emphasis on either Heath and Atira or Lara and Keir and this left the book rather lacking in focus and truth to tell, all the secondary characters were far more interesting than Heath and Atira, supposedly the main protagonists.
Anyone picking up this book would find it rather confusing because the author has assumed that readers are aware of much of the back story so it would definitely be wise to read the preceding three books: Warprize, Warsworn and Warlord before embarking on this one. They are excellent. As there were several hints throughout this book that there may yet be a fifth novel in the series and possibly even more and there are enough loose ends still to be tied up to make that a strong possibility, I hope that Elizabeth Vaughan will revert to telling the story in the first person with Lara as narrator and concentrate more on one or two main characters rather than spread the story too thinly between several.
For me, this was only a so-so read and even though I enjoyed catching up with Keir and Lara again, I still found it all a rather disappointing book not really worthy of being part of the Warlands series.