Shield of Fire begins in the middle of the action: at an abbey where Ravyn is being attacked by the Bane of the title, but we are not bombarded with information which might be confusing. On the contrary, in many ways it is a story we’ve all read before: Ravyn is, at least at first, the damsel in distress who needs the big, brave man to come and save her.
Ravyn’s character develops pretty quickly in the process of the novel, but this doesn’t feel rushed: she just seamlessly adapts from a sheltered, child-like girl into a mature woman who is in charge of her own destiny. In the end, I am happy to say that, in between having to be saved by the hero and saving a ship-load of men almost single handed, Ravyn becomes a pretty kick-arse heroine.
Other characters are interesting as well: although Ravyn is the focus of the story, we get to see into other characters’ heads. Icarus, for example, who is a villain of the piece (we find that out pretty quickly so it’s not a spoiler, don’t worry) is really thought-provoking. He is a typical villain in many ways, but his ability to empathise is one we more often see in heroines/heroes, so it was a change to see a ‘bad guy’ with the skill and that, along with other things, definitely made me want to find out more about the character. Luc, the heroes best friend, is charming and drives the romantic plot of Shield of Fire along, but it’s obvious that his main function is being set up as the hero in the next book in the series.
And now we come to Rhys, our hero. You would perhaps think that he is one of the first people I would like to talk about but, alas, he is one of the aspects of the story that falls victim to cliché. He is handsome, brave and there is not much else to say about him apart from that he has an annoying propensity to hold Ravyn at arms length to ‘protect’ her. There is a bit of a reveal about him towards the end of the book, but I hadn’t really worked up the connection with him to make me care about it. I might even go so far as to say that Rhys is there mainly to help Ravyn develop into herself. They have a good flow of banter between them.
‘Are you trying to comfort or torment me?’
‘Sweet talk has always eluded me.’
and things that Rhys says often influence Ravyn to do something she wouldn’t otherwise have done.
The plot, although it was nothing startlingly new, kept me turning pages until the end. One of the things I found most interesting about the story was the world it took place in. I often find world-building bogs me down in a book, but in Shield of Fire we were offered just the right amount of information to prevent us from being confused. I do, however, have one issue with the world-building, which may be more my fault than the author’s. Although the novel has historical aspects, there were many instances in which the speech contained modern Americanisms including ‘Upside your head’, ‘crush’ and reference to ‘cent’. This could be explained by the fact that the novel is also fantasy, but I have to admit that the mixture of modern America and what appeared to be medieval Europe didn’t really work for me, personally.
I was pleasantly surprised by Shield of Fire. The story sounded interesting from the start but I was somewhat worried about how it would be delivered: my fears were mostly unfounded however. Although there were elements of the novel that were slightly clichéd, the author kept it fresh by implementing a fantasy world that is well-explained, and – for the most part – credible. The only real complaint I have with the world-building is the frequent use of modern Americanisms in what is described as a ‘Historical fantasy romance’. I will definitely be reading the next in the series, as the author has already piqued my interest with her depictions of the characters. Overall, this was an enjoyable, quick read that refreshes an old story successfully. I enjoyed the fact that Ravyn was not ruled by any romantic feelings she might have had for the hero and made her own decisions and her own destiny.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
Shield of Fire
Kiss of the Betrayer
Chain of Illusions (Nov 2013)
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