What Makes a Warprize: A Review

Warprize (2011)
Written By: Elizabeth Vaughan
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Pages: 340 (Kindle)
Series: Chronicles of the Warlands Book 1
Publisher: Berkley

Why I Chose It: It was described as Fantasy Romance, and I’m a sucker for romance in my fantasy. Also the woman on the cover reminded me a lot of Kahlan from The Sword of Truth television show. And to be completely honest, I caught it on a day the ebook was free, so I thought, what the heck?

Premise:

The daughter of a Warrior King, Lara was trained as a healer. With her father dead and her incompetent half-brother on the throne, the kingdom is in danger of falling to warring Firelanders. Unable to depose her sibling or negotiate peace, Lara serves her people by healing the warriors — on both sides of the conflict — who are injured in battle.

Lara finds herself educated in her enemy’s language and customs in return for her attention and compassion. She never expects that her deeds, done in good faith, would lead to the handsome and mysterious Firelander Warlord demanding her in exchange for a cease-fire. To save her land and her people, Lara trades her freedom to become the Warprize.

Minor spoilers ahead.


Discussion: Here’s the thing, I like romance. No, I love romance. Especially Fantasy Romance. I think I was the only one in the world who was a little disappointed that there wasn’t even a hint of a love interest in Brave. However, any number of things can ruin a good love story, and unfortunately this had a ton of them.

Lara is a princess, sister to the King, who doesn’t seem to like her very much. When barbarian conquerors attack her city, her brother gives her to the enemy as the Warprize, making her believe she’s going to be some sort of sex slave. I know what you’re thinking, but this really wasn’t a smutty book. There was one moment when I thought it was going to be when he tosses her over his shoulder and puts his hand on her butt so she knows “he won’t tolerate disobedience.” And with this kind of premise, it could go one of two ways: kinky or sweet. But aside from the butt incident, and one slightly awkward sex scene, Vaughan was definitely trying to pull off sweet. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between sweet and annoying.

The entire conflict was based on a misunderstanding, a lie that her brother told her. The whole book could have been avoided if the hero and heroine had just talked to each other or if Lara had bothered to open her eyes and look around for one second. Or if she’d strung two thoughts together at all. I didn’t like Lara all that much. Maybe I just don’t like books where most of the tension comes from the main character not knowing what’s going on. Usually that means I have no idea what’s going on either, and therefore, I have more frustration than interest in the story. But in this case, it was so glaringly obvious that Lara believed something that wasn’t true that it made her come off as dumb. Seriously, girl, all you had to do was ask a couple questions.

That blind acceptance was probably my main problem with the book. It was clear almost from page one that the barbarian conquerors were not the violent brutes she was convinced they were, and that she wasn’t anything like a sex slave (hint: there has to be sex involved to be a sex slave). Yet it took three quarters of the book for her to learn what the word Warprize actually meant. Even then, she didn’t ask, she just plugged along under her assumptions until someone else bothered to correct her. For someone who is touted throughout the book as being smart and fierce and brave, Lara spent most of the time acting dumb and meek. As evidenced by the fact that she continues to be terrified of a man who has only ever shown her kindness, and that she never questions her brother who she’s already admitted hates her.

Speaking of her brother, can we talk for a second about bad guys with literally no motivation beyond insanity and jealousy? He’s at least ten years older than her, has always been acknowledged as the next king by their father, and yet he is jealous enough of his sister that he hates her and is driven to humiliate and eventually try to murder her. Could he be anymore boring? And it’s totally okay that the good guys kill him first because he was insane and obviously had it coming. Putting aside the whole mental illness aspect of it, I don’t find the insanity explanation all that compelling compared to people who can rationalize their actions and the things they do to the main character.

Of course, even when her family deserts her, Lara has all these big strong men who are instantly drawn to her and want to protect her. Men who can’t stop bullying her into eating, or who carry her everywhere. Yeah, I get it. It’s a romance. Put the girl down already, she has legs. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not attracted to men who treat me like a child. I’ll give Vaughan the benefit of the doubt and say she wanted it to seem like Keir was taking care of a treasure, but treasure too often feels like possession. There are plenty of other books that do this right. The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop was the first one that came to my mind. I think the tenderness demonstrated in The Black Jewels series works so well because it balances the power and aggression shown by both the men and the women the rest of the time. The whole point for the first three quarters of Warprize was that Lara had no power. And Keir was your basic too-good-to-be-true romance hero with an overprotective streak. Not the same thing at all.

In Conclusion: I usually try to find something good to say even if I hated a book, but I disliked Lara so much and didn’t give a rat’s ass about Keir that it took sheer stubbornness to finish reading. Maybe if I’d gone into it knowing that it was a slow sweet romance without a lot of fantasy elements or tension, then I would have been more forgiving. And there are quite a few books in the series now. Maybe this is the kind of series that grows on you.

2 Comments

  • Weasel of Doom January 9, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Ouch! “Put the girl down already, she has legs” is officially my favorite review blurb of 2018 🙂

    Reply
  • Lane Robins January 9, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Yeah, I love romance in my fantasy, but this doesn’t sound like it’s got the beats right for me. Put the girl down, indeed.

    Reply

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