I came into Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose series courtesy of the fine ladies at Smart Bitches Trashy Books, when they chose the second book of the series as a book club read. Pretty much right out of the gate I wanted these books, and I'm not ashamed to admit that a big part of that was because of the covers on Books 1 and 2. First and foremost, I want to thank whoever did the cover art! Gabriel on the cover of Book 1, I'm not ashamed to say, totally slew me for looking like he stole Indiana Jones' outfit, and even aside from that appealing to my fangirl sensibilities, I just found it such a refreshing change from a lot of the shirtless, overmuscled guys on the covers of romance and paranormal romance these days.
Happily, the book itself also proved to be quite enjoyable. Warrior, as the opening book of a series, has the task of setting up the world for us, and it does a nice strong job of doing so by giving us our hero, Gabriel, drawn into saving a man's life in a brutal attack. The man he tries to rescue dies, but not before begging Gabriel to take a message--and a mysterious compass--clear around the world to Mongolia.
Gabriel, you see, has stumbled into the ongoing conflict between two factions at war over magical Sources, artifacts all over the globe which are so named for being the repositories of great power. The Heirs of Albion are bent on securing these Sources for the greater glory of the British Empire, so that Britain might take over the world. Pitted against them are the Blades of the Rose, sworn to avoid using any magic save that which is theirs by gift or by right, and to keep all Sources safe in the hands of their rightful people.
And the man Gabriel has to take the dire message to? He is of course a Blade, living in Mongolia with his daughter Thalia, who is naturally afire with the ambition to follow in her father's footsteps. Neither want to embroil Gabriel in their affairs, but Gabriel won't be put off easily. He has after all come all the way from England at the behest of a dying man. Also, Thalia is awfully, awfully hot.
It's a nifty worldbuilding concept, and Archer has great fun with it, setting up an engaging blend of period adventure and supernatural activity that hearkens indeed back to the aforementioned Indiana Jones as well as the Mummy movies with Brendan Fraser. As these are in fact paranormal romance novels, you do have the obligatory blazing chemistry between the lead characters and more than one sex scene in which they indulge it--but for once, my tastes in such things are actually pretty in line with what a romance novel has to offer with that. Archer's very good at giving her female leads strong sexual agency, and the sense of equality between her heroines and heros is awesome both within and outside of romantic contexts.
In this particular story, as she's been brought up in Mongolia, Thalia is very much afraid that a man from her native Britain will expect her to behave like a proper British lady--and she's delighted to discover that Gabriel, as a commoner and a foot soldier, is just as happy that she's anything but. The two of them must set out to find and protect the Source the Heirs are targeting, and along the way, have themselves quite the adventuresome ride. There's a bit too much obvious pointing at characters who are destined to have their own installments as the series progresses, and a bit too much simplistic motivation on the part of the bad guys. But all in all this was fun and it made me quite interested in continuing with the series. Three stars.