Tuesday, November 6, 2012

THOUGHTS on "Lord's Fall" by Thea Harrison

Lord's Fall (Elder Races, #5)Lord's Fall by Thea Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lord's Fall by Thea Harrison

Thea Harrison's "Elder Races" series is set in an alternative earth, where the Elves, Fae, Witches, Wyr (which are like shapeshifters), Vampires, and Demons (including things like Djinn) make up what are referred to as the "Elder Races." The Elder Races are divided into demesnes, categorized roughly as above, whose central governing powers are based in (alternative versions) of urban centres such as New York (for the Wyr), Charleston (for the Elves), Houston (for the Demons) and San Francisco (for Vampires). The series kicks off with "Dragon Bound," in which Pia, our heroine, who just wants to keep her her head down and out of trouble, is blackmailed by her ex into stealing something from the Great Beast, Dragos Cuelebre, leader of all Wyr Kind. By the end of the book, Pia is thrust into an extremely high-profile position, being mated to the high-profile Dragos, with the worry that too many people will figure out her dangerous secrets. The ensuing books in the series focus on other high-level players in the world of the Elder Races.

"Lord's Fall" is the fifth book in Thea Harrison's "Elder Races" series, and it is a return to Pia and Dragos. I loved this book. It's tightly-written, the stakes are high, there are scenes of glory and tragedy, and there's lots of humour sprinkled throughout the book[1]. The external conflict is believably driven by the world-building and events from previous books, and the progress of internal conflict in the book is believable as well. The character's actions are understandable given their personalities and circumstances.

I'll talk about the external conflict first. The premise for the plot of "Lord's Fall" is two-fold: (i) Pia is headed to Charleston as a diplomatic envoy to the Elves, and (ii) Dragos is forced to stay in New York for the 'Sentinel Games', an event he is holding in order to find replacements for members of his sentinels. The wonderful thing about these premises is that they aren't random or stipulatory plot devices introduced solely to separate Pia and Dragos; they are the natural consequences of events introduced in previous books. In the first book, "Dragon Bound," Dragos breaks a treaty with the Elves when he crosses over Demesne borders in order to track down Pia; this is why Pia is on an diplomatic envoy. Book 2 "Storm's Heart" and Book 3 "Serpent's Kiss" each have as their hero, one of Dragos' sentinals. Both books result in the hero becoming mated to an individual with political affiliations that exclude the possibility of the hero remaining a sentinal, hence the necessity of the Sentinal Games. And finally, these plot premises compel the action towards a climax that ties in neatly with events from "Oracle's Moon" (Book 4).

As for the internal conflict and character development, I really loved how this was done. In PNR it's very often the case that the obstacles standing between the hero and heroine are due to stupid misunderstandings and murkily motivated actions on the character's parts. This is not at all the case in "Lord's Fall." The complexities in Pia and Dragos' relationships are completely understandable. Pia is 25 year-old half-Wyr who has just come into her power, Dragos is millenia of years old, has wielded influence over whatever he's wanted to for centuries, and has only had to pretend to be civilized when he wanted to. There's a huge power differential between them, and their mating has forced them into a position where they should be partners on an equal footing. Figuring out how they are going to interact as mates is not a trivial issue. One of the things I loved about this book is how Dragos and Pia are reasonable adults in how they approach these complexities. Although neither of them are pushovers regarding what they need from their relationship, they are honest with each other (and themselves) about why they take the actions they do.

This book made me like Dragos more than I did in book 1. In Book 1, Dragos was sometimes described as being clever, but I wasn't quite sure I believed it - he seemed like a rather standard PNR alpha male, whose brain reverts to a caveman mentality when it comes to interacting with their mate. But the way he was portrayed in "Lord's Fall" made me believe that he was clever. Now that he's mated to Pia and can't avoid the complexities associated with their emotional relationship, he shows that he's perceptive and clear-thinking when it comes to assessing their problems; he reflects on his actions when Pia disagrees with him, and independently comes to the conclusion that indulgence and tolerance are forms of autocracy, and that if he really wants their relationship to work, he needs to find a way to truly compromise. This book also made me like Pia more than I did in book 1. I like how she's tough, unwilling to back down when Dragos is domineering, and I also like how she's not stupidly stubborn about pushing at his domineering ways on principle; she can assess when pushing her case would worsen the situation and acts accordingly. I've also come around to appreciating how Pia is unashamed of (i) being somewhat girly (painting her toenails, and putting on makeup) and (i) being a non-predatory wyr surrounded by extremely powerful predatory wyr.

Final verdict? As you can probably tell, I loved it. My criteria for what I satisfies me in a book is that it should be funny, sad, gritty and grand (taking a quote form Vivian Vande Velde). This book definitely hits three of these criteria - it's funny, gritty and grand. There were also parts where the events that occur are objectively sad, but I didn't even mind that these didn't tug on my heartstrings. This is because I'm fairly certain they weren't supposed to, seeing as they were told from Dragos' rather callous/calculating point of view. "Lord's Fall" book wasn't completely perfect for my reading tastes though - for instance, didn't find Eva, introduced as a major secondary character, to be a very interesting character. Yet. And although the writing style is tight (in that there were no parts where I wondered "What is the point of this passage?"), I could only make this judgement after I re-accustomed myself to the liberal pop culture references[2].

-----Foot Notes------

[1] Although nothing as good as the "Snakes on a Plane" reference in "Serpent's Kiss." That was amazing.

[2] The reference to pop-culture bothered me when I first started reading the series. I still don't quite see the point of mentioning that their smartphones are iphones, or letting me know exactly which Tupac song is playing in the car. (Unless this is a hilarious reference to a terrible Samuel L. Jackson movie.) But everything else in the book is so good that I can ignore the pop-culture references after a while. Unlike the pop-culture references in J. R. Ward's BDB series, which annoy me to distraction.

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