|Dark Warrior is a well-written and engaging medieval tale that holds plenty of surprises, evil and good, friendships and hatreds and a wonderful love story. The plot works because of the beliefs and power of the Church at the time.
Decimus is a lord and a powerful man, who brings heretics to "justice" for the Church. He rules by fear and is known for the tortures that anyone who crosses him endures. His nemesis is known as the Dark One. A man, or being, who travels by night, totally masked and wearing black, rescuing the innocent from the dungeons and hiding them from Decimus. He has helped many and while none know who he really is, all swear to protect him.
Decimus is said to have taken and killed a teacher of "heresy" many years ago and his daughter was saved and hidden by a warrior named Magnus, known as the Legend. (This warrior was the hero of Legendary Warrior). Magnus swore to protect this child, Mary, and has been in league with the Dark One to keep her safe. But now, 10 years later, Decimus is determined to find Mary and wed her. He hopes to show all that he can reform a sinner and make her righteous.
Mary has grown into a lovely young woman. She has lived in a little village in Ireland, learning to love and care for people. She remembers her parents as caring and kind and her father as brave and courageous. Mary is captured and placed in the dungeon. She has not come face to face with Decimus yet, but his men roughed her up and bruised her throat to the point that she cannot talk. Mary goes with the Dark One, who calls himself Michael, when he shares that Magnus has sent him. On their journey, Mary and Michael come to love each other. Because Mary cannot talk, they learn to communicate in other ways and find a connection with each other. They share parts of their histories and discover that they share similar tales. Mary's parents were killed by Decimus. Michael's mother and sister were killed for their beliefs. Michael has vowed to seek revenge and protect as many of the innocent as he can.
Michael's plan is to get her to safety. But he discovers that Decimus is threatening Magnus and his new wife if Mary does not turn herself in and agree to marry Decimus. Mary refuses to let anyone suffer in her name, so she agrees. A seer tells her that Decimus is her destiny and she will be his demise. Mary is determined to see that happen.
Fletcher has written an interesting tale that involves intrigue, hidden meanings, and clandestine meetings with nothing being what it seems. The love between Michael and Mary is romantic, sexual, and full of caring and sharing. They break through the barriers built up around their hearts and while they feel their love must be unrequited, they are determined to enjoy it while they can. Mary never loses hope and enlists the help of Magnus and his friends to help her.
Michael is a wonderfully dynamic character who jumps off the page, yet is stealthy and deeply secretive. He opens himself yet struggles with his vow to protect the innocent. Mary is strong, brave and courageous. She is determined to have her way, yet also recognizes her limitations. She is intelligent and acts like it, knowing when to be demure and when to state her objections. Decimus is somewhat of a caricature of evil, yet there is reason. The characters from previous stories add to the intricacies of the plot, and not having read their story did not detract from understanding their involvement in this one.
There is much to be discovered in this story and much that cannot be put into this review without destroying the reader's enjoyment of this book. There is little of actual history and the year the story takes place is not truly established. Yet the essence of the time and the beliefs and naiveté of the people sets the time in the middle ages. Accepting this is crucial for the story to be believable.
Dark Warrior was a riveting and engaging story from the start. The depth and strength of the characters carry the action. The love story is engaging and written so that I feel these two are like old friends that I will want to revisit time and time again. That defines a keeper for me.