Razzle Dazzle

Runaway Bay

To Marry an Irish Rogue

 
Immortal Warrior by Lisa Hendrix
(Berkley, $6.99, PG-13)  ISBN  978-0-425-22454-0
****
When the new Norman king gifts Ivar de Vassy with land and a wife, he is both thrilled and terrified. For Ivar, who by every dawn shifts into the form of an eagle, this means more stability than he has known in centuries.  Years before, his war-leader, Brand, had killed the son of a powerful witch. Cwen, in turn, cursed Brand and his men to spend half of their now-immortal lives in animal form.  Unfortunately, a holding of any kind also means that Ivar will be under constant watch from other people, most of whom will find his daily habit of disappearing until nightfall a little out of the ordinary.

Not only loathe to disobey the king he is serving for the time being, the idea of a home and a handy woman are very dear to him after so many years of roaming.

Ivar will quickly discover, however, that Alaida of Alnwick is anything but a simpering bride.  Quick-tempered and clever, his new wife, though not surprised by the turn of events, is nonetheless bitter.  Her grandfather, the previous lord of the land, wastes away in a royal prison for treason.  Trust and caring are slow to come, especially when her groom keeps disappearing and leaving her to stand on her own.

A terrible vision of the curse passing to their offspring calls a halt to Ivar's trips to Alaida's bed, making the wall behind them higher and driving suspicion into the hearts of Ivar's wife and the servants and men of Alnwick. When Ivar discovers Alaida is pregnant, however, he is both joyful and terror-stricken.  Now, though he can once again close the distance between himself and his bride, he must find a way to break his terrible secret to her--and, if even remotely possible, save their child from suffering the same fate.

Okay, so most of this book details the day to day life of a medieval domain.  However, Hendrix handles it brilliantly, and readers will not find it the slightest bit dull.  This book, though technically a fantasy, is primarily about the historical, and the author has a fine eye for detail -- perhaps even some details that will kill some of the romance for finicky readers.

I often find it hard to relate to the characters of historical novels, especially the well-written ones; the 21st-century woman just cannot grasp the ordeals of her 18th- or 16th- or 12th-century sisters.  However, though well aware of the rites and rigors of the day, Alaida and Ivar are so human in both their flaws and their joys that readers will almost instantly empathize with them.

The fact that Ivar changes into an eagle during the day is really a secondary issue; it could be taken simply as a metaphor for the problems any relationship, especially a young one, could suffer.  Yes, his ability to shapeshift is the foundation of his character, and half of the story.  But the plotline itself focuses more on the lack of communication between hero and heroine and the small ways each finds to better compromise, even when tempers are high and stubbornness rears its head.

It's not often you'll find a romance with a hardcore moral to the story, but you'll find one in Immortal Warrior Though this book will stand alone just fine, I believe readers will look forward to the second in the series, due out in the summer.

--Sarrah Knight


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