Giveaway: Warrior, by Zoe Archer

When I was growing up, I was absolutely mad for awesome coming-of-age stories. The kind that stayed with me–the ones that I still have not forgotten, even today–are adventure stories. You know the sort. There’s an ordinary girl who lives what is otherwise an ordinary life, up until the point when she is snatched away by (take your pick) a trio of old women/a man in a desert cloak/an apparition from a dream. Thereupon she proceeds to kick ass and save her little brother/her country/the entire world. I’m sure many of you were right there with me, reading those books. Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword comes to mind, as do Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or Jane Yolen’s Dragon’s Blood. I grew up on those stories. I read them over and over and over and over, until the spines of the books cracked and entire pages fell out, not that it mattered, because I had those pages memorized anyway.

Warrior by Zoe Archer

And so if you want to understand why everyone seems to be buzzing about Zoe Archer’s upcoming Blades of the Rose series, it is because the books capture that same sense of magic and discovery in the books I adored as a young adult–except this time around, they’re for adults. They’re not coming of age stories, of course; they’re much deeper, with emotions that resonate with the person that I am now, instead of the thirteen-year-old I once was. But there’s still that same sense of magical discovery inherent in them, that feeling that at any time in my normal life, I might meet someone who will slip me a compass, and the next thing I know, I might be the person who runs off on a voyage of discovery.

So let me tell you about Warrior, which is the first book in the back-to-back-to-back-to-back series filled with awesomeness. It starts when Captain Gabriel Huntley, newly returned from Crimea, happens upon a group of men beating up another man in Southampton, England. Huntley isn’t sure what is going on or why–all he knows is that the odds don’t look good for the loner. And besides, he’s not ready to settle down on English soil, not after all those years of adventure.

So he intervenes, and gets more than he bargained for. Over the course of the fight, he sees things that aren’t possible. And at the end, when the person he has helped has no other choice, he’s given a mission: to deliver a message and a stylized compass to Mongolia.

No, not even inner Mongolia; that would be too easy. Outer Mongolia. And Gabriel, who is deeply restless and unready to simply marry a fine English woman and spend the rest of his life getting fat over pints of beer, decides to go. And that is where the story, so far mostly familiar, begins to weave its threads of adventure.

The magic of this story is that it takes you to the windswept steppes of Outer Mongolia, delivers on that same sense of breathless discovery that I remember and love, while still rendering everything accessible. I thought about this for a long time, trying to decipher what it was that made the story seem so different, and yet so instantly recognizable all at the same time. And what I decided was that while the setting is rare and the world that Zoe Archer builds is unique, there’s a real sense of universality to the story. When Gabriel meets Thalia, she’s used to wearing a native dress called a del–but because Gabriel is English, she dons a regular English costume…to hilarious effect. And most of all, it is her emotions that are achingly familiar.

For instance, when she first encounters him, she’s wearing an ill-fitting, ugly gown. When her father sees her, dressed as an Englishwoman for the first time in years, they have the following exchange:

“You look…”

“Hilarious,” Thalia supplied.

“Well, yes,” her father agreed. “But I was also going to say: lovely.”

And in that instant, it doesn’t matter that Thalia is something of an assistant Blade of the Rose living in Outer Mongolia, that her father knows secrets about magical things called Sources. Instantly, I understand the love and affection between them. Thalia’s the tomboy forced to play at dress-up. Without being told, I know that she’s going to ride fast, fight fiercely, and love with intensity. You know that she will lead you into adventure. It’s that same thread of human emotion that we recognize again and again in Thalia and Gabriel. Even though the book proceeds at breakneck speed across scenery that is larger than life, chasing prophecies, fighting off bands of mercenaries, running from with the villainous Heirs casting magic about that threatens their lives–throughout it all, Thalia and Gabriel remain people who we can identify with.

Near the end of the book, there’s a moment when Gabriel refuses to kiss Thalia. The scenery is new, but I still found myself getting just a little choked up right then.

Ultimately, that’s what makes this book so memorable. It’s not just that the scope of the story is sweeping. At the same time that Warrior takes you past monasteries and through magical outpourings of bright red flowers, it also tiptoes through territory that is both human and accessible. It precisely captures that feeling of magic that I remember so vividly from my childhood reading. And yet at the same time, it makes me feel so comfortable in Outer Mongolia that when the book ends, I’m surprised to lift my head up and discover that I’m still in my house, in the United States. For the space of a book, Zoe Archer makes Outer Mongolia feel as if it is truly my home. And that is dark magic indeed.

In any event, if you can’t tell, I am hugely excited about this book–and the rest of Zoe Archer’s series. I’m going to be giving away two copies of this book to commenters who answer the following question: Where would you like to see a romance set?

26 thoughts on “Giveaway: Warrior, by Zoe Archer

  1. So, I almost skipped this post, and this giveaway – largely because I am often resistant to trying new authors, especially paranormal ones, because they just don’t hold up to my beloved ones. [Two of which you mentioned in your opening bit on coming of age stories =)] But I didn’t skip (yay, procrastination), and now I am intrigued- to the point where if I don’t win, I am still going to have to hunt up this book. So thanks for adding to my TBR list, for helping me push the boundaries of my comfort zone. =)

    As for my contest entry, I think I would like to see a romance set in Imperial Russia or Japan during the height of Samurai culture. Both of them have incredibly romantic aspects and huge social problems. I imagine that makes it harder for you authors to write a successful story set there, but when you do they frequently end up on my keeper shelf!

  2. I’ve heard so many good things about Zoe Archer’s new series. I also don’t usually read paranormal but these sound great!!

    I’d love to see a romance in Rome during the times of the Templars. I was really intrigued by Angels & Demons, and National Treasure, and think that would make an interesting setting.

  3. I am seriously looking forward to this story, and actually plan to stop and buy a copy on the way home tonight (no need to enter me).

    Your question interested me though and I came here to see how other people responded to it. I would actually just love to see more romances set in non-traditional places. There are so many options available, and invariably when someone does choose a distinct setting (or mythology in paranormals) I am always excited about it.

  4. I have heard so much buzz Warrior that I cannot wait to read it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Regency/Victorian romance settings, but I love when I get to go on an adventure to someplace else.

    I would like to see a romance set Australia during the 1800’s. Australia is mentioned as the place where they transport convicts but I’m sure there is a Hero or two waiting to have there story told. It just seems like such an interesting place.

  5. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Zoe’s series, so I want! I want!

    In terms of where I’d like a story set: Austro-Hungarian empire, late 1800s. I may just end up writing it myself. :)

    After reading the other comments, I’d have to second theirs, too.

  6. I’m intrigued by this series. I’d like to see more books set in turn-of-the century 1900s and more books set in early America–there were lot more American set historicals in the 1980s or so, and I miss them. I’m also intrigued by Turkey, so I’d love to see it as a setting.

  7. I’m waiting for a good contemporary set in Nashville on Music Row. Not one of the “aw shucks ain’t we country” books, or even a “music industry steals souls” book, but something reflecting the urban/ rural/ sophisticated/ international/ small town/artistic vibe of my neighborhood.

  8. I like stories set in far-off places, and I love writers who can take us there and completely engross us in new settings.

    I was going to say China, but Jeannie Lin’s going to cover that, and pretty well, I think. :) So I’m going to hop over a little and say Japan, the other Asian country of my heart.

  9. I really like when they take place in cities or countries I dream of someday getting to visit. Almost makes me feel like I have gotten to go early. So I would say most countries in Europe and Sidney.

  10. I would love to read something set in South America–I loved “A Company of Swans” because of the descriptions of Manaus.

    I would also love to see something set in the Pacific Northwest during the mid-1800s (all those games of Oregon Trail I played as a kid left their mark).

    And is it too weird to admit that I want to read a good romance set in the early days of Massachusetts? Puritans had it goin’ on, y’all.

  11. I had the privilege of moderating the RWA panel “Beyond Britain: writing, Selling and Promoting Unusual Historicals” in Orlando. Zoe was part of the panel and I have been anxious to get my hands on this book ever since.

    I’ll be in town tomorrow, maybe a(nother) trip to Borders is in order.

    Gilded Age America — all those rich people! Fabulous clothes. Incredible jewels. Strong alpha men. Reform minded women. Exciting times!

  12. I would say South Africa. I can’t wait for Carrie Lofty’s November 2011 release Flawless. It’s too far away!

  13. Any place I’d like to see one set, one has already been set! And hey, I’m not complaining :-)
    I am so excited to read this series!

  14. I’ve been excited about this series since I first heard about it months ago. I love the exotic settings and the adventure, it all sounds wonderful. Where would I like to see a romance set? Maybe the Australian outback or somewhere in Turkey, something really different that I don’t remember seeing before.

  15. I want to see a romance set during ancient Egypt. The political intrigue and customs would make for an interesting read.

  16. I can’t think of anywhere – kinda lame. Setting doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me unless it’s a particular setting I don’t like or it seems like the unusual setting is taking over the story. I’m generally more interested in who the characters are.

    If contemporaries count, I’ve been interested in Italian set contemps ever since I read Lisa Marie Rice’s Port of Paradise. Historicals are more my thing, but what can I say . . . Italian men. :)

  17. For those commenters looking for Australian set historicals, have you read Night in Eden by Candace Proctor? That’s a good one.

  18. I love romances set anywhere outside of Europe, but it comes with a stipulation: at least one of the main pair must be a native. Preferably both, but I know I can’t afford to be choosy. Having two foreigners adventuring in strange lands always feels like they’re going on safari or a tour. And it seems to me that the author has passed up the perfect avenue to really bring that native culture into the story, by highlighting the residents and getting into their heads.

  19. I hope I’m not too late! I’m pratically drooling over this book waiting for it to hit the shelves – I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

    What SylviaSybil said; I really would love to read a story set outside Europe and/or the USA. I really want to see a contemporary adventure set somewhere in Africa or India.

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