Title: Guardian of Honor
Author: Robin D. Owens
Series: The Summoning #1
Alexa is still mourning the death of her friend and partner in law, Sophie, when the call comes and spirits her away to another world. Lladrana is a world under siege by dark forces, protected only by the magical fenceposts that form a barrier around the country. A failing barrier, these days. Alexa is supposed to fix that. She’s supposed to be Llandra’s savior, the hopes of all Marshalls realized—but she doesn’t have any idea how. And Alexa doesn’t care for the Marshalls and their attempts to define and manipulate her.
I liked this, although it’s best read as a light fantasy-romance. The imagery is strong, and I like the ties to color and music in the working of magic. Alexa’s natural proficiency with magic tends to be balanced in her horrendous grasp of the local language (and I appreciate the fact that she has to learn it, and that she never quite manages to lose her accent). My favorite character is probably Luthan. His abrupt switch from honorable dislike to familial friendliness towards Alexa disorients both Alexa and his brother Bastien. And he tries his best to nudge things along, even when his brother protests the end game.
The bulk of the novel is more about Alexa’s conflict with the Marshalls than Alexa’s confrontations with the creatures of darkness. And that’s good, because the Marshalls are both infuriating and necessary, and Alexa has to figure out how to integrate without succumbing to the same traps of thinking they’ve fallen into. It isn’t as easy as saying she’ll reject the Marshalls and do everything her own way. Nor can she charge straight into the evil hordes and take them down without their help.
The romance is amusing, in its own way, but left me wishing for more depth. Alexa pretty much falls into Bastien’s arms after a near-death experience and decides she really wants to have sex with him. Then they have great sex. Then after a few snags get worked out they have lots more great sex. Especially coming fresh from the Shifters trilogy by Sarah Hoyt, I was struck by how little there is holding these two together besides sex. They shared an emotional, physical, and magical bond through sleeping together, granted, but it would’ve been nice to see them working out some of the more mundane aspects of their relationship. It made the Song Quest and the Snap both feel cheap. Alexa is tempted by a husband who will be kind and compassionate, by kids, by a successful career—and oddly enough, her main objection to the other guy is that there isn’t the same love there (by which she almost certainly means great sex). So . . . it just diminished Bastien as a character to get less of his colorful backstory in favor of lots of time in bed together.
Overall it’s an interesting alternate world, and since I have the third book I’ll likely keep going with it. I rate this book Neutral (I liked it enough to finish, but there are definitely plot, character, and world problems).