Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who only really lived when she dreamed. Then one day she woke up surrounded by three glowering bears. With patience and love she tamed the fiercest, and with a kiss transformed the beast into a prince.

Jill Monroe takes pen in hand (or fingers to keyboard) to bring us the second installment of the Royal House of Shadows series, Lord of Rage. This is the story of Princess Breena of Elden, and Osborn, the oldest of three Berserker brothers. If you read the first book, Lord of Vampires which was written by Gena Showalter, you’ll recall that Breena is Nicolai’s sister and like her older brother, she was magically transported away from the tragic massacre that claimed the lives of her parents as well as many of the people of Elden. As this story opens, Breena finds herself lost in a forest, being drawn in a particular direction, but not fully understanding of where or why. The words revenge and survive keep playing through her mind, and so do the memories of her warrior, the man who had awaken her body to sensual pleasure – but only in her dreams.

Ten years before the attack on Elden, on the night of his Bärenjagd, Osborn left childhood behind and became a man. In an ancient ritual that not everyone survived, he journeyed to sacred land looking for the bear he’d do battle with. If he survived, Osborn would become a Berserker, a being both revered and feared for his terrifying strength and killing abilities. He knew that one of them would die this night, and Osborn didn’t plan to be the one.

When he and his father returned to their village after the ritual, they found it under attack by Elden's vampires. It was a well planned attack, taking place when the men were away with their sons who were completing the same ritual as Osborn, and even though they returned as Berserkers, they were too late. On that night Osborn vowed to hunt down and kill all of those responsible for the massacre of his people.

Believe it or not, all of the above takes place in the prologue and first chapter!

Now fast forward to the present time of the story and Breena finds her way to a small cottage, and in Goldilocks and the Three Bears fashion, makes herself right at home, only to be rudely awaken by a gruff man who she recognizes as her dream warrior! Her memories have been slowly returning and she knows that this is the man who can help her get the revenge she so desperately needs.

I really enjoyed the world Jill Monroe created, and while it's very different from that of the first book, it's supposed to be! Each of the royal heirs has a different power or ability, so it stands to reason the worlds in which their stories take place would be different, too.

As for the characters, Osborn, Breena, and Osborn's brothers, Bernt and Torben, I think one of the reasons shorter books seldom get more than 4 stars from me is because there isn't enough time to develop the players into people I really care about. That said, I know that the next books in this series are about the royal heirs, Dayn and Micah, but I wish they were about Bernt and Torben, who I became very fond of. I'm hoping we'll see more of them in the next two books, or perhaps a spin off or a series extension. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!

Now, while I know the Berserker part of the story told in this book is fictional, it captivated me none-the-less because I've always been interested in ancient traditions and rituals, and the deep meanings they hold within different cultures. As I mentioned, Osborn goes through his Bärenjagd and I appreciated the reverence with which this scene was written. I have such a profound respect for these ages old customs, and while they often ended in violence, they weren’t just for sport. Even though he came out the victor, Osborn felt the weight of what he’d done as he realized it was much harder to take a life than he had thought it would be. But his father’s guidance and wisdom would stay with Osborn for as long as he lived and I'm including this quote because it speaks volumes as to the man Osborn would become.
“It was harder than I thought. I didn’t think I’d feel this way,” Osborn blurted out for no reason he could guess. He regretted his rash words instantly.

That was a boy’s sentiments. Not a man’s. Not a warrior’s.

“It’s not supposed to be easy. Taking of a life, any life, should never be something done without need and compassion.” He stood, slinging his pack over his shoulder. “Guide me to the bear. We must prepare it.”

They trekked silently together, crossing into the sacred land to where the bear had taken its final breaths. His father taught him to honor the bear in the ancient ways, then they set to work.

“Now you possess the heart of the bear. As a warrior of Ursa, you will carry the bear’s spirit with you. Your ber spirit will always be there, waiting silent within you, ready for your call. The strength of the bear comes to you when you wear your Bärenhaut,” his father told him, lifting up the bear pelt. “Do not don your pelt without thought and careful consideration. You will be able to kill, Osborn, and kill easily. But only with honor.”
The bottom line - Lord of Rage is an entertaining installment to the Royal House of Shadows series, but it started strong then hit a plateau that lasted through most of the book. I enjoyed the training scenes, and getting to know Osborn's younger brothers was one of the highlights of this book for me. The ending felt a bit anticlimactic but I was still left wanting to know more about this family! I want to see them come together and, in the end, triumph over the evil which has invaded Elden.

This ARC ebook was provided free of charge by in behalf of Harlequin. This had no influence on my rating or my review.


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