Destiny Awaits. How like a woman to use a man's words against him.
As a novel in the fantasy genre, Renee Wildes' Riever's Heart follows the expected formula almost to the last element. There are rampaging barbarians, noble elves, and even a half-dragon ruler within the pages of this romantic quest, and the journey is a noble one: to unite the warring hordes under a single rule to bring peace to the sundered lands.
However, at times, the execution of the plot feels a little too much like a forced march into the awaiting destiny that faces the story's heroes. Verdeen, the elven warrior maid, is petulant and often comes across as spoiled, which is not at all the same as the strong, independent woman she could have been. Aryk's noble and generous nature - especially in his awakening of Verdeen's sexuality - at times becomes overshadowed by his lust, and this somehow seems to confound the development of his character. While I realise this is a product of the manner of their relationship, the lack of subtlety in the use of this character's inner conflict risks endangering the reader/hero relationship. The single, biggest interruption to my enjoyment and engagement with the story, though, was that much of the narrative voice is written in a very self-conscious, 'old worldly' language. The use of such words as 'Twas, afeared and betwixt is fine in dialogue, but it feels jarring and out of place when it appears as part of the general narrative as it does here. It feels like a vehicle by which we, as readers are being forced to identify with characters whose own actions should make us care about them enough to feel with them.
While that sounds all rather negative, the pace of the novel keeps those considerations from becoming overwhelming. The faithful adherence to all the well loved elements of both the fantasy, and the romance genres mitigates the d20 fumbles, (and fantasy role play gamers are probably the only ones who'll truly 'get' that reference), and the attention to detail in the battle scenes, which fit perfectly within the telling of the tale, are more than strong enough to help carry the story forward. Lastly, and by absolutely no means least, the sexual tension underlying the whole of the novel remains high throughout, and the intimate scenes between Verdeen and Aryk are scorching hot, often unresolved (until the end), and tease unmercifully to leave both the characters and the readers desperately wanting more.
If fantasy set within a burning romance is what you like, or smouldering sensuality and strong, fiery sex in a brutal fantasy world is what you're looking for, then Riever's Heart will probably strike you just as true as one of Verdeen's arrows.
Originally posted at Whipped Cream Reviews