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on 23 February 2015
“The Challenge” is the first volume in the “Circle of Conspiracy” trilogy and the fourth book in Cas Peace’s sweeping “Artesans of Albia” cycle. Positioned in the middle of this epic, it does a good job of holding its unique place in the notable hierarchy, although it is not a stand-alone novel.
 
This book is on a smaller scale than earlier novels of the series. No sweeping battle scenes and dramatic duels here; much of the conflict takes place in whispered rumour, innuendo and political machinations. The battleground is mostly the human heart. Bribery, envy, and coercion are the order of the day, and the challenge for the heroes is to come out victorious at the end without compromising their virtue or stooping to the depths the villains are happy to inhabit.

This author does an excellent job of creating scenes wherein characters are forced or lured into situations that require them to act contrary to their better natures. Clever turns of phrase and false impressions create the sand that causes the cogs of human interaction to grind to a halt. And into the cracks that result, the evil and ambition insinuate their greasy fingers.

This book, like others in the series, has a complex plotline involving treachery and intrigue at several levels. It also contains a good helping of fine swordplay and medium-scale military action, all described in exciting detail.

I do have one concern about this novel that may or may not bother other readers. I think the heroine is too strong. Oh, certainly she is a well-rounded, empathetic character who makes her share of mistakes, but in general, she is simply held in too high esteem by all the others in the story. This makes it very difficult for the other characters to hold up their part of the story arc. Dissention between positive characters is one of the necessary conflicts in a well-written novel. If one character is too good, then in order for there to be conflict, the other guys have to be idiots. And I like the other characters far too much to want to be told that.

Maybe by book four I’ve just been pulled into the story too far and I’m taking sides, but this volume leaves me with some very pressing unanswered questions. I hope my curiosity will be satisfied in the next book in the series, “The Challenge.” So as not to keep you in suspense too long, I will be reviewing that novel next week.

Recommended for Epic Fantasy and Romance readers.
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on 21 June 2014
Of all four books in the Artesan Series so far, The Challenge has been the trickiest to review. Not only does it play as the start of a new trilogy, but it also serves as the fourth instalment of the overall nine book arc and so the pacing and character development have to be managed very carefully. The overall storyline is driven forward very well, with a huge amount of tension and build up early on, and then later on the reader is left with the feeling events will not proceed at all predictably. All the main characters, (and minor ones to for that matter) have to deal with a huge range of issues as well the consequences of their actions within the course of wider events. It is a challenging read, hence the name of the book suits its atmosphere and purpose; to follow beloved characters as they are faced with making hard choices along both their personal and professional paths, knowing that those will have wider ramifications. The main antagonist in the series (so far anyway) is brought into clearer focus, and not a pleasant focus, but very essential to the overall plot. The Challenge moves the series up a gear in terms of scope, plot and character development. I cannot say it was easy to read, but it was very satisfying and sets the series up for further greatness as the overall arc progresses.
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on 8 March 2015
Another brilliant book by Cas Peace. A fast paced, intricate plot where loyalties are tested and allegiances are undermined. Cas’s expert story telling draws you into this wonderful world she has created and immerses you into the lives of the characters, and then you are along for the ride. This is a must read, and I am so glad there are 5 more books still to come!
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on 24 May 2014
The challenge Cas Peace faces is achieving af least as good a read with book 4 as with books 1-3 and she has done so magnificently. The pace never slackens, the characters continue to grow and the story grips. A first rate read. Roll on book 5.
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on 5 September 2014
having read the last trilogy I was thrilled and not disappointed with this book. lots of twists and turns but keeping with the essential characters. cant wait for the next book
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on 21 June 2014
the caracters established in previous develop unexpected changes in their circumstances mostl ynot to their advantage
they are redeemed by the outbreak of war
ends .whilst still in mid flow,presumably trailing squel
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