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Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur

Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur
4.25
Book Name: Blade & Rose
Author: Miranda Honfleur
Publisher(s): Self-Published
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy Romance
Release Date: October 7, 2017

An R-Rated Kushiel’s Dart.

For Miranda Honfleur’s fantasy romance, Blade & Rose, I originally considered using the tagline, Versailles meets Empire Strikes Back. Set in a second world French royal court, with plenty of intrigue, it initially appears as if the bad guys are using the heroine’s best friend as bait—just like Darth Vader tortures Han Solo and Leia Organa to capture Luke Skywalker. As I continued reading, however, I decided Blade & Rose felt more like another iconic second world French court intrigue story: Kushiel’s Dart, only R-rated.

For those of you who have not read Jacquelyn Carey’s masterpiece, you might think an R-rating means Blade & Rose has more sex and/or violence. Dispel that misconception. Blade & Rose has only one graphic sex scene, as opposed to Kushiel’s Dart’s multiple, graphic BDSM encounters. Insofar as sexual content is concerned, it is like comparing The Terminator to Fifty Shades of Grey. Because unless you were a teenage boy who’d never seen a bare breast in a movie, you probably don’t remember there was a sex scene in The Terminator.

In other aspects, however, Kushiel’s Dart is an apt comparison: multiple threads of a complex plot, forbidden romance, manipulative villains, and marvelous writing.

The story centers around Rielle, the prototypical, kick-butt snarky heroine. A mage of the Divinity, she has a haunting past and a deep secret that prevents her from forming meaningful romantic relationships. Instead, she satisfies herself with short flings. All she wants is to continue to advance in her magic and avoid marriage to a less-than-palatable betrothed. Her world is turned upside-down when she meets Jon (What a great name! would be even better with an H!), a paladin who has received a discharge notice. He is on his way to find out why, and Rielle is assigned to escort him. They are similar to Kushiel’s Dart’s Phaedre and Jocelyn: plenty of chemistry, but with a pesky holy vow preventing them from going for a tumble in the hay.

What starts as a simple mission to get from Point A to Point B predictably takes unpredictable twists and perilous turns. They face a brutal mercenary band, a coup, and dangerous magic. The adventure takes their relationship through fitful starts, forehead-smacking stops, and hilarious near-misses; with the greatest threat being the fiancé Rielle has no intention of marrying. Who also happens to be a werewolf, whose curse only Rielle can break.

The writing is glorious: The close narrative distance oftentimes makes the third person, multiple POVs feel like first person accounts. Snarky flirtation and witty banter paint memorable characters. Cleverly timed flashback chapters help reveal greater depth to their characters and increases the complexity of a multi-layered plot.

I do have two complaints: given that the Divinity to which Rielle belongs is a magic school, I wish the magic system had been explained more clearly. The Anima, which powers magic feels like mana from a video game, and the ability to block it with Arcanir is a nice balance. However, I would have liked to get a better feel for how it works, as well as its limitations.

Finally, the tension building toward the climax worked beautifully, but the climax itself stretched a little too long without a distinctive spike. To me, it felt more like a smooth wave crest. The denouement also continues for several chapters—they might have worked better as the start to a new story.

As a whole, I rate Blade & Rose a 4.25 out of 5 stars.

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