(originally from All About Romance)
October 2006, Fantasy Romance
Berkley, $7.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425209210
Part of a series
I have to admit to a fair few prejudices before starting this book. I’m an Arthur girl. I read The Once and Future King and Le Morte D’Artur. Sword in the Stone is my favourite Disney movie. I know all the words to the soundtrack of Camelot. I even sat through the dismal First Knight – what on earth were they thinking? So I was of two minds about a romance series based on mythical Avalon. On the one hand, Yay! More fodder for the Arthur addiction. On the other, though, lay the suspicion and disbelief that anyone could take the myths and morph them into something that would stay true to the historical originals, but still capture the imagination of contemporary audiences.
With her Mageverse, Knight has laid to rest all my fears. Now don’t get me wrong, there is some definite creative licensing going on. Arthur’s not dead, for one. And he’s back with Guinevere, though apparently he’s only just forgiven Lancelot, some thousand years later. But it’s these little touches that really make Knight’s story come alive. Arthur’s not dead, because he now exists in the Mageverse, a parallel world to our own universe. The fact that it took him so long to forgive – indeed the character trait of holding a grudge – makes him more human and more likable than if he had been a perfect mythological representation. This placing of Arthur and his knights in another universe easily sidesteps all the potential problems with using “real” people for the story.
There are other changes. The Knights of the Round Table, the Magi, are immortal, turned vampire/were hybrids by drinking from Merlin’s Grail. The women, the Majae, are witches, able to take the magic of the Mageverse and channel it to cast diverse spells that cover the spectrum from freshening breath to healing a mortal wound. A symbiotic relationship exists between the two. The men have to drink blood and the women need to donate blood in order to survive. And blood sharing is inextricably linked with sex. In fact, more power can be gained by orgasm.
The inhabitants of the Mageverse are not hereditary. Descendants have a latent magic to them, but it needs to be “turned on.” Potential candidates are nominated, and are judged by committee. If deemed acceptable, they are visited by the court seducer, who triggers their magic. If not, they live their lives as mortals.
Which leads to the plot of Master of Swords. One Knight’s son was denied access to the Mageverse, and, in retaliation, he joins their most powerful enemy. However, being one of the minions isn’t good enough, so he eventually takes over, using their deaths to fuel his dark magic.
Lark is only newly joined. Though the granddaughter of a man known more as a myth, she remains uncertain of her abilities. During the crisis that has recently struck the Mageverse, she is mentored with Gawain, the realm’s most potent seducer of Majae. Sparks fly, but Lark’s lack of self-confidence threatens to tear both their fledgling relationship and the Mageverse’s efforts apart.
Sensing a theme here? Well, I was wowed. Knight didn’t destroy the Arthurian tradition; she reinvented it, and in doing so created likable characters. And the book was hot. Really hot. Like, I was reading it on a bus and blushing hot. One scene in particular had me releasing all the air in my lungs in one rush. However, the charm of the novel is that Knight didn’t rely on graphic detail to create heat – just a really intense, emotional, great use of words and images, rather than relying on standard erotica-hot.
The only reason I’m not giving this book DIK status (because it came really, really close) is that the intensity in the plot details and the sexual relationship between the characters just didn’t hit the same depth with the emotional bond. It was there, but it didn’t wrap me up and enthral me completely. I liked the main characters, I loved the secondary characters, I believed the relationship, but I wasn’t transported. But, in the end, that’s my personal reaction. Read the book, because I have the feeling that everyone who does is going to have the same reaction: