A few days ago, I was pretty stressed out and got myself hooked on an escapist fantasy romance trilogy called The Chronicles of the Warlands by Elizabeth Vaughan. The first book, Warprize, told the story of a princess named Xylara who became the Warprize of a barbarian warlord named Keir. In the second book, Warsworn, Xylara and Keir embark on a journey to the heart of the Firelands to confirm Xylara’s status, only to be confronted with Plague.
In this installment, the two lovebirds continue their journey to the Heart of the Plains, but the outbreak of Plague has caused Keir’s tribe to become suspicious of Xylara and of city life. They begin to feel that the alliance of two very different cultures might destroy their very civilization, and will stop at nothing to stop what they believe to be the spread of a great evil. Xylara and Keir must fight for their relationship to be taken seriously and to demonstrate that learning about other ways of life can be a strength to both Xylara’s people and his own.
I think that this book is far better than the last, which suffered a bit from middle book syndrome. Xylara and Keir’s travels into the Firelands meant that this book had far more action than the first two of the series, which was definitely a good thing. There were many times that I forgot that this book was supposed to be “romance,” but instead was caught up in it the same way that I would be in any fantasy novel.
The way that Vaughan focused on the idea of uniting two different cultures and used it as one of the central themes of the novel allowed it to be escapist while not entirely mindless. I was also pleased to see that Fireland society was GLBT-friendly, as that’s not particularly common in fantasy novels (…not to rant about A Song of Ice and Fire, but it’s a bit unfair that Dany can have dragons but poor Renly can’t come out of the closet).
There’s one more book in this series, although I don’t feel the need to read it immediately, as it focuses on a different set of characters.
As a whole, I would recommend The Chronicles of the Warlands for light or escapist reading. The series has a strong romance element, but the romance is set against the backdrop of a larger fantasy/medieval world and the convergence of two distinct lifestyles. This isn’t the type of book that I normally read, but I had been having a very stressful week and found the books to be highly enjoyable and a good way to relax.