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Review: ‘The Hero Strikes Back’ by Moira J. Moore

October 14, 2010

In a continuation of the adventures of Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source (Lord) Shintaro Karish, Lee is back in High Scape after her brief visit to court at the end of the first book.  Only now she must deal with her mother–who is visiting indefinitely and making herself quite at home, thank you.  Lee struggles to contain her annoyance with her mother’s comments and habits, such as trying to make Lee dress better and teach her to cook.  If only Taro were back from court as well…

But her mother isn’t the only thing to stretch Lee’s nerves.  Strange climate changes in High Scape have everyone concerned.  Snow in summer simply is not natural, and Lee and her coworkers are just as confused as the “regulars”, or non-Pairs.  And High Scape, the city most prone to natural disasters, has had no events to bother the Pairs.  In fact, Lee is almost downright bored.  But Taro returns, only to the news that minor nobles have gone missing, and Lee suspects there might be a connection to the Reanists–crazed cultists who enjoy sacrificing those of noble blood to the gods in order to ward off the natural disasters.

To make matters even worse, Lee and Taro find out that Taro’s mother, the haughty and cruel Duchess of Westsea, will be making a visit to High Scape to talk some sense into her wayward son, who refused his “rightful duty” to accept the title of Duke months before when he turned it down.  It seems to be an invasion of mothers.

On the positive side, Lee and Taro are never idle, except when recovering from injuries or near-fatal attempts on their lives–and sometimes not even then.  Everyone can relate to the feeling of being annoyed at their parents at some time or other, so most of the episodes between the Pair and their mothers are hilarious.  Lee and her mother are especially amusing because their quarrels are largely petty disputes presented in a funny light.  Taro and his mother are less amusing because of the treatment he receives from her.  The Duchess is less amusing than she is astonishing in her haughtiness and noble ways.  She is certainly not a character anyone enjoys, in my opinion, but this sets up the contrast to Lee and Taro themselves, who are agreeable to most readers.

Moore takes the romantic aspect that began to very faintly bloom in the first book and takes it a step further.  I won’t give away what happens, but there is a clear establishment of some kind of possible romantic connection between the Source and Shield that creates all kinds of woe for Lee.  Again, something most of us can relate to.

The story is again told from Lee’s perspective and in first person, so the reader is privy to all of her thoughts.  This is less annoying than it was in the first book, and Moore does a better job at pulling out the pertinent thoughts that Lee has and leaving aside the ones that were less meaningful.

The problem I had with the book was that by the time I got to the end, it was somewhat predictable.  I was not surprised when the climax occurred because it was built on a little too obviously throughout the entire book.  I would have liked a bit more surprise, a little more mystery.  And two characters are introduced at the very end of the story, which does set things up for the third book but I might have liked to at least heard their names a bit sooner.

I make the same complaint I made of the first book: the cover art has little to do with the story and looks juvenile, and the title is only tenuously connected to the story.  However, neither of these are necessarily the fault of the author, so I take no points off.  I only thought the publisher could have done better.

Overall, a quick read that is very entertaining and funny, with some depth mixed in for effect.  The characters are, for the most part, enjoyable, and despite the few grievances I have with the plot and writing, I would still recommend this book as a good read.  On to book 3!

Book info: 308 pages, published 2006, ISBN0441014402

Second book in the series

Buy on Amazon * Author’s Website * GoodReads

Copy is from personal library

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