Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday Review: Renegade

By Nancy Northcott
Publisher: Grand Central/Forever Yours
Release Date: November 6, 2012

Valeria Banning, reeve, or sheriff, of the Southeastern United States shire of mages, is in a fight for her life, outnumbered five to one by ghouls bent on killing her or raping her and forcing her to breed. Thanks to the ghoul venom in her bloodstream from wounds sustained when she was captured and to an amulet her captors placed around her neck to block her powers, she is in a severely weakened state and running out of time. Desperate, she sends a summons for help.

In his sanctuary near the town of Wayfarer on the outskirts of Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp, fugitive Griffin Dare receives the summons. Once possessor of the title Val now holds, for the past six years, he has been labeled a rogue mage under sentence of death for murdering other mages. Griffin is leery of the summons, knowing it may be a trap, but honor won’t allow him to ignore it on the chance that it is genuine. Only after the five ghouls are dead and the rescue of the endangered mage successful does Griffin realize he has rescued a woman whose duty demands she kill him.

This is the situation with which Renegade, Nancy Northcott’s debut novel and the first book in her fantasy adventure series The Protectors, opens. The pace is fast and the stakes are high, and the pattern is established for this compelling story. Set against the backdrop of the ancient, mysterious swamp, the tale involves large and intricate world building. Mages, who draw their power from natural elements, have a history that goes back to the Medieval Age. That history lives in the Latin words of mage spells, in their runes, and even in the quarterstaff that is Griff’s favorite weapon. Mages are committed to protecting the mundane (humans with no magical powers) from the ghouls, creatures who feed on mages and mundanes alike and who can reproduce only by mating with their prey.

Val and Griff are understandably distrustful of one another, but Griff, whose battle against the traitors within the ranks of the mages has moved more slowly than he hoped, knows Val will be a valuable ally if he can persuade he to listen to the truth of what happened six years ago. Val does listen and soon she and Griff will join in a battle that pits them against dark magic that is more pervasive than they know. They must stay one move ahead of their powerful enemies as they try to uncover the full truth and expose those who have betrayed the code of the mages. Their battle against evil is complicated by the emotional struggles that ensue as these two strong characters fall in love with one another.

I confess that my fantasy reading is mostly limited to children’s books. I make a few exceptions, but I probably would have skipped Renegade had it not been written by Nancy Northcott, whom I’ve known for several years now as one of the Romance Bandits. I was also intrigued by the Okefenokee setting. But I was soon caught up in the power of the story, eager to see Griff vindicated and to see Val and Griff’s love story reach a happy conclusion.

The secondary characters--from Dr. Stefan Harper, the Collegium’s chief physician and Griff’s best friend to Will Davis, Griff’s second-in-command, to Miss Hettie Telfair and her golden retriever Magnus—are interesting characters whom I found engaging. The conflict is a new twist on a battle as old as time between those who value personal integrity and view power as responsibility and those who value only self-gratification and see power as a means of imposing their will on others. 

I may be reading outside my comfort zone, but I am hooked on the characters and the series. I’ll definitely be returning to Wayfarer in May for Guardian, book two in the series. If you enjoy a story that’s high on action and romance and takes place in a magical world that is so richly detailed that it invites belief, I highly recommend that you join me in this reading journey.

What’s the last book you read that was outside your usual genres or subgenres? Were you glad you ventured into different territory?

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