Friday, March 8, 2013

REVIEW: The Wizard's Ward by Deborah Hale

Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: July 2005, Luna Books
Format: Trade Paperback, 409 pages
Source: Purchased from Books-A-Million
Years before, the peaceful world of Umbria was torn apart by the ruthless Hanish invaders . . .

Yet that is the only life Maura knows. Until her wizard guardian announces she is to be queen -- but that first she must find and unite with their country's legendary "Waiting King" in order to overthrow the enemy occupation. Men have searched for the fabled warrior for ages -- what chance has a young witch gifted in life-magic? Especially since she has only till midsummer's moon . . .and her guardian's wisdom is tragically taken from her . . .

Filled with fear and determination as well as wits and magic, Maura sets forth. Her only ally is the outlaw Rath. Having Rath as a companion is as dangerous as having an enemy along -- but she must trust in him to save their country. As midsummer approaches, their mission is in jeopardy from the Han outlaws and treasure hunters -- and even their own folk, who are wary of "the witch and the wolf."

But the greatest complication is the knowledge that if they do not find the king, Maura need not sacrifice all to be queen . . .


The Wizard's Ward has been sitting on my TBR shelves for about three years. I found it (and its sequel) on the bargain displays at Books-a-Million and couldn't resist the pretty covers and the fact that they were fantasy stories. I'm not sure what took me so long to get around to reading these, probably the fact that I just have a massive TBR pile (both physical and virtual), like every other avid reader out there.

I really enjoyed this story! The writing is generally pretty good, though the dialogues occasionally felt a bit stilted, and the author does a fair amount of detailed world-building for someone whose native genre is romance. (The fact that Hale's native genre is NOT fantasy is likely why the dialogue occasionally came off a bit awkwardly.) This book is a blend of fantasy and romance, leaning more heavily toward fantasy. I greatly enjoyed the interaction between Maura and Rath from the very beginning, despite the fact that it was a rather predictable relationship. What can I say, I'm a sucker for boy meets girl, boy and girl despise each other, and eventually boy and girl fall in love. It works! (At least it does for me...) Admittedly, anyone reading this probably realizes relatively early on just how the story will end, but I do love a happy ending and enjoyed seeing the events leading up to it unfold. Maura and Rath have a very action-packed adventure, to say the least!

What I thought was lacking from the story was a broader cast of characters. The book revolves almost exclusively around Maura and Rath--and their quest to find the Waiting King--for the overwhelming majority of the story. Sure, they run into other people here and there, but with the exception of the first few chapters, this is almost entirely the "Rath and Maura Show." It just seemed a little unrealistic for a quest such as theirs. Of course, this gave me plenty of time to enjoy their building relationship, but I did feel as if something was missing from the overall story. Even so, I look forward to reading the sequel, though I am worried that I won't enjoy it as much, since the anticipation of the unfolding romance won't be there. This book has received mixed reviews, but I guess it was what I expected and what I was looking for when I picked it up, so I thought it was enjoyable!
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Read this if you like...
- Lighter fantasy that's a bit shy of epic, with a splash of romance
- A story with a strong female heroine

The Wizard's Ward (Umbria, #1)

**This is my second book towards the #TakeControl March 2013 TBR Challenge.


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