Posted in: AztecLady Reviews
Jane’s Warlord, by Angela Knight
After reading Ms Knight’s short story “Mad Dog Love” (Shifter anthology, Berkley, 2008–review here), I was quite keen on reading more of her work. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long, for I had this novel waiting for me in the scary (and every growing, yikes!) TBR mountain range.
Even though Jane’s Warlord is published by the Paranormal Romance imprint at Berkley, it’s more a futuristic romance, with shades of science fiction world-building, so to speak. In that sense, it’s quite close to “Mad Dog Love” in fact. Here is the back cover blurb:
Reporter Jane Colby covers crime for the local paper, but the most recent murder is especially shocking-leaving even the most hardened detectives shaken. What she doesn’t know is that this killer has struck before-hundreds of years ago-and now he’s jumped through time again to find his next victim-Jane…
Her only hope is a man named Baran Arvid-a genetically engineered warrior from three hundred years in the future. He’s been sent to capture the predatory time traveler, and he intends to trap him any way he can-even if it means using Jane as bait.
Despite her reluctance to trust Baran, Jane can’t resist his sexual allure. And this fierce warlord never imagined he could feel such insatiable desire-or that he would risk everything to seduce the woman he was sent to protect. But will their passion survive the galaxies that come between them-and the killer intent on destroying them both?
I am enjoying Ms Knight’s work quite a bit, indeed. I found both of the main characters very appealing, with only one quibble (and I’ll get to that later).
Interestingly, we are not given a lot of recent background on either Jane or Baran. As the story develops we learn some more of the childhood events that shaped them into the adults we see, but not so much about who they are at the point the story starts.
Hmm… I don’t think I’m saying this well. Let me try with an example.
We learn that Jane has moved back to town to manage her late father’s newspaper. We learn that she worked for a big city paper before that, but it’s mentioned in passing, no details. I cannot even tell you if the city is mentioned, let alone what happens in Jane’s life between her mother’s disappearance, when she was ten, and her coming back to town after her father’s death. In the same way, we learn that there is a war in the future and that Baran has devoted the past two decades to suicide missions and… pretty much that’s it, until he’s tapped for this particular jaunt across centuries.
Most of the story takes place in the present, and with only a handful of characters-Jane and her cat, Baran and his partner/sidekick Freika, Tom Reynolds (a local detective who is friendly with Jane), and the killer. Ms Knight gives us three points of view: the main characters’ and, for one scene, Tom’s. I loved how this was done, and it made perfect sense for the pacing of the story.
One of the best parts of the book for me was to see Baran learn to value Jane’s judgement-and for Jane to be right when he does. I mean, Baran is alpha to the nth, and Jane has plenty of issues when it comes to fear, danger, self doubt, etc., so that scene is quite a step in the right direction. I think that that, more than anything else, convinced me that these two could work out their issues and build a relationship.
The futuristic background is rendered with broad strokes, asking the reader to suspend disbelief and not ask a lot of “how” type questions. If one is willing, this works quite well, for there are no obvious inconsistencies and the plot itself is just complex enough to grab the reader’s attention but not so much as to require a score card and a timeline. Another plus: absolutely no info dumps.
The treatment of the time travel aspect of this universe was new to me, and I enjoyed it a lot (particularly because of how it worked for the ending 😀 ) Basically, people can go back in time and do stuff. Since they are alive in the present (well, our future, their present), then whatever they did in the past has already happened. Therefore, Baran is not told what he is supposed to do (other than keeping Jane alive and catching the killer). The assumption *cough* is that he’ll do whatever he did (because in the future, he has already been there, you know) and all will be well.
Freika is a wonderful character. Think a witch’s familiar on steroids 😀 Just as Baran’s DNA was manipulated and he has a computer implant, so is Freika-a timber wolf whose implants allow him to vocalize his thoughts, record events and project tridimensional (holographic?) images and… well, videos. Freika is the perfect foil for Baran, and his presence provides both a buffer between him and Jane, and a source of information for the reader without having info dumps.
As a bonus, Freika and Jane’s cat, Octopussy, provide most of the comic relief moments in the story, which has some very dark moments.
Those dark moments revolve around the killer and his ‘work’ and, while gory and bloody enough (and then some), there is no gratuitous violence. What is shown is shown because it is necessary-for Jane to understand the situation and to accept Baran and Freika’s presence in her life; for Tom and the other cops to react to Baran and Jane the way they do.
Now, let’s look at my quibble: Jane’s issues with her father. Every now and again in the novel, Jane has these… well, echoes of her father’s criticism and emotional abuse go through her head. When this happens, she feels hobbled, paralyzed, inadequate. All good and well, except that their appearance is inconsistent. That storyline feels truncated, incomplete. Long stretches of radio silence, so to speak, then suddenly wham! Yet there is no pattern or discernible trigger for these episodes. What the hell?
Personally, I’d rather that element had been left out of the story. Jane’s characterization was complete enough without it, and whenever she ‘heard’ her father’s voice I felt pulled from the story a bit.
In the end, I devoured Jane’s Warlord in one sitting, and I’m eager to read more of Ms Knight’s work. 8 out of 10.