Title: The Grove
Author: Jean Johnson
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Series: Guardians of Destiny (Book 2)
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
ISBN-10: 0425262243 (Penguin/Berkley)
ISBN-13: 978-0425262245 (Penguin/Berkley)
Reviewed by: Steph
Calm the magics caught in thrall:
Put your faith in strangers’ pleas,
Watcher, Witch, and treasure trove;
Ride the wave to calm the trees,
Servant saves the sacred grove.
At the behest of their leader, the Witches of Darkhana are mobilized. Their mission: gather the most honest, true servants of each deity so that they may respectfully represent their land at the reopening of the Convocation of Gods and Man. For Witch-Priest Aradin Teral, his part in the quest has taken him across the length and breadth of Katan, searching for the best possible representative of an empire bent on preventing that very task.
Ever since the destruction of the last Convocation, the magics of the Grove have been warped, endangering pilgrims and residents alike and requiring the guardianship of the strongest mage the priesthood can spare. Priestess Saleria is now the Keeper of the Grove, and Guardian of the Divine Garden. The arrival of a black-robed stranger bearing the faces of two men brings the promise of change, even peace, to the isolated valley. But it also ushers in an irresistible passion and a threat to Saleria’s control of the wildest magics in the woods…
Quick & Dirty: A new convocation of the gods has been prophesied. To help ensure a good outcome, a dual-natured witch travels to a new land to beseech the Keeper of the Grove to speak for her people at the convocation. Little does he know this visit will change his life forever.
Opening Sentence: Aradin Teral eyed the priest tottering with uneven steps from altar to altar in the Westraven Chapel, located int he heart of the Katan continent.
In my opinion, there are two kinds of 3-star books: those that you really didn’t enjoy, but there were one or two things that kept it from being really bad, or those that are so close to being really good, but there are one or two things that keep it from that 4 star mark. This book is one of the latter category. It is very well written, taking place in an incredibly intricate world that’s very intriguing, but the characters and romance fall a little flat.
Many years ago, the first Convocation of Gods and Man took place and ended in disaster. Now, a prophecy has been discovered, saying that another Convocation will be taking place. Those who’ve heard the prophecy are determined to ensure that this Convocation is not the disaster the first one was. To that end, Aradin Teral is sent to speak with Saleria, the Keeper of the Grove, to entreat her to act as her country’s representative at the Convocation. As the sole person responsible for tending the often dangerous area of the Grove, Saleria does not feel she can leave it unattended for the length of time the Convocation would require. Due in part to his growing attraction to Saleria, Aradin agrees to lengthen his stay so that he can learn to tend the Grove in her stead.
For such a long book, little time is actually given to character development. I find myself struggling to find the words to describe Saleria because she really didn’t make that much of an impression on me. I can say that I admired how confident she was in her faith. She never once faltered in her steadfastness to her gods. That is something to admire.
I found the concept of Aradin Teral’s dual existence very interesting and unique. They are two people in one body. Teral is technically dead, but if Aradin allows it, Teral can take control and manifest his former body. This obviously can make courtship a little awkward, and I really wish the book had delved more thoroughly into that. The subject is brought up and discussed, but the potential conflict was resolved too easily. It also seemed to me that Teral had slightly more personality than Aradin, which isn’t a good thing when Aradin is the main character of the duo.
My last complaint is that there really wasn’t much romance for a book that is labeled as a fantasy romance on some sites, including the author’s. Readers wanting a love story set in a fantasy world are probably going to be disappointed.
That being said, the fantasy world Johnson has created is amazing. I found myself wanting to know more about every country. I want to know what life is like for people who worship gods other than Saleria’s. This curiosity alone will bring me back to the series in hopes that I’ll connect better to the next set of main characters. I definitely want to see where this prophecy is going!
“Good morning, Teral. And good morning to your Host, too,” she added politely, guessing that either Aradin was somewhere inside the older man, watching and listening, or that he would return shortly. Oddly enough, the scent of mint wafted into the hall, mixing with the spiced fruit sausage and the egg-toast Nannan had made. “How did the morning round go?”
“Some sort of horned, rabbity thing with willow leaves instead of fur,” he recited, counting off on his fingers, “a swarm of bees acting rather agitated in what turned out to be a patch of rage-inducing bleeding hearts, a new species of ambulatory orchid-beetles, and a rather aggressively friendly cross between a fern and a mint plant. Either that, or it was attempting to copulate with me. For our sanity’s sake,” the older Witch muttered, “Aradin and I have agreed to think of it as just being aggressively friendly, and not amatory.”
Guardians of Destiny Series:
1. The Tower
2. The Grove
3. The Guild (May 6, 2014)
FTC Advisory: Berkley/Penguin provided me with a copy of The Grove. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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