Sunday, November 23, 2008

IMMORTAL WARRIOR by Lisa Hendrix


IMMORTAL WARRIOR starts with the Viking raids on Britain; fierce warriors who were sent by their chieftain, Hakon Irontoe, to gain treasure. But they ran afoul of the treasure’s protector- the witch Cwen, who conjured warriors and sent her son to lead them. He died in the fighting.

Cwen’s fury and grief led her to curse the Norse warriors, turning them into shadow beasts. Half man, half animal, each taking the form of his fylgja, or spirit companion whose image he wore on a chain, they were also made immortal so their torment could last forever.

Centuries later, Ivar Graycloak, now known as Ivo de Vassy, has the favor of William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror. He has won many battles for William despite spending his days in the form of an eagle. Ivar has been lonely, and he’s growing tired of his nomadic existence. He longs for a hall of his own- good friends and a good woman in front of his own fire. He gets his wish when William grants him an estate, complete with a wife.

Ivar has two friends from the Viking days; Brand, their leader, who spends his days as a bear, and Ari, who spends nights as a raven. They think Ivar’s crazy- his secret will surely be discovered and it will end badly. But Ivar longs for the warmth of companionship and a home, and is willing to take it for as long as it lasts.

The estate is given with a command to marry the granddaughter of its’ former owner, one Lady Alaida. She isn’t thrilled at being given to some usurper, and plans to take her saved coin and run for a nunnery and pay for sanctuary. Her grandfather has been imprisoned, and she has been besieged by suitors hoping to gain the estate and her. She just wants to work to see her grandfather freed and reinstated as the Lord of Alnwick.

Ari finds her as she runs, convincing her that Ivar is a good man and will be a good lord and husband. She returns to wed Ivar for the sake of her people. She still wants a bit of her own back, though. She shows up to the wedding in the habit of a nun. Rather than show anger at her cheek, he laughs. He likes her spirit.

The wedding night is more than she expected. Ivar is considerate and passionate, treating her gently but seeing to it that she enjoys herself. Ivar has been kind, humorous, and protective of her and the estate. She starts to see all sorts of possibilities for her new life until she wakes the next morning to find her husband gone.

As he is gone every morning, riding out with Brand, never returning until after sundown. Ari becomes her friend and companion during the day, but what she really wants is to spend daylight hours with Ivar. He won’t confide in her his reasons for going out, which infuriates Alaida.

He also hasn’t touched her again. Ari is also a seer, and has had a horrible vision of Alaida screaming over an empty cradle, through the eyes of one who has just flown out the window. Now afraid that a child of his would also have his curse, Ivar has to content himself with talking alone. Alaida knows he has affection for her, and the wedding night proved he has passion, so what is wrong with the man she’s growing to love?

One time proves to be the charm, however, as Alaida learns that she is pregnant.

If you’re like me, you thought of a great old movie, Ladyhawke. The similarity ends with the animal by night, human by day, though. Ivar and Alaida really get to know each other, and you can see their love grow- even though Alaida has to deal with mounting frustration at her husband’s daytime disappearances. Ivar is just adorable, pining for his wife and demanding to know how to care for the baby, including changing nappies. He’s afraid he’ll have to take the babe and leave if it turns into a eagle, so he must know everything about his child’s care.

Lisa Hendrix has written a wonderful fantasy, the kind you want to dig into, not skim. Her characters have believable motives and reactions, and the relationships are as satisfying as the magical setting. The heat level, what there is of it, is highly sensual. It made sense, though. That one night has to start them on the road, so to speak, and provide a lot of impetus for Alaida’s willingness to put up with Ivar’s eccentricities. It’s as much about their emotions as their bodies, and I appreciated it. Thanks, Lisa!

2 comments:

Kimber An said...

Ooh, exciting! Thanks, Robyn.
;)

Mfitz said...

Sound fun!