Dragonmaids. Astorians and Hylenas. Daegols and Pedars. These are just a few of the inhabitants of Gadiel, the world in which Giver of Roses, the first book in Kathleen Morgan's epic fantasy, takes place.
The story opens at the end of a three-year siege of Astara, the city-fortress where the royal Karayan family resides. Astara is in dire straights. They are surrounded by the Hylean army, and food supplies are running low.
Then the Hylean champion, Ladon, issues a challenge to Astara’s Crown Prince, Vartan. The challenge? A battle to the death. If Vartan wins, the Hylean army will withdraw to its homeland. If Ladon wins, Astara must surrender.
Ladon’s challenge throws Vartan and the whole royal family into turmoil. It is rumored that Ladon, who is the illegitimate son of the Hylean king, has sworn his soul to the Dark Lord, Phaon. As a result, he is undefeatable in battle.
Vartan, on the other hand, is an atheist who doesn't believe in Phaon, or in the ancient holy god Athan and His son, Eisa. He is a proud man who has survived in battle because of his skills and intelligence. But this time, he fears his prowess may not be enough.
The champions battle, and Vartan is skewered to the ground and left for dead. Ladon enters Astara and his reign of terror and broken promises begins.
Against all odds, Vartan survives Ladon's brutal attack, but he is broken and blinded in both body and soul. After being spirited away by Zagiri, his younger sister, and Danae, a Hylean slave girl, he is nursed back to health in the holy and protected Goreme Valley As he recovers, both women infuriate him to no end by insisting Vartan is the Guardian spoken of in the ancient prophecies—prophecies Vartan doesn't believe.
Is this blind, broken, atheist warrior really the Guardian—the one destined to reunite the races of Gadiel and defeat Ladon forever?
Giver of Roses is an intriguing fantasy with a good story line, but I did notice a few bumps along the way.
At times the pace is slowed by extraneous information. Abrupt point of view shifts are common and jarring.
I was uncomfortable with the fact that Danae feels no shame for being openly in love with a married man. Life is messy, and I understand that, but because Danae is a devoted follower of Athan, I expected better from her.
Ladon is an evil, brutal man, and an excellent ‘bad guy’. But his sordid torture of Ankine, a female captive, is told in just a little too much detail for my comfort level and is not something I would want my teenage daughter reading.
The way the author handled the religious beliefs/practices of the Diya al Din, a desert people, also confused me.
The Diya al Din culture and religion strongly parallel Muslim society. In the story a Diya al Din woman tells one of Athan’s followers they serve the same God. In response, the follower of Athan asks to learn the prayers of these Muslim-like people, so they can pray together.
This scene concerned me because it almost seemed like the author was mixing Muslim beliefs and practices with traditional Christian ones, and implying that these two faiths worship the same God. I'm not quite sure what to make of that. While common roots exist in both, they are not one and the same.
Other than these concerns, the world Kathleen Morgan has constructed for her fantasy is a fascinating one, populated with many races and intriguing places such as the Goreme Valley, Sevan House, Sanctuary, and portals that appear without warning. The ending is one that I didn't see coming and adds an interesting twist to the story. I plan on reading the next book in the series when it becomes available next year.
Click here to buy Giver of Roses by Kathleen Morgan