Warprize - A- This is a fantasy romance about Lara of Xy, a royal daughter and Keir, Warlord of the Plains. Lara is given as "warprize" to Keir as part of a peace deal between he and Xymund, King of Xy (Lara's half-brother). Xymund tells Lara she must be Keir's slave in order to ensure peace between the two peoples. Lara, despite being a princess, is also a sworn Healer and it is in her nature therefore to seek peace - not without some trepidation, she nevertheless goes to Keir, prepared to sacrifice herself for her people.
At heart, it is the story about the clash of two cultures and how they, through Lara and Keir find some common ground and a way forward together. The People of the Plains (called "Firelanders" by the Xy) are horse people and live a nomadic existence - (I imagined a Genghis/Attila type arrangement here, with a bit of Native American thrown in also). The Xy are city-dwellers - similar to medieval England but a bit more advanced. Unknown to Lara, Keir has a dream of uniting the two cultures for mutual benefit. Lara's understanding of the term "warprize" is incorrect - because the story is told from Lara's 1st person perspective, this "big misunderstanding" didn't bother me - in fact I was grateful for it. If Lara's understanding of the situation had been correct, it would have been very difficult for me to like Keir. However, his treatment of Lara is always honourable and I was very happy there was no "forced seduction" in this book. The story itself takes place over only a matter of days but this didn't really occur to me until after I'd finished reading the book - despite the short time frame, I did buy the feelings Keir and Lara had for each other and their HFN (I say HFN, because I knew there were other books featuring this couple and logic therefore tells me that there would be some future conflict to be resolved). The only thing that really bothered me was that there were occasionally words used which I felt didn't fit my image of the setting of the book - for example, when Lara says "I feel fantastic", it felt, to me, like those words didn't belong in the time period of the story - so there were a couple of occasions where I was thrown out of the story by the apparent anachronism. Of course, this is a made up world so Ms. Vaughan can use whatever words she chooses - they cannot be historically inaccurate. Still, there were a few times when I felt it jarred. It was something that I noticed (albeit with decreasing frequency) over the whole series.
Warsworn- B+. I'd call this book part 1 and Warlord part 2. I think I would have been really annoyed if I hadn't had the next book to go on with immediately. At the end of Warprize, Keir is returning with his warprize to the Heart of the Plains. By the end of Warsworn, they haven't even go their yet. So, where I expected to be, as set up by book 1, was not where I was, until the end of book 3. Keir and Lara continue to develop their relationship with each other and learn about one another's cultures. On the journey to the Heart, they come across a Xy village which has been ravaged by disease - such is unknown to the people of the Plains - it is an unseen foe and death from disease is not the honourable death of battle. Nevertheless, the Plains warriors soon find themselves in a battle against a deadly disease and not everyone will survive. I found the events of this book emotionally compelling, especially as I'd become quite attached to some of the secondary characters I'd met in the first book.
Warlord - B+/A-. Keir and Lara finally make it to the Heart of the Plains in this book, and must face opposition from the Council of the Elders and the Warrior-Priests to Lara's installation as Warprize. We find out more about Marcus, Keir's token-bearer and his bonded mate - I'm so looking forward to the (let's hope HEA for these two!). As much as I enjoyed it, I did feel there were a couple of conversations missing in the book - where, for example, was the conversation about babies with Keir? Where was the conversation about what happened to his other children? Still, I like Keir and Lara very much and was engrossed the whole time.
Warcry - A-/B+ This is the newest release - and instead of being a 1st person story told from Lara's perspective as the others had been, this one is in 3rd person, and is mainly the story of Heath and Atira. There is plenty of Keir and Lara for fans of the couple, but the perspective broadens in this one. Because I read the series back to back, it took a little getting used to but I came to appreciate the different perspectives - there was even a little from Keir's point of view! Lara and Keir have returned to Xy for the birth of their first child and there, they face continuing opposition to the alliance between the two peoples. I suppose there's not much different here in terms of story arc from the first book, but I was so happy with the characters and seeing Xy from Atira's point of view, I didn't feel a lack.
I'm so hoping there will be more to this series! I have questions - What will happen to Liam and Marcus? What was the light from the Heart? How is Simus? Will Keir become Warking? So, as much as I have enjoyed this series, I am left wanting - there must be one or maybe two books left for the story arc to be told, don't you think?
(ETA: I emailed Elizabeth Vaughan and she tells me there are 2 more books planned - one for Simus and one for Joden - one hopes that Liam and Marcus' story will be included in there somewhere too! Unfortunately, I don't think they've been written yet, so we have a bit of wait.)
Chronicles of the Warlands Series (to date) grade - A-