#SPFBO Review: Rebel’s Honor by Gwynn White
Rebel’s Honor is a steampunk fantasy adventure that blends a nation at war, political intrigue and a sprinkling of romance with an unexpected theme of fate playing a hand in the lives of those involved. This was one of my first bunch of five books for the SPFBO and it was quite a page turner with plenty going on.
The story gets off to a very good start as we’re introduced to Lynx as she sponsors her brother on a raid. Lynx is a Norin Princess. A nomadic tribe who rebel against the rule of the Chenayans. The Chenayan Empire is ruled by the Avanov family who for the past four hundred years have ruled a vast swathe of the world with an iron fist assisted by what, on the face of it, seems to be strange magic – nothing, however, is quite how as it seems.
The world is a place that has seen war, known as The Burning, and clearly on something of a grand scale. As a result a pact was formed between the nations whereby the pursuit of learning and advances in technology, were forbidden. As part of the pact it was decreed that each generation a Norin Princess would be chosen to marry a Chenayan Prince. Not a terribly popular decree from either side of the bargain, not just because both sides resent and dislike the other but it seems that there is a prophecy that predicts one of the Princesses will bring about the eventual downfall of the empire.
In terms of the characters there are quite a lot to meet but I think the author does an admirable job of introducing them in a way that makes them easy to remember. There is undoubtedly a lot of court intrigue, back stabbing and manoeuvring going on but I think it’s handled well and doesn’t become confusing. Lynx is an interesting character. She believes strongly in honour and in fact oaths are taken very seriously by her tribe. Consequently, when she is chosen by the Emperor to be the next bride of the future ruler she swears an oath to her father that compels her to follow this route. Lukan is the Crown Prince and her future husband. He’s a character conflicted by his desire for Lynx and his fear that she will be the one prophesied to bring about the fall of the empire and his basic belief that she’s little more than a savage. Lukan is a bit of an over privileged, somewhat spoilt character who seems to think his heritage and good looks should have people falling at his feet. It would be very easy to dislike him as he seems a little spineless however underlying this is the bullying and abusive treatment that he’s suffered at the hands of his father which does give a little pause for thought. On the other hand we have Axel, cousin to Lukan and son of the Emperor’s brother. Axel seems to be one of those gifted characters, good at everything and although not as easy on the eye as his cousin, a lot more easy to like. Lynx, Lukan and Axel share POV chapters as the story progresses.
Criticisms. I found the start of the book really easy to like, when Lynx was still based at home with her family. I really enjoyed the setting and also getting to see Lynx in her natural environment and I would be really happy to explore that some more. I felt that Lynx was robbed a little of her ability when she was taken out of this setting. Of course she was stripped of her defences and forced to wear clothing that she was unfamiliar with but for a warrior who can command men it felt a little like she lost something more and everything she did became a little bit about showing her legs off or swinging her hips. Too much focus, I felt, on how stunning she was and how everyone desired her and less about whether she was able and could actually stand up for herself. I was a bit sad at this aspect as it felt like she’d been turned simply into an object of desire. I was also worried that this was going to veer strongly into romance and maybe even the dreaded love triangle but in that respect I’m pleased to say my fears were unfounded.
I also wonder what it is that made the Emperor choose Lynx, who is clearly a bit of a handful and not willing to bend the knee, when her sister is clearly eager to please and has a somewhat vapid and more biddable nature? Why choose the more unruly of the two to become the eventual Empress – it doesn’t actually make sense in terms of the wider story and all the plotting – particularly by the Emperor.
There are a lot of intrigues that take place during the course of just a few days and in fact you could say maybe there’s a little too much going on to the extent that you’re no longer sure who’s being honest and who’s working with who. But, that being said I quite like that, it keeps you on your toes a little.
Finally, there’s the dreaded cliffhanger! Personally I don’t mind cliffhanger’s too much and you certainly can’t blame an author for trying to give you extra incentive to pick up their next book! But, yes, this really is a life or death type of cut off point so be warned of that.
On the whole, and in spite of my criticisms, this was an enjoyable and fast paced read. It didn’t become overly romantic, there was no love triangle and the author manages to bring in some unexpected elements – such as the technological advances and the underlying theme of fate – that were really good.