He Said/She Said Review – The Staff and the Blade

Elizabeth Hunter is an author that I have only heard great things about, and today we have not just one but two reviews of her newest release, The Staff and the Blade. Doug Meeks has been a longtime fan, and Monika is a newer but no less enthusiastic convert, so let’s check out this latest release…

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00049]Warriors. Lovers. Enemies. Legends.

Their union became pivotal in Irin history, but to understand Damien and Sari’s ending, you must go back to their beginning. Four hundred years ago, a young singer and a hardened warrior met and loved each other, but their life was torn apart by violence.

Love. Desire. Grief. Betrayal.

No matter how much pain and anger stain their lives, bonds in the Irin race cannot be abandoned. Damien and Sari will never truly leave each other, because those who are destined cannot be ignored.

The Staff and the Blade is a four part stand-alone book of approximately 480 pages. It is the fourth book in the Irin Chronicles.

DREAMS: Damien of Bohemia was a legend content to live in obscurity. Weary from a century of human and Irin bloodshed, he took shelter among those who would not question his silence or the martial spells he wore over his body. Until an earth singer of raw power and no delicacy came to the village where he hid. Sari of Vestfold wasn’t intrigued by the mysterious warrior or his moody silences. And she wasn’t interested in listening for the whisper of his soul. Even when those whispers promised a connection that could tie them for eternity.

GHOSTS: A new posting in Paris during Napoleon’s reign leads Sari and Damien back to familiar faces and the Council politics Damien has tried so hard to avoid. But the Irin world has changed in the two hundred years since their mating. The singers have become more isolated. The scribes are more martial. And the Grigori flood growing cities and lay in wait. When Sari’s sister envisions the future, she sees emptiness, chaos, and a darkness that threatens to overtake their world.

MEMORIES: Hidden from Irin society, the Irina have learned to take their revenge on the Grigori. They answer to no one. They ask for no mercy. And forgiveness? That’s the last thing on anyone’s mind. Two hundred years after the Rending, Damien and Sari are thrown together to face a new threat, a girl who might be key to the healing of the Irin race. If they can survive the anger and grief that has separated them for two hundred years.

VISIONS: The Irin and Irina are together again. Society is being rebuilt. But what do you do when the foundation of your world has crumbled? Where do you go when all the boundaries have been redrawn? For Damien and Sari, charting a new path into the future means confronting the demons of the past. They’ve forgiven each other, but can they forgive themselves?

Doug sent his review over first so let’s see What Doug said…

Well let me start by disagreeing with the line in the synopsis that says “The Staff and the Blade is a four part stand-alone book”. I cannot see anyone really enjoying this book to its fullest without a lot of prior knowledge from previous books in this series. Since the last book was a bit over a year ago I had to move some brain cells around to remember certain things and the action skips over events that took place in previous books so I do not see this book as any type of “stand alone” other than the love story is self contained, much of the rest of the book is detailing things that happened in previous books but were not part of those plots or it skips certain events completely that were detailed in previous books.

OK, now let me mention that this book is laid out a bit different in that it is 4 parts (or 4 books as the author refers to them) that tell a story that covers centuries, mainly revolving around an epic romance between Damien and Sari. It covers a love story that begins with passion and love, almost destroyed by tragedy and decades of separation and regret before we get to a most satisfying ending.

If you have read the other books in the series you know some of what is coming and you are so involved that you wish you could prevent some of it but are swept away by the history that has already been shared in previous books and is touched upon lightly in places and horrible detail in others.

You will be caught up in the emotion and scope of this romance and epic story as it slides across centuries while telling not only the evolving love story but also the evolving history of the Erin/Erina race.

Bottom Line: It has been more than a year since I read The Secret and there was a lot of things from that book you needed to know so read it first if you have not already. This is an amazing story and I can see why it took over a year for her to get it done, it covers a LOT of Erin history and tells a love story that is tempered by passion, love and tragedy. As always when I finish one of her books I am breathless and wishing there were more pages to read but it does have a satisfying conclusion and I hope we get to see a bit more of these characters in future books. So I give it 5 Stars without any reservations since you have a love story, adventure, tragedy, revenge, battles, sex, and overall an epic story you will remember long after you read the last page. What more could you want .

And not to be outdone, now it is Monika‘s turn…

A hauntingly beautiful tale of love, suffering, sacrifice, and ultimately forgiveness that spans centuries.

Ever since Sari and Damien did battle in a meadow in “The Singer” and Damien held back (some) so that Sari could vent her rage on him, I have been dying to read their story. As they both appear as important secondary characters in Malachi and Ava’s story it is strongly recommended that new readers start with the first three books of the Irin Chronicles.

Damien is an Irin scribe and a warrior by blood and training. But years of war, killing and doing unspeakable things in the service of the council of his race have left him battle weary and empty. So he retreats to a little community in the Orkneys were he can tend to his manuscripts and fields and otherwise be left in peace. Until Sari, a young but powerful earth singer, is stationed there to help improve the crops. She is fascinated with the taciturn warrior who keeps to himself but as far as she can discover he doesn’t seem interested in women in general. But when he sees her work magic for the first time his soul recognizes hers. Sari doesn’t believe in fate and soulmates, she wants to forge her own destiny. When Damien is called away on a long mission Sari realizes that she wants to choose him, too, not because it was ordained by fate, but because of who he is.
Just as their relationship seems settled, the “Rending” occurs, the most traumatic event in the history of their people. The society of the Irin is structured in a way that the (male) scribes are the warriors and protectors, while the (female) singers tend home and hearth and maybe follow artistic pursuits. To protect the women they are segregated in so called retreats in the country, while the scribes hunt  their enemies in the cities. This proves disastrous as their enemies mount a concentrated large scale attack, drawing the scribes away, leaving the retreats that were believed to be safe unprotected. Mostly Irin women and children loose their lives, with many warriors following their mate, rather than go on without them. Sari survives because she insisted that Damien train her to fight, but she blames Damien, who was the watcher of their community, for what has happened. Damien blames himself, and so he not only carries his own pain, but takes on hers as well. In the aftermath they disagree on how what remains of their society should be restructered: Damien still adheres to the dictates of the council while Sari is building safe havens for the Irina all over the world, where they are free of council mandates. Their rare meetings become so painful that they stop seeing each other altogether, except for in their dreams. Then Ava’s mate is killed and Damien decides to take her to Sari’s safe haven in order for her to heal and to learn to control her magic. Will Damien and Sari be able to overcome the rift between them that was caused by pain, betrayal, and loss? Will they be able to forgive each other and themselves? And will they be able to fight the calcified structures of their council in order to reform their society?

I loved everything about this book: the love story between Damien and Sari that starts out sweet and poignant and then turns so heart-breaking; the two main protagonists, Sari with her independent spirit and sometimes abrasive demeanor and her kick-ass personality, Damien, who is strong and honorable (and hot), and brave enough to lay his soul bare. I also liked how the characters developed and grew throughout the novel, and how they learnt from their mistakes. And I found it extremely refreshing that their union is one of choice, that they came together out of love and not because of duty or fate or some inescapable mate bond.
Then there is the superb world-building with just the right amount of historical and local detail to weave a fascinating tapestry; it serves as the perfect backdrop for this epic tale of the descendants of fallen angels that fight to keep humanity safe. The overarching plot revisits and continues threads that were developed in the first three books, but also changes some of the premises set up at the beginning oft he series: the boundaries between good and evil are starting to get blurred.
The most fascinating aspect for me was the strong gender criticism pervading this book: the structures of Irin society have become very patriarchal, with men making all the decisions and the women being segregated “for their own protection”, instead of being taught how to protect themselves. It is precisely this thinking that has led to the worst tragedy in Irin history. The Irina/singers have different magic than the Irin/scribes, but it is just as powerful. Damien, though, always wished for a mate that could match him strength for strength. Hopefully the council can be brought to realize that a more egalitarian approach to the gender question will strengthen their society and not weaken it.

5+ stars from me. I strongly hope Elizabeth Hunter will continue to write stories in this fascinating and darkly compelling world.

I have been trying to get to her stuff for over a year now, since I have one of her books on my TBR pile. To be honest, I have never heard anyone say they haven’t enjoyed her books, and that is incredibly rare. Anyone else anxious to get their hands on this one?


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