I picked this book up when the Borders in my town was closing down a couple of years ago (still not over it), but for some reason I didn’t actually read it until now. Â I really wish I’d read it sooner because wow! Â What a fantastic slow-burn romance set in a beautifully built world!
The Last Warrior is classified as paranormal romance, and I think this really shows the shortcoming of using “paranormal romance” as a catch-all for romances that have elements of the weird. Â It’s not paranormal at all; it’s more like a hybrid of science fiction and medievalesque fantasy with a very strong romantic element. Â So please don’t expect supernatural stuff or magic in this book because of the categorization! Â There is no magic.
There is, however, a splintered colony of humans on a faraway planet, left alone for so long that Earth has turned into the mythical Uhrth, something like heaven or just a distant planet, depending on who you ask. Â The humans are divided into three factions: the Tassagonians, who live in a technologically regressed, near-medieval society that fears sorcery; the Kurel, who live either in the far mountains or in a walled ghetto in Tassagon and who quietly practice the medicine passed down from their Uhrth ancestors; and the Riders, who we only briefly see.
Tao is a Tassagonian general, a legitimately good man who led armies against the monstrous Gorr, creatures who seem determined to wipe out the humans. Â Elsabeth is a Kurel, the daughter of a slain doctor who wants the cruel and petty Tassagonian king removed from power. Â When Tao is betrayed by the jealous king Xim and the bitter Beck, a soldier whose life was saved by Tao but who know bends the ear of the king, he must hide amongst the Kurel as a plan is set in motion to unseat the king.
Tao and Elsabeth are both likable characters, nicely fleshed out instead of being stereotypical representations of their people. Â Tao is a clever, world-weary soldier despite his young age while Elsabeth is a bookworm who internally fights against the pacifism of her people thanks to her desire for revenge for her parents’ murders. Â Both characters must overcome their prejudices against the other’s people in order to keep each other safe, and I really like that there isn’t a single group that’s right. Â Both the Kurel and Tassagonians have good points and bad points, and only by coming together as humans can they save humanity.
The romance is wonderfully slow to develop. Â No one meets and falls immediately in love, so hooray! Â Elsabeth and Tao are understandably wary of each other for a while, but as they get to know each other, their relationship develops naturally. Â They have more in common than they would have ever imagined, and the nice undercurrent of lust that they’re both feeling really helps to keep the romance wheels turning at a nice pace. Â I thought their HEA was very satisfying, and I ended up closing the book grinning widely.
I think my favorite part of the book is the worldbuilding. Â The plot is a decent political intrigue story, and the pacing moved smoothly for the most part, but the world! Â I really like how Grant doesn’t infodump; she just tells her story and peppers the plot with tidbits about the world and its vastly differing cultures. Â I’m fascinated by it, and even though it’s refreshing to read a stand-alone book in this vast sea of romance series, I really want more stories set in this world.
If you like a good, deliberately paced romance, or if you’re a fan of genre-bending SF/F but want some added spice, I’d definitely recommend picking upÂ The Last Warrior. Â It was an entertaining read all around for me.