Published by Harlequin on 19 April 2011
As a decorated soldier, the young General Tao knows only one kind of honor—to his people. But when his own king betrays him, he discovers that his sacrifices, his successes, may not have been for the good of the country at all.
Fate—and his enemies—throw him together with Elsabeth, a red-haired beauty who has served as the royal tutor. Her loyalties, though, remain with her father's people, the rebellious Kurel, who worship the old ways, even harboring the forbidden arks that brought the Kurel to this planet ages ago. When a threat greater than their peoples' war looms, intent on destroying the world they both know, the fierce warrior and the sensitive scholar must unite. Together, they must fight for their planet, for their world and for their love.
Genres: Fantasy Romance, Romance, SF Romance
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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. I really wish I’d read it sooner because wow! 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. It’s not paranormal at all; it’s more like a hybrid of science fiction and medievalesque fantasy with a very strong romantic element. So please don’t expect supernatural stuff or magic in this book because of the categorization! 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. 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. Elsabeth is a Kurel, the daughter of a slain doctor who wants the cruel and petty Tassagonian king removed from power. 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. 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. 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. 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. No one meets and falls immediately in love, so hooray! Elsabeth and Tao are understandably wary of each other for a while, but as they get to know each other, their relationship develops naturally. 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. 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. The plot is a decent political intrigue story, and the pacing moved smoothly for the most part, but the world! 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. 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 up The Last Warrior. It was an entertaining read all around for me.