Review – The Grove by Jean Johnson

grove by jean johnsonPublisher: Berkley Trade
Publish Date: December 3, 2013
How I got this book: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

At the behest of their leader, the Witches of Darkhana are mobilized. Their mission: gather the most honest, true servants of each deity so that they may respectfully represent their land at the reopening of the Convocation of Gods and Man. For Witch-Priest Aradin Teral, his part in the quest has taken him across the length and breadth of Katan, searching for the best possible representative of an empire bent on preventing that very task.

Ever since the destruction of the last Convocation, the magics of the Grove have been warped, endangering pilgrims and residents alike and requiring the guardianship of the strongest mage the priesthood can spare. Priestess Saleria is now the Keeper of the Grove, and Guardian of the Divine Garden. The arrival of a black-robed stranger bearing the faces of two men brings the promise of change, even peace, to the isolated valley. But it also ushers in an irresistible passion and a threat to Saleria’s control of the wildest magics in the woods…
*Blurb from Goodreads*

If you love fantasy romance, Jean Johnson’s series will probably give you the same kind of book hangover that they give me…and that’s a good thing. Jean does excellent worldbuilding, and one has a tendency to get lost inside and not want to come back out.

Also, if you have a fondness for well-done fantasy romance, I highly recommend her Sons of Destiny series, mostly for the sheer romantic fun of it. That series is a prequel series to The Guardians of Destiny, but it’s not required reading to get the background. It’s just damn fun.

They are different in tone, however. The Sons of Destiny felt like it had more emphasis on the intimacy of the romance, and the Guardians series feels like it has more emphasis on the fantasy worldbuilding, not that there’s anything shabby about the romantic aspects. YMMV.

Each volume in the Guardians series definitely has more of an adventure flavor to it. The overall series is about a re-convening of the Convocation of Gods and Man, an event that last occurred 200 years ago and ended in disaster. There are prophecies that this one might go the same way, unless certain events transpire to prevent that next disaster. Each book is about thwarting said disaster, by providing one of the prophesied guardians with both the love of their life, and assistance to prevent the invasion of demons from the Netherhells.

tower by jean johnsonThe first book in this series is The Tower (looks like she’s going for one word titles) and it was awesome (review at Reading Reality).

In The Grove, we have three elements; the romance, the problem that needs to be solved to prevent the next phase of the demon incursion, and the politics of the Convocation. It turns out to be VERY appropriate that this is a threesome, but not in the way that you are thinking.

Aradin Teral is a witch of Darkhana. Don’t let the term witch fool you, witches of Darkhana can be either male, female, or both. About that both thing…Darkhana is a two-natured deity, she saved her lover from death by accepting his spirit into herself. So do the Darkhan witches accept the spirit guidance of a just departed witch. Aradin Teral is two men, the living host Aradin, and the dead spirit witch Teral.

He and his fellow witches have been sent to find the best representative of each deity to serve on the Convocation; someone who truly represents their people and their god and not the politics of their kingdom. In Katan, the best representative is Saleria, Keeper of the Sacred Grove. The only problem is that the Sacred Grove has been running amok for 200 years, in fact since the last Convocation went to hell in a handcart.

Aradin is the perfect witch to have been sent to assist Saleria. He is a trained Hortimancer, he has the skills needed to discover what is wrong with the Grove. He may also be the perfect man for the Grove Keeper–if she can accept the nature of the bond that he has with his Spirit Guide Teral.

Unfortunately, the political situation in the Katan capital is not as far away is Saleria would like to think. There are political boot-lickers even among the acolytes in her Temple, and they have been waiting for just the tiniest chance to get their hands on the power of the Grove.

What made this story so much fun were the characters. Saleria starts out as a bit of a goodie-two-shoes, letting herself sink into the never-ending drudgery of her role as the Grove Keeper. And it is both drudgery and dangerous; she expects to burn herself out in 10 years, but if she doesn’t keep at it, the Grove will overrun the nearby town. At the same time, the job seems designed to make sure that the most powerful magic user in Katan has no time to think and ends up a squib. There are politics involved in this assignment.

Then Aradin Teral wakes her out of her daze. First by providing her a sounding board, second by providing an informed second viewpoint, and third by being of actual assistance. Saleria doesn’t need rescue as much as she needs a second pair of useful hands and eyes. What she gets are two pairs, sort of. The nature of the Darkhan witches is fascinating, and adds an extra texture to their developing romance. It both is, and isn’t a menage, but how and whether Saleria can accept Aradin’s nature, can accept the existence of Teral in his life, means that their romance takes quite a while to develop.

The Convocation begins as part of this story. We see some old friends back on Nightfall as part of this book, which was cool, but we also see the politics come to life. Saleria and Aradin have to outwit local politics, with the assistance of the Katan deities. They manifest, and they definitely do smite someone. Saleria was the correct choice.

I want to see the rest of the Convocation, and the rest of the Guardians, right now.

I give The Grove an A.


8 thoughts on “Review – The Grove by Jean Johnson”

  1. You will love this one, too Aurian. Her Darkhan witches are an awesome creation! And both Aradian and Teral are equally yummy. Enjoy!!!

  2. I know what you mean! I had an ebook copy of Hellfire, and I bought a paperback copy at Worldcon just so I could get her to sign it.

  3. *Flail*

    I did not know there was a sequel series to the Sons of Destiny, which I also adored. Also, the hero sounds super intriguing.

    I think this is a clear-cut example of “Shut up and take my money.” if ever there was one. I need this book in my life RIGHT NOW!

  4. If you adored Sons, then you’re going to be thrilled with Guardians. Run out and start with The Tower. Immediately. It is just SO fantastic.

  5. Have you read the Shifting Plains duology? I did go out and buy both the Guardians books, but found the Shifting Plains books as well, which are a prequel to the Sons of Destiny. I’m reading the first one now and it is made up of everything that I adore in fantasy romance.

  6. Pingback: A Baker’s Dozen of the Best Books of 2013 | Escape Reality, Read Fiction!

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