Review – The Emperor’s Arrow by Lauren D. M. Smith

Reviewed by: E

The bride candidates have been summoned. Their numbers are many, yet only one is an Amazzi warrior. Only one would give her life to protect him.

Evony of Aureline, warrior of her people, has no intention of becoming a hideous old man’s bride. Though her people have sworn their loyalty to the legendary emperor Galen, Evony knows little of courts and intrigue. It’s simply not her world.

Yet it’s on the palace training grounds where Evony’s archery skills gain her the respect of soldiers and legates alike. The emperor himself takes notice of the beautiful, ruthless warrior. In turn, the young, steely eyed Galen is nothing at all what Evony expected.

This man could very well conquer her heart. But does he feel the same?

As the rivalry among the remaining bride candidates intensifies and the plot for the throne unfolds, Evony must make a grave choice: fulfill her destiny and protect her people or follow her heart and pursue true love.

Either way, the honor of the Amazzi people and the future of the empire now rests with Evony of Aureline. For she is the Emperor’s Arrow.
This blurb came from Goodreads

I have a weakness for strong heroines especially those who can fight and know tactics from a steady diet of Sword and Sorceresses edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey, Star Wars (original trilogy), and Tolkien. I also happen to enjoy “All the eligible women” trope from various permutations of Cinderella across multiple cultures. So when I read the blurb for The Emperor’s Arrow I did an internal happy dance. Smith melded those two themes together in a way which while extremely satisfying and enjoyable to read on most levels fell just the tiniest bit short on the romance side. Having said that, because of how much I enjoyed reading The Emperor’s Arrow I am certainly looking forward to Smith’s next endeavor.

Evony was so much fun with her preconceived notions, impatience, and yet kind heart. She was accustomed to people being direct and “sensible” prizing intelligence and physical prowess in martial skills instead of the subtleties and poison of politics and nobility. I loved how her goal was to find some strong experienced man to have fun with and give her children instead of the “honor” of marrying the emperor. Granted her mental image of him might have been shaped a bit by the helpful rumors from her family but still she had other things to focus on. Watching her discover there was more at stake and a much bigger world then her island home was enjoyable.

Galen wasn’t as much fun, but as his back-story unfolded and present day threats emerged I started to understand his outlook on life and some of his reactions. I really liked how he had a trusted inner circle of a few individuals who knew him well enough to both advise and disagree with his plans. In addition, his willingness to listen to Evony’s thoughts as an outside observer, provided she didn’t put herself in danger, was very promising. When everything came to a head, Galen was smart enough and flexible enough to listen to others who were experts in particular areas instead of insisting he knew better. While I believed Evony and Galen became friends and even found each other physically attractive, I wasn’t able to get past their lust and friendship to believe in a deeper emotional connection. I thought they worked well together and they complimented each other so I am not sure why I wasn’t able to make the final step.

Some of the secondary characters like Admina, one of the quieter bride candidates, and the Legate Balint really stood out to me in their interactions with Evony, Galen, and others. I loved Evony’s family and how they were also no nonsense and accepting at the same time. Their bonds of trust made it evident how Evony was able to gain friendship and inspire loyalty in most she met while also stirring enmity. I enjoyed the hints Smith placed about Admina and found myself hoping she would decide to do something with Legate Balint in the future.

One of the aspects I found captivating about this story was the world. The story is primarily set in the capital with some thought/mention from Evony of her home and the differences but the rest was hinted at. Each family who supplied a bride candidate was subject to the Emperor and had their own loyal warriors, alliances, and intrigues. It seemed to be loosely based on a feudal system but I was allowed to use my imagination to flesh out the rest. I also didn’t see where religion held any significant sway which also left me intrigued. I could really see this world and setting as the basis for any number of stories **hint, hint**.

Overall I found Smith’s The Emperor’s Arrow an enjoyable read. I liked the characters. setting, and story premise. While I wasn’t completely sold on the HEA, I could believe an HFN and saw a lot of promise in potential future stories set in this same world. Lucikly Smith’s next story is out and while not a sequel it’s blurb has got my attention. The Emperor’s Arrow was also the winner of Harlequin’s 2015 So You Think You Can Write (SYTYCW) contest. Given my stellar track record at the moment with SYTYCW finalists I need to take a closer look at the results of that particular contest.

I give The Emperor’s Arrow a B

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