Rating: 4 out of 5
Blaze (Tranquility) (Volume 1), by Krista D. Ball, is the first book in the “Tranquility” series. (It is also found in: Beginnings: first novels in multiple series by Krista D. Ball.) Lady Champion Bethany is third in command of the elven Service (she’s Elorian, or a half-elf, herself). Lately they’re taking in humans for training from a neighboring kingdom as part of an attempt at diplomacy. She finds herself taking an interest in one of them–Arrago–and isn’t sure why. He’s never held a sword before, so he can’t enter training right now. Instead, since she goes through aides like water, she hires him to be her aide. She also has a “fit” in which she experiences visions including him. That part is because, as only a few people know, she’s the eldest daughter of the Goddess Apexia. Unfortunately, Bethany’s twin sister, Sarissa, who was exiled years ago for studying forbidden magic, has returned. And she plans to bring Apexia’s temple down around the ears of the elves. Not to mention killing off all of Bethany’s friends, and stealing dangerous magical texts from the temple.
I had a weird time with the growing affection between Bethany and Arrago. She’s 133; he’s 20. Admittedly 133 is young for an elf or Elorian, but she also comes across as older. He’s fairly sheltered and naive, which doesn’t help the discrepancy. So it was a little hard for me to buy into the relationship and the pair’s supposed chemistry. What I really love, though, is the fact that Bethany is the temperamental warrior, and Arrago is really happier being a clerk than picking up a sword (he’s also fussy enough to be very good at it). It’s a wonderful turnabout from the usual fantasy cliches.
I found the pacing and narrative clumsy and cumbersome at first, with way too much rumination and background-explaining. Also, a large part of the beginning of the book was spent on the details of how recruits are trained, which becomes almost entirely irrelevant when Arrago drops out to be Bethany’s aide. I feel like anything that’s had that much wordage spent on it should play a greater role.
I didn’t like the fact that everyone was either celibate outside of marriage or “a whore.” I see too much “women who have sex are whores” in real life that I don’t want to see it in my escapism.
With all the things above that I didn’t like, I expected to give the book a 3/5. But the further I got, the more the writing smoothed out and settled into its groove, and the more “alive” the characters felt. Ultimately, what really shows that it worked out well is that I’m interested in reading the next book!
Serious content note here for rape, on the page (but handled well–ie, not in any way lurid). Also, child death and abortion.