Kris Kennedy – “The Conqueror”

24 Aug

Kennedy, Kris - The Conqueror
GENRE: Romance / medieval
PUBLISHED: Zebra Books, 2009

WHY THIS NOVEL: Medieval + it got good reviews

England, 1152. Henry II is king. The country is wracked by bloody civil war. Griffyn Sauvage is a valiant knight with a strict moral code of honor. But when his family’s estate and vast treasures are seized, he becomes hardened by the betrayal. Now he will go to any lengths for vengeance–even if it means forming a union with his most despised enemy by marrying his daughter, Lady Guinevere de l’Ami. Then, Griffyn lays eyes on Gwyn and is completely disarmed…

As war strikes, Gwyn is left alone to fight her enemies who want control of her ancestral lands. When Griffyn comes to her rescue, she is grateful that the mysterious, brave knight has risked his life to protect hers. With each passing day, she finds herself drawn to him even as she senses he’s hiding a dark secret from her. And when another dangerous adversary closes in on both of them, Griffyn and Gwyn’s trust in each other will be put to the ultimate test…

I already wrote about why I had trouble getting into the story. There were too many things which strained my sense of belief (this is rather subjective, others might see this differently), I actually thought about quitting. I was willing to go on because I thought the author’s voice engaging, I liked the heroine and hero as a couple, and the romantic conflict promised to be good.

Sadly, to my more subjective problems with the novel in the beginning were added what I felt to be more substantial problems later on. For example, the pacing faltered a bit in the middle (especially compared to the mad dash in the beginning). In addition, and more bothersome to me, the two conflicts in the story relied too much on lucky coincidences to move the plot along, and overall, I had the impression that conflict, backstory, motivation would have benefited from more exploration. They were good but they didn’t make use of their full potential and therefore seemed muted.

At the center of The Conqueror is a conflict of loyalty. It’s 1152 and there are two men calling themselves king, Stephen and Henry II. Gwyn is loyal to Stephen, and Griffyn is loyal to Henry II. Gwyn and Griffyn also share a personal backstory. Both think the Nest, Everoot’s principal castle and the place where Gwyn grew up, belongs to them.

Gwyn and Griffyn meet one fateful night (I gripped about the events in the post linked above) and fall in love without knowing who the other is. The next morning, they have to part ways. They see each other nearly one year later and this time they know they are on opposite sides. Gwyn is one of the few nobles still loyal to Stephen and Griffyn is a trusted friend of Henry II. Griffyn and Gwyn meet again because Griffyn wants his home, the Nest, back (the place Gwyn lives and is lady of).

As if that wasn’t enough potential for conflict between them, Gwyn does something that puts Griffyn in grave danger in regard to his loyalty just before Griffyn shows up in front of her castle to take it back. What she does lets her keep her loyalty, but she not once worries about what her behavior means for Griffyn’s loyalty except on a personal level. So she worries about keeping a secret from him, but she doesn’t consider the larger picture and thinks of her behavior in terms of treason, treason for which Griffyn would be hold responsible. Therefore, when I read ” ‘I’ve said it all along, Gwynnie: you’re impetuous, but not stupid’ ” (381) I had to laugh because my impression was that Gwyn a) was impetuous and b) had no sense for politics. But despite the considerable potential for conflict between them, Gwyn and Griffyn can’t keep away from and their hands of each other.

The second conflict is Griffyn’s personal conflict. It ties in to why Griffyn thinks Gwyn’s home is rightfully his and to a mysterious treasure of which he’s to be the Guardian, something he doesn’t want to be. He also knows he needs three keys to unlock whatever that treasure is. The backstory concerning the Nest is rather hazy although everyone knows it except Gwyn. And the explanation what this Guardian business exactly is and how the Guardian is determined (and what it implies) comes very late and I’m still not really clear on it. So for much of the story, this is all very woo-woo.

The problem is, the POV characters who know about this don’t talk about it because they know it. Gwyn knows nothing but since she doesn’t even have an inkling that there’s something and she doesn’t wonder about the keys (she actually possessed two of them at one point) or wants to find out what use they have, this doesn’t help me understand it better.

Actually, from the pieces I got, I’m still trying to puzzle it out. Griffyn is called Charlemagne’s Heir and therefore he’s a Guardian. Is this to be taken literally or not? If literally, how come that Gwyn is a Guardian, too? If not literally, what made Griffyn’s father Guardian and how ties this in with the crusade? Was Gwyn’s father a Guardian? Why could he be one, why couldn’t Miles father (and Miles) be one, too? You see, I’m confused (and possibly just too dense to get it). But in any way, instead of upping the suspense and making me want to find out more by being vague about this Guardian business, I thought it annoying because it was too vague for me to figure it out.

On the plus side of this novel stands that it’s a medieval, that it has nice and likable characters, and that it’s written in an engaging and easy to read manner (though I have to say, calling Griffyn’s fingers thick made me think of sausages).

Verdict: An okay read. (3/5)

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4 Responses to “Kris Kennedy – “The Conqueror””

  1. Tracy Monday, August 24, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    I actually heard from someone, can’t remember who, that this wasn’t too bad. But after reading what you wrote I’m wondering. Hmmm…I’ll definitely have to think about this one before I buy. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. nath Monday, August 24, 2009 at 8:05 pm #

    Very good review, Taja… and now I’m torn LOL πŸ™‚ I have the book because Holly enjoyed it sooo much, but now I’m not too sure what I’m going to think of it… Hmmm. Ah well, for the price I pay, it’s worth the risk right? πŸ˜›

  3. Taja Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    Tracy, nath – I have the impression I’m in the minority with this one so chances are good you’ll like it better than I. I also was off to a bad start with it and I think it never completely recovered from that. But for the price it’s certainly worth a try.

    I think Kennedy shows promise. This is a debut novel (I think). I wouldn’t mind reading another novel by her.

  4. Christine Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 4:30 am #

    Tracy–I think Jill D. of The Romance Rookie reviewed this and loved it. I may consider trying it… the price is nice. πŸ™‚

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