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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Road to Shanhassan by Joely Sue Burkhart

The Road to Shanhassan by Joely Sue Burkhart
Publisher: Drollerie Press
Length: Full Length (328 pgs)
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Other: M/F/M, Voyeurism
Rating: Best Book
Review by Holly

The long awaited sequel to Joely Sue Burkhart's first Shanhasson novel, The Rose of Shanhasson, is finally here. The Road to Shanhasson is the second in the "Blood and Shadows" series, and continues the breathtaking story of Shannari, rightful queen of the Green Lands.

Shannari is about to be made the Khul’lanna of the Plains, wife to the Khul, leader of the 9 camps of the Sha’Kae al’Dan people. Unusual in the land of her birth for her skills as a warrior and prized as the rightful ruler of the Green Lands before being stolen away by Rhaekar, the Khul of the Sha'Kae al'Dan, Shannari is as foreign to these people as they are to her.

Shannari has admitted her love for Rhaekar, and, reluctantly, that she also loves Gregar, the Shadowed man who, along with the other eight Blood guards, protects Rhaekar from danger. Rhaekar, far from being angered by her love for another man, is man enough to give her what she wants, and determines that Gregar shall be her co-mate.

Some of her new people welcome Shannari, but others are angry that a hated Outlander is to become their new queen. Controversy and danger swirls around Shannari and the men she loves, threatening to tear apart the camps. Shannari works with Rhaekar, Gregar, and some new allies to bring peace to the camps, but she forgets that Theo, the current ruler of the Green Lands, will stop at nothing to debase and destroy her, and his bloody pact with Lygon, the god of Shadow, will bring Shannari to her knees.

Please note: Strong sexual imagery, sexual situations, violence.

The Road to Shanhassan is a dark, violent road. The relationships formed in Joely Sue Burkhart’s first book in the Blood and Shadows series, The Rose of Shanhassan, are cemented by blood in this book. The characters are richly drawn and fully engaging, and the feelings are deep and strong throughout the story.

This book deals with the struggle to win acceptance for Shannari from the Nine Camps, and to prepare her for the tribulations ahead of her as she fights to meet her destiny to become Queen of the Green Lands and unseat King Theo, the embodiment of Lygon, the lord of The Endless Night who controls him. The bonds of Shannari and her co-mates are forged by blood, and are strong and enduring. Shannari becomes the mate to both Rhaekhar, Khul of the Nine Camps, and his First Blood, Gregar, the Shadowed Blood. The tribes don’t want to accept an “outlander” like Shannari as the mate to their leader, but she is able to show them that she is not weak. The training she goes through to prepare is grueling, and with it comes the grudging respect of many of Rhaekhar’s people. The tribes equate blood with honor, so there is a lot of blood-letting in this story of passion, love, lust and eventually loss. Even the joining of Shannari and Rhaekhar is bloody and quite violent, but very much consensual. This book takes the reader on the journey with Shannari as she comes into her power, not only as the Last Daughter of The Blessed Lady Leesha of the Green Lands, but as Khul’lanna of the Nine Camps of the Sha’Kae al’Dan, co-mate to Rhaekhar and Gregar. All roads in this lead to the great battle for the Rose Crown of Shanhassan, a Trial by Blood between the Champions of Shannari and Theo.

The Road to Shanhassan is definitely not a standalone book. The relationships in this book are dependent on the set up from The Rose of Shanhassan, and could be quite confusing if you have not read that book. But this book pushes the limits to new levels, in terms of passion, strength and pure lust. The scenes between the three main characters are so explicitly hot and erotic I expected my e-reader to melt. Ms. Burkhart creates her world so skillfully, the people and places become real to the reader, and the emotions are deep and, at times quite gut-wrenchingly real. There were many places in the story where I cried along with Shannari, at her depth of loss and her heights of joy and passion. There is humor scattered throughout the book as well; wicked sharp humor with a bite to it, to be sure.

Nothing in this book can be seen as “filler”; every single scene is necessary to the plot, and even the seemingly innocuous events come to have significance in retrospect. The character development throughout the book is wonderful, and I look forward to the final installment impatiently.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who loves a lot of action, a lot of passion and lots of steamy romance. Like the previous book in the series, this one is not for the faint of heart. If you want a simple “happily ever after” this is not the book for you. But if you want depth of characters and excellent storytelling, Joely Sue Burkhart comes through with one fantastic book. I can’t wait for the next one.

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