The Scribe – romantic urban fantasy set in Istanbul

scribeThe Scribe by Elizabeth Hunter

Published in Darkly Dreaming: A Five Book Fantasy Romance Anthology, 2014 (Fantasy Romance)*

My Rating: The view was okay, but the food was bad (2.5-3/5)

The Scribe not a terribly unique urban fantasy – fallen angels, descendants of angels, true mates, Chosen One heroines that don’t fit the mold, and the battle between good and evil are all common symptoms of the genre. At times, I enjoyed it. Most of the action takes place in Istanbul, which adds an exotic flavor.

Ava Matheson has an interesting history. All her life, she’s heard a foreign language in her head. The words underlie spoken words in the people around her. Believing she is crazy, she’s been to therapists regularly. No one can determine what causes it, or how to fix it. Until one day in Istanbul, she hears a single voice that stands out among all the others. She confronts the strange owner of the voice, who has been following her. Malachi, said owner, knows something is different about Ava, because she has other followers – descendants of fallen angels, mortal (immortal?) enemies of his own people. As mysterious events swirl around the pair, they do their own dance of getting to know each other, resisting the pull of attraction… 

What’s clear pretty early on is that Ava is not entirely human – and she’s entirely unique among the race to which she belongs. Origins unknown, she has the potential to change the destiny of her race – if she can accept her own destiny. Also obvious is that Malachi and Ava are mated – each is the other half of the other’s soul, that kind of thing. Very little of the plot is surprising, although there were moments of suspense that I enjoyed, as Ava discovers the truth about Malachi and they evade their pursuers. And then, once they accepted each other, and Ava accepted her non-human future, all the suspense and most of the tension disappeared. Or became uninteresting, one of the two.

I think it’s the true mates trope that make the plot and romance so predictable and familiar. The connection between the two main characters was a bit overdone and insta-love for me. And the gender roles of the angelic descendants didn’t really do it for me, either. The whole society depended on females being the peaceful caretakers and the males being the protective warriors, which was thinly rationalized by a war that nearly eliminated all the women and children. More variety in terms of individuals and how they fit into that society would have felt more realistic, and been more interesting. While I don’t always dislike the pre-destined mates trope, I think it too often falls into the trap of having societies where women are nurturing and men protective. Where women and children must be kept safe, and men are supposed to sacrifice themselves. I think it could be done better, and more uniquely, than it has been here. How about individuals that are destined to be mates because of their complementary personalities/skills/characteristics, which is decided on an individual basis? So, a warrior woman mates with a scholar, that kind of thing. Why is that never done? (If it has been, and I haven’t read it yet, I’d love to know the title!)

The Istanbul setting and hints at a larger, more complex plot involving ancient battles among the heavens were the most interesting things about this novel. Honestly, the only thing that makes me want to continue with this series is the cliffhanger ending. Recommended for fans of Christine Feehan and Nalini Singh, as well as anyone who likes angels in their urban fantasy.

*Advance e-reader copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley. This version was included in a collection of fantasy romances titled Darkly Dreaming. While I did not finish all the books in that collection, the ones I did have been reviewed on this blog separately.

Read-alikes

If you’re interested in a more meaningful and self-chosen – not predestined – romance, utterly unique and seductive world-building, and excellent writing, do check out Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

Fans of Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series includes more variation in her individual characters and in her partnerships, where frequently the heroines are also warriors. A warning: with lots of darkness and evil, action that takes place mostly at night, and explicit romantic scenes, this series is not for the faint of heart!

Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series also has romance and angels, but it raises The Scribe some nasty vampires. Oh, and also – the heroine, Elena Deveraux, is a bada$$ vampire hunter.

Ilona Andrews’ The Edge series mixes contemporary mundane environments with magical territories. It’s different, because the magical creatures aren’t angels, but fae (fey/faeries) living in another dimension, connected to our own by the Edge, a no-man’s-land where the poor and slightly magical live outside the law and order of the fey and mundane worlds. And, it’s written by the same people who brought you Kate Daniels.

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