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Ella Drake – Desert Blade

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Love and survival in an apocalyptic world.

Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
Pages: 71
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-4268-9367-4
First Published: 23rd April 2012
Date Reviewed: 5th June 2012
Rating: 3.5/5

Derek and Lidia met when Lidia was the doctor in charge of rehabilitating him after he lost his arm. The riots and outright violence that had filled the streets of America threatened everyone’s lives, and whilst the two appeared to strike a rapport, it couldn’t last for long. 10 years later and Lidia still wonders what happened to Derek. When he turns up at her new community’s secured dwelling, looking for a doctor for a young friend, the feelings that had had little time to develop come racing back.

As this is a very short book, giving a basic plot summary without including any “spoiler” information is pretty impossible. However considering that the book’s strength lies in its setting and that the book is fairly predictable in an acceptable way, I do not see summarising it as a bad thing.

Drake once again provides us with an example of how creative and interesting she is when it comes to constructing worlds and elaborating on them. We’ve had sci-fi fairytales, romance in space with cowboys, and now we have an empty apocalyptic world. But this isn’t the apocalyptic world of the Young Adult genre, chilling and tyrannical, no, this is your bona fide obliteration, a world where nature has succumbed to the destructive forces of man and given in. Technology still exists but infrequently, and the world is notable for its desert.

The only issue with this is that there’s undoubtedly much to explore and a lot to learn – whilst the reader does learn a lot, the shortness of the book means that a good deal is left unsaid. Indeed the story itself is so short that it feels less of a novella and more the sort of piece that would fit into a collection. Because of the quick pace and few details you wonder if it would have worked better had it been in a compilation.

However that’s not to say that the book is bad, because as inferred, a book with such world building could not be so. And there is a lot to like about Desert Blade. One such example is the beginning, where everything feels rushed and you wonder if this will be the pace throughout. Once you get to the “10 years later” you realise just how appropriate such a fast pace was, not only because it was provided as background context, but because such a format is used for flashbacks in films – a quick glimpse of something, explosive in its revelations, before the story starts for real. You realise that the entire section was in fact one scene.

Something that was pointed out in reviews of Jaq’s Harp, was the inappropriate nature of a couple casually discussing whether they should revive their sexual relationship – all the while being chased by the enemy. Drake clearly took this criticism to heart, however she wove the criticism around her own preferences to good effect. In Desert Blade there may be enemies chasing the couple, but they will find a safe place before discussing their relationship. That Drake took the criticism of her readers and used it to improve an idea that she liked is to be admired and respected. In this one small element of her writing she has improved as a writer ten-fold, and shown that her readers important.

Desert Blade has a good concept behind it, a fascinating world that begs to be portrayed on the big screen, and an interesting mix of traditional and modern values. It may even have a hint of present media culture in the form of an element not unlike X-Men. The sole aspect that holds it back is its length. While we may know enough to understand the attraction between the characters, especially physically, we do not get to spend enough time with them to truly appreciate their positive roles in the community, and whilst another might say that that’s okay given the romantic focus, the fact that Drake included enough about the context to intrigue us, makes it an issue. The concept of lost and found is completed, but it could have been developed a lot more. Whilst the characters are the focus, it can be easy to instead get lost in the setting.

Something that has so far been left out of this review is the reasoning for this book being an erotic rather than fade-to-black romance. There are a couple of scenes, one in particular, with explicit language and no-holds-barred descriptions. However unlike Drake’s previous books, they are not as prevalent and indeed one of them is woven around the issue of contraception, providing a lesson at the same time. That said, Derek is rather open about his love of women in a way that may prove uncomfortable with some readers, especially when his need to protect oversteps the mark.

Desert Blade is an interesting story combined with a compelling sorry world. Appropriate as an introduction to Drake’s work, it demonstrates the author’s strengths well. It perhaps ought to have been longer but is good on its own merit – and it does succeed in continuing the tradition of making you look forward to whatever world Drake has in mind next.

I received this book for review from Carina Press.

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