In a world where a minority of people have inherent magical powers, and in a country where such magical powers are viewed with deep suspicion ― particularly if wielded by people in power ― Zara North has a huge secret: she has the ability to automatically heal physical injuries to herself, even those that cause aging and death. What would be a mortal injury for anyone else simply puts her out of commission temporarily. Zara was the queen of Tremontane sixty years ago, during the events of Servant of the Crown, the first book in Melissa McShane’s CROWN OF TREMONTANE fantasy series. When she discovered her inherent magic in her late twenties, she faked her death for the good of her country and the North family dynasty. Several books and years later, Zara is now eighty-six but still looks like she’s in her early thirties.
After spending seventeen years in the mountain village of Longbourne, Zara knows her lack of aging is bound start causing gossip at any time. So she reluctantly leaves her beloved town and decides to go the exotic adventure route, setting sail for the isolated, hostile country of Dineh-Karit. She gets far more adventure than she was planning on! Murderous pirates attack the ship, searching for some hidden device, and Zara and a few others barely escape with their lives. A dying man on their longboat entrusts her with the item that the pirates were looking for. She and the other survivors are able to steer their boat to the continent of Dineh-Karit, but a vast jungle lies before them, and the pirates are still after them.
Voyager of the Crown (2018) is the fourth book in THE CROWN OF TREMONTANE series, and one of my favorites in the series. It’s immediately engaging, with a strong-willed woman on an adventure in strange lands. Zara is one of the most capable and fearless woman characters I’ve run across in fantasy, with an admirable ability to take charge and get things done, and an understandable impatience with those who stand in her way. Her personality reminds me somewhat of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia from the VORKOSIGAN SAGA. When her path crosses a relentless female pirate captain and a solitary doctor in the jungle, though, she may have met her match.
The emphasis in Voyager of the Crown is on the adventure, but the group of characters surrounding Zara is interesting and diverse. McShane deals well with interpersonal relationships and the roles played by fear, pride and other weaknesses, as well as the way people can come together to support each other in need. Zara, in particular, needs to unearth and even build on the leadership characteristics that she developed as a queen, but has kept buried for so long.
“I hate this part.”
“The waiting? How often do you fight pirates that you can call it ‘this part’?” Belinda teased.
Zara shrugged. “It’s always the same, no matter what the challenge. The hardest part is waiting for others to do their jobs so you can do yours.” Memory surfaced, of facing down the Magistrix of the Scholia in her throne room, her nerves keyed to the breaking point waiting for all the pieces to fall into place. It was essential not to let the waiting break you. She let out a long breath and surreptitiously rolled out her shoulders. She was much older now, and better at waiting. It didn’t make her like it more.
When an unexpected chance for romance comes her way, Zara needs to consider whether a relationship is something she’s willing to chance, given the type of magic she carries and the likelihood that she would far outlive her husband. There’s an issue of a very large age difference in the romantic couple here, understandably; the issue is touched on but not dealt with quite to the extent I would have liked. At least the sexes are reversed from the usual situation!
Voyager of the Crown pulled me right into its world: I immediately dropped everything when it hit my Kindle and read the entire book in one evening. Voyager could be read on a stand-alone basis, but familiarity with the world and with Zara’s past will definitely enhance the reading experience, so I advise that interested readers begin with Servant of the Crown and continue from there. I recommend this series for readers who like their fantasy with a fairly strong side of PG-rated romance.