In a realm beset by natural disasters, only the magical abilities of the bonded Pairs - Source and Shield - make the land habitable and keep the citizenry safe. The ties that bind them are far beyond relationships between lovers or kin - and last their entire lives ...
Whether they like it or not.
Since she was a child, Dunleavy Mallorough has been nurturing her talents as a Shield, preparing for her day of bonding. Unfortunately, fate decrees Lee's partner to be the legendary, handsome, and unbearably self-assured Lord Shintaro Karish. Sure, he cuts a fine figure with his aristocratic airs and undeniable courage. But Karish's popularity and notoriety - in bed and out - make him the last Source Lee ever wanted to be stuck with.
The duo is assigned to High Scape, a city so besieged by disaster that seven bonded Pairs are needed to combat it. But when an inexplicable force strikes down every other Source and Shield, Karish and Lee must put aside their differences in order to defeat something even more unnatural than their reluctant affections for each other...
This is definitely Dunleavy's book more than anything. The book starts out as the Shields (including Dunleavy) are lined up to be potentially chosen (more of a mental bond that occurs) by the Sources. Dunleavy has a Source she'd like to be bonded to, one that's reputed to be calm and reliable. Instead, the electrical shock of bonding is felt when she gazes into the last possible person she'd want to be bonded to, Shintaro Karish. Shintaro has quite a reputation as a ladies' man and Lee has no reason to believe he's anything but the silly, vain aristocrat he seems to be.
While it's a fairly humorous fantasy, it is also more serious. I liked how much I was able to learn of Lee's personality and how others perceived her even though this is in first person POV. Lee's very stubborn and sets her standards quite high and believes that everyone should meet them. I can see where people would get exasperated and highly annoyed by her. Yet...I personally never felt that way. I enjoyed how I was able to see her character from a different point of view. I suppose I'm trying to say that the first person POV really worked for me here.
Now, although the blurb mentions romance, there really isn't any. Which is fine. And Shintaro isn't even in it for a good chunk of the book. That's not the point of the story anyways. It's mainly about Lee becoming comfortable with who she is and learning to get along with Shintaro despite her prejudices. After all, they're together for life.
I can't quite think of who I'd compare this author to. In some ways it's a humorous fantasy, yet to me that implies that it's always tongue-in-cheek, which it isn't. But it is funny in spots. When appropriate. Perhaps I'd just call is a good fantasy. Not epic, not action-based, just a good solid fantasy. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, The Hero Strikes Back. Which doesn't come out until the end of August 2006. Darn it.