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Book Review: Heroes Adrift by Moira J. Moore

Genre: Romantic Fantasy, Adventure Fantasy
ISBN: 0441015980
ISBN-13: 9780441015986
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (ACE)
Pub. Date: February 2008

Romantic fantasy often goes over the edge when it comes to sex. It usually ends up having at least one or more explicit sex scenes for its characters, and honestly, never real deals with the romance side of things. In essence, “romantic fantasy” is a euphemism for “bodice-ripper set in a world with magic.”

But occasionally an author avoids falling into that trap. Heroes Adrift by Moira J. Moore is such a novel. That is not to say the Heroes Adrift is a great novel, but it is good entertainment in the romantic fantasy subgenre. It’s the fantasy version of Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace.

Heroes Adrift is something of a misnomer of a title. It might make you think that the book is about heroes being on ships out at sea. (Yes, I get the subtler subtext, but I think that the title combined with the front cover make it misleading. A different cover with the title might have helped.) In reality, the story is about two heroes who are trapped on an island with a strange culture and what they must do to survive it. So rather than “adrift” it might be better to say “awry” or “astray.”

At any rate, this third book in the Heroes series leaves Dunleavy Mallorough and Shintaro Karish stranded on one of the Southern Islands. Sent their by the Empress to find long lost royal kin, Lee and Shintaro find themselves in a strange situation when they learn that their status as Source and Shield does not provide for their every need on this backwater island. Forced to gain coin, Lee and Shintaro join a traveling circus. Adventure ensues.

Told entirely from Lee’s point of view (a rather pessimistic but funny one) the plot is predictable. When the long lost descendant is revealed, it will come as no surprise to the reader. What makes this book enjoyable is the black humor of the culture shock Lee and Shintaro undergo. In addition, Moore has done a good job at focusing on the burgeoning romantic relationship between Shintaro and Lee, creating sexual tension without devolving into bodice-ripping.

The reader would do well to read the first books in the series, as there are multiple references to prior events with little or no explanation of the history. And if you are looking for a sword and sorcery novel, this isn’t for you. The story moves forward on the wings of Lee and Shintaro’s relationship, and their complete shock at finding themselves in a culture so different from their own. Heroes Adrift is well-paced, never bogging down, and not wasting time on unnecessary description. I was able to read it in an evening, and it was a pleasant way to spend the time.