The Scout and the Scoundrel

Barbara Ann Wright. Bold Strokes, $18.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-63555-978-1

The second lesbian fantasy romance in Wright’s The Sisters of Sarras trilogy (after The Noble and the Nightingale) takes to the military for a delightful character-centered story about trust and loyalty. Sarassian Commander Zara del Amanecer is socially awkward and ultra-rational. As punishment for a recent faux pas with a Colonel’s daughter, her scouting squad is the first in an experiment in using prisoners as recruits, putting flirty, smart-mouthed thief Veronique “Roni” Bisset under Zara’s command and setting the stage for their opposites-attract romance. But the Newgate crime syndicate still has Roni under their watch, sending their brutal enforcer Hacha to threaten her unless she steals the Vox Feram, a powerful magical artifact under Zara’s control. But the Vox is no inanimate object: it’s a telepathic bird made of knives. The dry-humored, insightful Vox is a full character and in some senses the novel’s star, functioning as deadly weapon, tactical guide, emotional counselor, and matchmaker to Zara, and eventually Roni as well. The series-long war plot progresses with the anti-mage Firellians surprisingly using powerful magic to advance on Sarras, and the interpersonal dynamics of the del Amanecer household reappear just enough to connect to the last, and presumably next, installment. Series fans will not be disappointed. (Nov.)