Book Review: “The Rose Shield” Series by D. Wallace Peach

Diana Wallace Peach has just released her latest series (The Shattered Sea) which made me feel guilty that she’d managed to produce another couple of books while I was still failing to crack on and talk about her previous epic. I’ve been meaning to write a comprehensive review of the Rose Shield tetralogy (one more than a trilogy, in case you were wondering) for ages but things kept getting in the way, not least the amount of time it took to read them in the first place; this is a substantial story (over 1200 pages in total) but I promise you that there’s no padding. I was tempted to frame it in the context of one young girl’s rise from poverty and disfigurement to Power and Influence but it’s much more than that. It’s set in a world on a knife-edge that’s about to undergo a series of changes both internally and externally with questions of succession, invasion, occupation, injustice and revolution. And it’s into this maelstrom of competing interests that Catling is thrown.

We first meet our heroine as a toddler on Darkest Night at the water’s edge; her self-Catling's Baneinterested mother is attempting to file away the child’s facial birthmark but there are other powers at work. A ghostly presence induces a half-blood river worker to submerge the wounded child into the luminescent water – and that’s where the magic begins to happen.

A key element in Diana Peach’s stories is the very limited use of magic. These are clearly fantasy tales (although this is bordering on science fiction due to the human population being the ancestors of space-farers who have settled an alien planet) but the magic is given very clear boundaries and usually restrained to just one specific theme. In the Dragon Soul stories it’s dragons, in Sunwielder it’s a magical amulet, and so on. This allows much more attention to be given over to character development and world-building, two areas in which DWP excels. The people are real, the environment is vivid and the issues facing them cover both the mundane and the catastrophic.

Oathbreaker's GuildThere are different societies within the story: city-dwellers of Ellegeance; the maritime culture of the Cull Tar; and the native inhabitants of the planet who are relegated to the outlands of swamp, rivers and wolds. Then there’s the individual strata of those societies, clearly shown in the Ellegean cities – the privileged and powerful reside at the top, the destitute at the bottom, with social mobility strictly limited. As with any human civilisation, particularly those with huge disparities between rich and poor, a couple of other elements come into play: a criminal underworld and religion, both exerting a grip on those with little or no hope of escaping their grim existence.

The leaders of this world are also revealed to the reader: some are callous and cruel, Farlander's Lawothers determined but undermined by age or gender. Some believe they have to act to protect a status quo that is no longer tenable. And this brings us to the magical ingredient that runs through the books. The waters of the planet have a natural luminescenceย that contains elements of the world’s own consciousness and allows, in certain circumstances, trained initiates to emotionally control the people they can see. These Influencers are used to control the masses within the individual city-states that make up the kingdom of Ellegeance, and are beholden by oath to the realm. This provides not only the main thread of the story but provides one of the faultlines that shatters the kingdom into conflict: these powerful Influencers implicitly have to decide what is good for the kingdom as their foremost decision and that over-rules all other oaths to their Guild and to their leaders. So, politics a-plenty. I told you her world-building was good.

So, what’s the deal with this girl, Catling? The first book in the series focuses on her childhood and her realisation that she is immune to Influence, thanks to her dip in the magic water whilst wounded. Her birthmark is similar to a rose pattern across one half of her face, hence the series title of The Rose Shield, but for much of Book One it truly is Catling’s ‘Bane’. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the revelations but suffice to say that books Two to Four deal with her late teens and adulthood and a significant increase in power and vulnerability. There are bleak times ahead for Catling and her friends, but the world is changing. Serving those in high office, Catling has to fight to live her own life while the Kari, the spirits of the planet, subtly manipulate her into being the right person, in the right place, at the right time to force change. But change comes at a cost.

Kari's ReckoningOne cost that DWP is keen to explore in her writing is the impact of man’s actions on the environment. A seasoned campaigner in her own neighbourhood of Oregon against industrial projects that threaten the pristine forests of the north west USA, in the Rose Shield series she uses the Kari to speak for the planet against the abuse the natural world is suffering at the hands of the invading, uncaring alien humans. Both Catling and her best friend Whitt experience life with the native Farlanders and Fenfolk and rely on them to escape from man-made peril and connect with the true nature of the world.

A glorious fantasy full of hardship and tenderness, alongside touches of humour that act as counterpoints to a great deal of death and destruction, D. Wallace Peach has once again scored a hit in an epic tale that raises questions about the world that we live in, how we treat others and what we’re doing to our own planet.

 

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69 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Rose Shield” Series by D. Wallace Peach

  1. Great review! I enjoy the social commentary that lies beneath the surface of Diana’s writing. I had these on my ‘to read’ list but I may just move them further up after that write-up! (they still have to wait until after my uni reading list for September, though!).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Cheryl! I had the honour of beta-reading Catling’s Bane and couldn’t wait to read the following books to find out what happened next. A really enjoyable series that has lots of shocking and exciting twists and turns.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks so much for the kind comment, Cheryl. Nick’s review had me grinning! Uni does have a way of interfering with reading and writing for the pure pleasure of it. I hope you have a great semester, enjoy your classes, and someday get to this series. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks so much, Nick! I caught a glimpse of this while on vacation and didn’t have my computer to respond. What a wonderful, thorough, kind review. I am speechless and so delighted that all parts of this series came together for you and made sense. And you were part of its journey. I’ll never forget our discussions about made up curses. Lol. I’m not officially back on the blog yet, but I will reblog this, of course, in the next few weeks. Thanks again, my friend. You made my summer! โค

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Haha, no worries my lovely fantasy friend. Actually, that sounds like you’re a figment of my imagination and you’re clearly not! Glad you liked the review, just sorry that it took so long for me to get it written up. Enjoy the rest of your vacation! ๐Ÿ™‚
      (I was tempted to put some Ellegean profanity in here, but no, I’ll keep it clean!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Brad! I wanted to review it as I was still reading it but had to rein in my enthusiasm and be a bit more rational – plus, I wanted to do it justice without littering it with spoilers! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan! Yeah, I thought it would be better to review them as an entire series rather than individual books as you get a better appreciation of the whole story arc and the themes at play.
      Yep – Diana is tops! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Can’t beat it, huh? All four books reviewed. I like these comprehensive reviews because the series is a reading commitment! Hopefully now a reader can see that the whole lot is worth it. Lol. Thanks for stopping by to take a peek. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! An author has to love having their entire series reviewed. Congrats to Diana. I’ve read several of her other books and am always enthralled by the worlds she creates. Her writing is so vivid, and her characters are mesmerizing. I can fully understand the high praise she has earned here!

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  4. Wonderful review Nick, I came here via Diana’s re-posting. I was not a big fantasy reader until I stumbled into Catling’s Bane and disappeared into the whole series. I agree Diana is a wonderful writer and world builder. I also think this particular series would make great movies. Pauline

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Pauline, you’re very kind. I wasn’t a huge fantasy fan either, to be perfectly honest (I’d dabbled with a bit of Anne McCaffrey and read the Lord of the Rings but generally preferred the wise nonsense of Terry Pratchett) but after discovering Diana’s short sci-fi story I wanted to read more of work and then thoroughly enjoyed her fantasy books; Sunwielder blew me away! Yes, I kept imagining what this series would look like on film and even had some ideas of the type of cast (Idris Elba as Jagur and Helen Mirren as Vianne, although he needs to be a bit older and she a little younger)!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Ah, I love all these converts to fantasy, Pauline! My job here on Earth is done. Lol. Thanks for the lovely comment and support for my writing and books. And movies? Wouldn’t that be fun!! I think I’d faint. Lol. Have a wonderful day, my friend. โค

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by at Nick’s to read the whole review, Molly. I actually still do use some of the made-up swear words: “butt-herder” and “sock-fondler” come to mind (they’re relatively mild). Ha ha. Aaah, what fun that was figuring them all out. Happy Writing, my friend, and have a great evening. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  5. Thanks Molly ๐Ÿ˜€
    The problem with the original swear words was that they weren’t all fake – some of them had quite strong and unpleasant connotations this side of the pond! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  6. Much as I love sci-fi “minced oaths” — Battlestar Galactica and Firefly were known for them — I’m glad my own fiction takes place on contemporary Earth and I get to invoke the wide range of colorful expletives we’ve spent centuries developing!

    Congrats, Diana, on another stellar review. Doesn’t it feel great when someone gives your work a careful read and a considerate review?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Funny how you say that, Debby. I can’t seem to write without commenting on the present, but I think fantasy like a lot of fiction has to focus on universal human challenges to be relevant. It has to be relatable. Anyway, thanks for much for the visit and the wonderful comment. Happy Writing!

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  7. This was a wonderful and comprehensive review. I read Diana’s recently published The Shattered Sea and i can say that her world building and character building is just as exceptional as you say. Her storytelling is unique.
    But…. now i’m curious about those cuss words…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Jina, I’m glad you liked the review. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I’m not sure I can divulge the original profanities as it may shock and embarrass! If you do a search for UK profanities you’ll get an idea of what was in the original draft. They might sound a little quaint and innocuous to others but Brits / Irish / Aussies / Kiwis would be just a little surprised if you dropped them into a conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, cuss words are usually the first thing i learn in a language.still i managed to shock a few whenever I’d use a metaphor that was totally normal in a language but not in another.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. It’s funny how the swear words worked out… and lucky, Jina. I’m so grateful to Nick for helping me to get them right. I didn’t want them to be overly offensive and detract from the character’s sense of humor, and some of them apparently were. Thanks for the visit and the lovely comment about The Shattered Sea books. You’re a champ for reading and reviewing them. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vashti! Thanks for reading, I appreciate you taking the time to stop by ๐Ÿ™‚
      Yeah, Diana’s tops – really takes a lot of care with her characters, their motivations and their environment.
      PS – you’ve got an awesome name, you should be a character in a fantasy or SF book! So many more syllables than me… :-/

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ha, ha! Thank you for the name compliment. I write fantasy too. I did name a flower “Vashti” in a story once. It was a pleasure to meet you and visit your blog. ๐Ÿ˜€

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Thanks so much for stopping by to read the rest of Nick’s review, Vashti and for the kind comment. I was certainly doing a happy dance when I saw the review and had to share. Have a great weekend and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. What a superb review! I’ve got all of Diana’s books on my TBR list, and I’ve been itching to start Caitlin’s Bane. Your review has upped my intrigue. And congrats to Diana! World-building, limited magic, and my favorite, a sentient planet (makes me think of Anne McCaffery’s Petyabee series). Thank you for such an in-depth and enticing review!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for stopping by to read Nick’s review, Julie. I was pretty stoked to come across it. I think you’re the second person to mention Anne McCaffery’s series. I’ll have to pick that one up. I hope someday you get to crack those pages. It’s amazing how much time all this writing business takes… just wait until you’re published. It gets even crazier! Ha ha.

      Liked by 2 people

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