Nico is on the cusp of freedom. Eight years of intense education and training have brought him to this moment, to the Gleaning. And all he has to do is avoid being chosen. If he isn’t picked, then he can take on work as a cook and do the he thing he loves most. Being chosen in the Gleaning is a great honor, but for Nico it means a year and a day of marriage and even more time before he is truly free.
Alex is a warrior and has little use for the pomp and frivolity of the Gleaning, but the marriage ceremony worked for his parents and he trusts the Goddess that it will work for him.
Nico and Alex seemed fated to be with one another, but there is no time for a honeymoon and even less time to get to know one another. Problems are brewing in Alex’s newly acquired lands and the people who call him lord are suffering for it. As Alex and Nico tour their new home, they find death, starvation, and a sinister plague that threatens to destroy poor and rich alike. Together, Alex and Nico must discover the truth and save the kingdom before it’s too late.
Warrior and Priest is conceptually interesting novel that ultimately suffers from a character imbalance and a lack of in depth plot development. We are introduced to a world that seems an amalgamation of fantasy and contemporary themes, where religion is the primary guiding force. Nico is a priest and a healer and both are considered gifts of the Goddess and he expected to pay off his debts to her through service. There are a host of other gods and goddesses mentioned, most of whom have Greek origins. The religious aspect infiltrates every part of life in Warrior and Priest and there seems to be no questioning, resentment, or rejection of this by the characters. But very little about the religion, or other facets of this wider fictional world, such as the royal structure, the organization of the kingdom, or even the expectations of Nico or Alex’s respective positions, are ever really explained. Readers are given cursory information on just about everything without a deeper explanation of anything. As a result, I felt as though I was always trying to fill in the gaps with information I didn’t really have. You don’t notice this in the first third of the book, which surrounds the Gleaning and Nico’s fated marriage to Alex. This portion of the novel reads quickly and really draws you in and this is the only part of Warrior and Priest that feels “finished.”
Nico is a complex character and he goes from being obsessed with cooking to being a royal Prince and savior of the people. Normally this is the kind of character transformation that I love, but in Nico’s case it happens too quickly and without much actual development of the character. At the start of the book Nico is a sweet but somewhat self-absorbed with his desire to become a cook. He purposely sabotages most of his Gleaning events and behaves somewhat childishly. But almost as soon as he becomes Alex’s consort, priest to the Sixth Lands, and a prince, he is utterly focused on helping people and seems completely comfortable juggling his new roles. While still an intriguing character, Nico and his personality evolve too fast for believability. Alex, on the other hand, suffers from almost no development at all. He often ends up as little more than Nico’s shadow and we are never quite sure what he does or why. Perhaps because of this there isn’t much chemistry between he and Nico. We never get a good picture of who Alex is or why he and Nico seem fated to be together.
Warrior and Priest has its’ strong points, not the least of which is its overall concept and the intriguing religious features. But it lacks an overall depth that leaves the plot feeling more like an outline than a fully developed novel. And while Nico is a fully formed character, not all of his actions make sense given our introduction to him. I can only assume this is the first in a series because otherwise the end is jarringly abrupt. Perhaps future books will even out the relationship between Alex and Nico and provide a greater chance for plot expansion.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.