Resenting the Hero is the first book in the Lee and Taro series by Moira J. Moore.  Currently, there are five books in this fantasy series with a sixth in progress.  The books following this first novel are: The Hero Strikes Back, Heroes Adrift, Heroes At Risk, and Heroes Return, in that order.

Nearly seven centuries ago, a group of people came to a planet and began a new life.  Unfortunately, they soon found that life was fraught with natural disasters and most of their technology was destroyed.  Many decided to return to their home while others stayed behind and braved the frequent earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes that ravaged the land.  Eventually, those who remained discovered that some people were able to combat these natural disasters using their minds, although it always cost them their lives to do so.  Yet one day a young woman stayed behind with one of these individuals, known as Sources, and kept her alive by defending her mind.  This woman and others like her became known as Shields, and the cooperation between a pair consisting of one Source and one Shield began.

After seventeen years of study, Dunleavy (Lee) Mallorough has finished her training as a Shield and is now ready to participate in the ceremony that may result in meeting the Source she will work with for the rest of her life.  Once Sources and Shields meet, sometimes the two form a bond that cannot be broken until they both die (if one of them dies, so will the other). These pairs work together to protect the people from disasters.  Lee is excited but nervous – of the six Sources, there are four she would be happy to work with, but she’d rather not be paired this time than work with the other two.  One has a reputation for being crazy, and the other is extremely talented but has a reputation for sleeping around and recklessness.  Lee would much prefer she end up with a steady, reliable partner.

Instead, Lee ends up bonded to Shintaro Karish, the exceptionally gifted but ill-reputed nobleman everyone wanted to be bonded to except for her, leading her to believe she must have been evil in a past life.  That same night, the two of them also learn they will be joining the six pairs already posted at High Scape, a large city with an unusually high number of natural disasters.  Lee is going to need to learn to work with Taro if she is going to survive – especially when an unprecedented disaster kills or seriously injures all the pairs in High Scape, leaving only Lee and Taro to defend the city.

Last weekend I just felt like reading a fun book and had a feeling this might be what I was looking for – and I figured I couldn’t go wrong with Resenting the Hero since Angie of Angieville and Thea of The Book Smugglers have both mentioned enjoying this series on a few occasions.  This logic proved accurate and I ended up reading the book in just two days (of course, it also helped that it was about 300 pages long, but I could also hardly put it down until it was finished).  It was entertaining with likable characters and an intriguing setting, although it did “tell” more than “show” too much at times.  For instance, most of the first chapter was an info dump as Lee, the first person narrator, filled us in on whom she hoped to be paired with and why.  Then the ceremony officials supplied background on the history of the planet and why pairs were important.  It wasn’t a particularly tedious info dump since all of this was both vital to the story and interesting, though, and at least once that was out of the way the story took off and only very occasionally stopped to fill in some information.

The whole premise of this world creates some intriguing situations since it’s protected by pairs of people, one who can prevent natural disasters and one who keeps the other person from dying in the process.  Since the bond between these two pairs is created on first sight, it also means working for the rest of their lives with someone they have never met before that moment.  Being bonded with another person does not mean the two automatically get along, either – some pairs end up hating each other.  It’s a difficult place for two people to be in when one petty argument getting in the way could be the difference between life and death. In the case of Lee and Taro, Lee has to come to terms with her prejudice toward Taro based on rumors she’s heard about him for years.  Someone with the sense of duty Lee has is going to do her best at her job and take her task of protecting him seriously, but that doesn’t mean she’ll do it happily or pretend to like him.

Another aspect of the world I enjoyed was that it seemed very gender equal.  In spite of the country’s ruler being an empress it never seemed like a matriarchy since some of the nobles such as Taro were men.  Also, the Sources and Shields consisted of both men and women – anyone with the appropriate ability could become a Source or Shield.  Pairs of Sources and Shields could also be two women, two men, or a man and a woman.  Any power imbalance seemed to result from issues other than gender, which I found to be rather refreshing.

Both Lee and Taro were wonderful characters I’m looking forward to reading more about.  Taro always seems friendly and charming, so it’s hard not to feel sorry for him when Lee isn’t willing to give him a chance.  Even if she is stubborn and blind at times, the dutiful, sometimes naive Lee still managed to be sympathetic – she just wants to do her job and do it well.  It was understandable that she might be hesitant to trust someone she’d heard bad things about for years, especially since she is often very practical and reasonable when it comes to other situations.  Plus who wants to be stuck with someone you don’t really want to work with forever with no way out?

There’s also some mystery since Lee and Taro need to figure out the cause of the strange natural disasters that wipe out the other pairs of High Scape.  The identity of the main villain was not that surprising, but I did appreciate that at one point I almost felt sympathy for this person.  By the end of the book, any pity I felt for the villain was gone, but still for a brief bit it seemed like maybe this wrongdoer wasn’t so bad after all.

Resenting the Hero is a delightful book with main characters easy to root for and empathize with, a fun plot and a world history that leads to some very intriguing social dynamics.  I’m looking forward to reading the next book and hope as the series progresses some of the questions I have about bonding and the vast number of natural disasters are answered.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.  I even bought it in an actual bookstore to my great chagrin since I felt like the clerk who rang up my purchase was probably laughing at me due to the horrifying, cheesy, awful cover.  Now that I’ve read it, I really want to know – why does Lee seem to be subservient to Taro?  She’s not violent, but I still find it easier to picture her strangling him with the cloth than kneeling down and shining his shoes for him…

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