The Hero Strikes Back is the second book in the Lee and Taro series by Moira J. Moore.  The first book in this series is Resenting the Hero, and the books following the second book are Heroes Adrift, Heroes at Risk, and Heroes Return, respectively.  A sixth book, Heroes at Odds, is scheduled for release on July 26 of this year.

Please note that since this is the second book in a series, there will be some spoilers for Resenting the Hero.  If you are wary of spoilers but curious about these books, here is my review of the first book.

At the start of the previous book, Lee and Taro were thrown together for the purpose they’ve been training for since they were still children – forming two parts of a balanced Pair who work together for the good of the people.  Taro, a Source, has the ability to prevent natural disasters. As a Shield, Lee has the ability to protect his mind while he does this.  In a world where earthquakes, cyclones, and other cataclysmic weather is all too common, they and other Pairs are an important asset whose lives are dedicated to this duty.  Through the magical link, they are quite literally stuck with each other for life, whether they like it or not.

Although she was initially unhappy to be bonded to Taro, Lee has now accepted that she is and has even forged a friendship with him.  The two are once again working together in High Scape – or at least they would be if there were any natural disasters to be found.  Instead, the city is experiencing snow in the middle of summer, a type of weather the Pairs have no ability to control.  Since the average person understands very little about Sources and Shields, they are rather upset with the Pairs.  They believe the Pairs have a responsibility to help them and are simply refusing to do their jobs, resulting in lots of businesses failing due to this strange occurrence.  As the wintry summer continues, these feelings only escalate more out of control, making it very unpleasant – and even dangerous – to be a Source or a Shield in High Scape.

Furthermore, some nobles have been disappearing lately, which Lee finds rather worrisome even though Taro chose to give up his lordship. However, the two soon have more immediate concerns resulting directly from Taro’s abdication of his title after this news reaches his mother. In response to this travesty, she comes to visit, which dredges up all sorts of unpleasant childhood memories for Taro.  Unfortunately for everyone involved, she’s not going away anytime soon, either – since Taro is her only remaining direct descendant, she is quite insistent he reclaim his place and prepared to get her way any way she can.

Just like with the first book in this series, I had a lot of fun reading The Hero Strikes Back.  When I read this I was in the mood for a diverting, easy to read but difficult to put down sort of book, and this fit my mood perfectly.  These novels have a very addictive quality, and I ended this one wishing I had the next one available so I could find out what happens to Lee and Taro next.  I enjoyed both the first and second books in this series about equally – learning about the world and the Pair bond for the first time was the highlight of the first book for me, and learning about the characters in this book was the best part.

In some ways, these books remind me of an urban fantasy style in a secondary world fantasy setting.  The language is more modern and it’s got a lot of focus on character interaction, plus each of these first two books culminated in a mystery that had to be resolved.  Lee’s not an investigator nor is she (or any of her friends) kickass, though; it’s more that things just happen and she ends up involved somehow.  She was curious about certain occurrences and she had some ideas about them in this book, but she wasn’t really actively going out of her way to seek answers so it didn’t quite feel like a mystery even though there was some suspense about just what was going on.

Although I mentioned this in my review of the first book, I have to mention it again since it remained consistent with this book: I just love how the society in this series seems so effortlessly gender equal.  We’re never told that this sort of equality exists; it’s just the way it is.  Sons or daughters can be in line for titles passed through families, and there’s no dividing line between who can be in certain professions based on gender.  Whether they’re Sources or Shields, nobility, or a Runner, it really doesn’t seem to matter if a person is male or female.

The idea of Sources and Shields and the way they balance each other out is also delightful.  Shields tend to be more reserved, both by nature and by training, so that they can effectively guard the Sources, who tend to be more emotional and open with their feelings.  As the narrator, Lee certainly has opinions but she often keeps them between herself and the reader (which irritates Taro, who wishes she could just express herself when she’s annoyed with him instead of keeping it all inside).  It’s a dynamic that keeps things interesting, and the way Taro and Lee’s relationship is developing is great fun to read about as well.  In the first book, Lee had to get past her prejudices about Taro’s reputation.  Now she respects him and is on quite good terms with him. Although she seems to be in love with him, she can’t let herself do that because she still thinks the rumors about his womanizing ways are correct.  She still has to try to be logical and in control of her feelings.  It’s also quite obvious that Taro – who has no qualms about being in control of his emotions – loves her, too, but she can’t believe someone like him could ever love someone like her.

This particular book delves more into Taro’s past and reveals much about why he acts the way he does through conversations with his visiting mother.  It’s obvious he doesn’t like his mother from the start, but it also becomes quite clear he has good reason not to.  In contrast, Lee’s mother visits at the same time and they have some more common familial problems. Lee’s mother thinks her daughter should be better dressed and tries to set her up with a man she’s not really interested in.  Part of these issues are due to less common causes, though, such as the fact that Lee left home at 4 years of age to become a Source and her mother’s inability to relate to her more reserved daughter.  The inclusion of these family relationships fleshed out both Lee and Taro’s pasts some more, plus it was great fun to meet both of their mothers.

The Hero Strikes Back is as entertaining as the first book in the Lee and Taro series.  I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens next as well as seeing how the main characters’ relationship progresses.  The backdrop of the world plagued by natural disasters and the people who developed the ability to counteract them is also rather intriguing, and I’m hoping to learn more about the origins of both of these in future novels.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Reviews of other books in this series:

Other reviews of The Hero Strikes Back: