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The Last Paladin (The War of the Rose, Book 3) by Kathleen Bryan
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765313300
Date: 03 March 2009 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

With the death of her malevolent uncle King Clodovec, Averil is the queen of the Kingdom of Lys. However, even though Clodovec is dead, the former exiled duchess Averil knows her people remain in danger from her evil late relative's machinations to bring forth the Serpent God of Chaos. Clodovec's soulless armies led by unknown sorcerers who her uncle obeyed still plunder the land killing anyone in their path.

She is no longer depressed as she was when she left the Duchy of Quitaine to fulfill the promise that she made to her uncle last year that she would come to his court in Lutrec to select who will sire the heir to the Kingdom of Lys with her. She made that vow to keep the insane Clodovec from destroying the people of her duchy as retribution if she failed him. Still even with Clodovec dead and her as the Queen, she still feels overwhelmed as she knows what she must do to keep her people safe.

Averil begins her quest to confront the sorcerers before they finish their evil incantations to bring the Serpent God to the Kingdom of Lys. She has incredible levels of support from her magecraft bondmate Squire Gereint as well as her loyal subjects who see in her a slim hope for the future after the ultra dark deadly domination of her uncle and a grim future. However, none want their queen seeking out the sorcerers behind the madness as they fear her death means the end of Order. Averil disagrees as no one but she can prevent the final war between Order and Chaos with the Serpent God on her enemy's side.

The third and final War between Order and Chaos (see The Serpent And The Rose and The Golden Rose) is a terrific finish to a strong quest saga. Always brave and loyal to her people, Averil has grown since her early days on the run as she understands what she must do to save her subjects. Gereint also has come a long way from being her commoner lover with no hope of marrying her as he has begun to truly understand his magecraft and what he must do for his bondmate. The Serpent God comes across as more than just another cookie cutter malevolence as the evil one is much wiser and more complicated than just a Goliath like planet eater as he understands if he is to rule over Chaos he needs subjects. Even the subjects especially the Queen's retinue knows she is the last hope for bringing Order against the encroaching darkness of Chaos.

The story line is filled with several action-packed subplots that bring to life the desperation of the new Queen as much as the sorcerers' intent to bring forth the Serpent God. Although the climax seems too stereotypical simplistic for such a complex trilogy with incredibly powerful characterizations, fans will appreciate Kathleen Bryan's final battle. The Last Paladin is a glimmer of light in an increasingly darkened world in which the Serpent God of Chaos appears ready to conquer those who support the fairness for all that Order supporters expect their brave Queen to forge.

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