Title: The Guildmaster (Vanguards of Viridor #3)
Author: T. S. Cleveland
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: April 6, 2019
Page Count: 686 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Having helped foil the attempt to kill Viridor’s queen, Merric’s return to the Guardians’ Guild should have been celebrated. Instead, his support of elementals has earned him nothing but scorn. With the man he loves presumed dead, and fearing his injuries may prevent him from ever becoming a full guardian, Merric believes his life may as well be over. But when a series of mysterious attacks puts the fate of all Viridor in jeopardy, Quinn, a handsome and dangerous pirate, may be just the man to help save the kingdom – and Merric.
This seems to be the last in the series and there was a hope that this book would provide that little bit more complexity and tension to make a strong conclusion. Sadly, the story follows the same structure as previous books. It follows the growing relationship of two characters in the face of a wash of mutual adventures. The disappointment is that there has been a growing evil in the background that would have linked largely separate stories. Certainly, the baddie here is the one the reader expects, but only really comes to the fore towards the end of the story. There is a lot of action going on and as with the other books there is the potential for tension but all situations resolve themselves without placing the reader on edge. There are violence and death but it always seems to be at arm’s length.
The central character is the most irritating of the heroes to date. He is frustratingly contrary and stubborn in his perceptions. He needs a good slap, but what he gets in return is everything going right for him. For no apparent reason, he gets a prestigious role that is very largely uncontested, that he has no difficulty managing and is relied upon for decision-making. He is not a particularly likable character and this highlights the richness of the characters surrounding him. All of the central characters from the previous books are present and play active roles in the plot.
The storyline is interesting with plenty of new locations and situations. The writing is generally well structured and written in the third person. There are a few typos that should have been picked up, as they seem to be the product of autocorrect.
The relationship between the two lead characters is held in abeyance by the central character who seems to put as many obstacles in the way as possible. The other character is richly drawn and interesting and frankly far too good for the other guy who is far too sorry for himself and self-centered. When their relationship does take off, for some reason all of the imposed barriers disappear and the lead character changes from chaste to slutty overnight and this strains credibility somewhat given all the personal doubts he carried around. As the story involves virginal sex it is good that some effort is made to make it realistic.
Overall the pace of the story is steady and strong with plenty going on to hold the reader’s attention. The lack of tension does make it somewhat samey and would have benefitted from more dynamic.
This is highlighted by the denouement, where the baddie is brought to the fore and the growing wickedness should lead to an increase in pace and richness in the description. However, there is no noticeable change and the situation is resolved quite simply. This leaves space for all of the other threads to be tied up and a happily ever after to be provided. The ending feels like yet another anti-climax, interesting in its way, but could have been so much more.