See, she reviewed Heart Fire here, and then I reviewed Heart Search here, and there was reminiscing in the comments to that review, and of course I had to come back and re-read Heart Change and Heart Fate. What’s a reader to do, after all?
So if you get bitten by the Celta bug, don’t look at me–it’s all Holly’s fault.
Heart Change, by Robin D Owens
This is the eight novel in the series, and I definitely do no recommend that anyone start here. The world building is complex on several levels–socially, religiously, technologically–so a new reader would be understandable lost.
To that, we must add the fact that the stories in this series literally build on one another, and a number of previous characters make appearances in the current story, and really, it just makes sense to start at the beginning. Being less confused by the world building and less overwhelmed by the large cast of characters means more enjoyment of this story, and that is always a good thing to me.
If however, you decide to plunge into the world of Celta with Heart Change, please take a moment to read the quick summary I offer after the blurb in this review–you’ll find it useful, I promise.
And with that, here’s the blurb as it appears in my print copy:
Signed D’Marigold’s lonely life is shaken when a prophet reveals that Signet is a catalyst for change…But to accept her new life–and the charge of noble child Avellana Hazel–will mean embracing a danger that may be fatal.
Cratag Maytree sold his sword and traveled across continents to find a place with his distant family. However, his settled life is disrupted when he is loaned out as a bodyguard for Signet and Avellana. Once again he feels like an outsider.
As Signet’s and Cratag’s attraction develops into love, her fear of abandonment and his concern about their different backgrounds diminish. Happiness seems within their grasp until fate makes them the target of a secret enemy they must defeat to survive.
Signet and Cratag are not new characters–faithful readers will remember him from the previous novel, Heart Fate. Signet, however, is mentioned only once, and just in passing, a few books before that.
The novel opens on Signet’s birthday, which each year is harder for her to endure. Since the deaths of her parents a few years earlier, she finds herself increasingly isolated. No sooner has a friendship, or even casual acquaintance started, that the other person moves on–or away–leaving behind a more acute sense of emptiness than before.
Signet’s loneliness is so acute that the only thing that prevents her from simply fading from life is knowing that her death would hurt her Family’s Residence, the sentient entity in the physical structure.
But this year, someone literally crashes into her, changing her life forever.
Vinni T’Vine may be just a boy of thirteen or so, but he is also the most powerful Oracle on the planet. When he tells Signet that he knows what her elusive Flair does–and what he needs her to use it for–the events he sets in motion escape even his prescience.
Signet’s Flair as a catalyst means that contact with her changes other people’s lives–for the better. Emotions untangle, Flair strengthens, opportunities manifest themselves…and people move on, their lives better and happier. Leaving Signet behind and totally clueless.
Which, obviously, has sucked, larger each time.
Now that she knows why people leave, they may still leave but it doesn’t have to be abrupt or the parting final, and that changes everything–for Signet.
There is only one tiny, teensie, insignificant little problem with this wonderful, less lonely life opening ahead of her. Vinni does not know exactly how, but he does know that for his very young HeartMate, Avellana, to survive the storm of her very powerful Flair during her First Passage, Signet must be with her.
Avellana is the youngest child of one of the First Families of Celta. As a child, she is loved and valued. As a Noble child…Well, let’s say it’s in Signet’s best interest that everything comes out roses on the other side.
Avellana’s parents are understandably worried about their child. Not one of Vinni’s prophecies has ever not come to pass. They must relinquish their child into the care of this solitary young woman they barely know, for an indeterminate length of time, and hope that her presence alone will preserve the life, health and sanity of their daughter.
Daunting, no matter where you stand.
And so they reach out to another First Family and ask for a favor: they would very much like some help of a more tangible nature.
Cratag Maytree comes from a very minor branch of the Hawthorn Family tree, and has risen to his position as head of the guards through sheer determination and skill–as he has little to no Flair. He is rightly proud of the place he has made for himself in such a Noble Family, and feels not a little betrayed to be loaned out–without prior consultation, I might add!–to keep an eye on a seven year old girl and her nanny.
All the more because at seventeen, his cousin and friend, Laev, Heir to T’Hawthorn, is also about to experience Passage for the second time. This is not the time for him to be away, particularly to perform so menial a task as to baby sit a couple of females.
But the shock of being farmed out–effectively, demoted–jolts Cratag out of his complacency. He comes to realize that being valued for his skill does not mean that he is appreciated as Family. And so he accepts this ‘temporary’ assignment with some resignation and his usual determination to make the best of what life hands him.
To no one’s surprise, Cratag and Signet are attracted to each other, and have been for some time, even though until now they have never been formally introduced. Their romance is lovely and intimate, and while there is a constant undercurrent of tension due to the danger Avellana is in, there seems to be precious real conflict between the two.
Except that both feel inadequate in their own way.
Cratag has so very little Flair of his own, he always feels different and apart when dealing with members of the Noble Families. Signet may be attracted to him now, but she not only has a brilliant future ahead–for he is confident she’ll see Avellana safely through Passage–she is also the Head of her own Family, Noble and wealthy and powerfully Flaired.
Signet has known deep family love, and devastating loneliness. While she is now courted by other Noble Families due to her recently discovered Flair, she well remembers the pain of abandonment. It is not easy for her to giver her heart away.
I love the interactions between these two characters. They heal each other and awaken something dormant in the other at the same time. For me, Cratag completely steals the show–precisely because he has so little Flair and so little pretension. He is a rock, common sense and strength and nobility all rolled into one.
The other characters in the story, notably Avellana, Vinni and Laev, help flesh out the world, as well as giving insight into Cratag’s and Signet’s different reactions to the same events, as they highlight the differences not just in their characters but in their upbringings.
The world building is very well done. The complexities of Celtan society and belief system are unpacked without undue complication, in part thanks for Cratag’s own lack of familiarity with some of the more esoteric mores of the First and Noble Families.
Some of the imagery during Avellana’s Passage scenes requires just going with the flow of the writing, but again, once you accept magic 😀 it’s not that hard to let go.
The true weakness in the novel comes from two secondary plot threads.
One involves Laev, and is discussed in some detail in my review of Heart Search. The other involves the nature of Avellana’s Flair–which is revealed around two thirds into the novel, which results in yet another two dimensional villain. This is my main, repeated complaint when it comes to Ms Owens’ writing. I wish (but confess not to be holding my breath for it) that at some point we got another Celta book where the only conflict between the characters is internal.
Still, this is one of my favorite installments in the series, due mostly to Cratag.
Heart Change gets 8.00 out of 10