Moira J. Moore – Heroes Return

The Emperor has personally selected Shield Lee Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish to protect the duchy of Westsea – Taro’s ancestral lands. Having abjured his title, Taro has no desire to return home, but what the Emperor commands, a Shield and Source must obey.

Westsea is suffering from deadly earthquakes – earthquakes that aren’t dispelled by Lee and Taro’s magic as easily as they should be. But even as Lee tries to discover why this land resists their protection, Taro faces unrest among the local population, who would prefer to name him duke instead of his cousin. And when Lee starts having potentially deadly “accidents,” she realizes that something is very wrong in Westsea…

Heroes Return is a fun new addition to Moira J. Moore’s Heroes series. The fifth book of the series about Dunleavy Mallorough and Shintaro Karish, a bonded pair of the Source and Shield Service a.k.a. the Triple S, takes us back to Shintaro’s childhood home. The book moves the series along nicely by suggesting that magic, ‘true magic’, is returning to Lee and Taro’s world. It ties in with both Lee and Taro developing strange new abilities that are, as far as they know, unheard of among Shields and Sources. In the end though, the book leaves us with as many questions as answers, which is both pleasing as it promises more books in the series, but frustrating because the mystery keeps getting bigger.

The characters make up for a lot of the frustration, as they are interesting, smart and funny. I especially love Lee’s voice, her sarcasm always gets me chuckling. She’s very human and down-to-earth in a profession and situation that could easily go to someone’s head. The way her relationship with Taro, both professional and personal, is still able to set her off balance is great, without getting mired in an eternal ‘will they or won’t they’-dynamic in which many of my favourite TV-series tend to end up. Taro appears to be Lee’s polar opposite in many ways, out-going where she’s more reticent, almost arrogantly self-confident where she’s a little more self-conscious, hedonistic and seemingly vapid, he’s far more than he wants people to believe. He’s smart, honourable and, like Lee, very conscientious in his Source and Shield duties. They make for a really interesting pair and they’re never dull.

The Dowager Duchess, however, is just plain annoying. Evil is rather black and white in these books and the Dowager Duchess is a prime example of this. There is nothing redeeming in her and her motivations get more murky the more we find out about them. In a similar vein, the Emperor is making a grab for power, without really any explanation of why he does so, other than a lust for power one presumes. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how the emperor’s power play works out and whether the Triple S will start to move against him. There are some cool secondary characters in this instalment too, such as the current Duchess of Westsea, Taro’s cousin Fiona, her brother Tarce and the Windwatcher Radia. Thus far, most secondary characters haven’t made any real reappearances from book to book, but hopefully since Lee and Taro seem to be staying at Westsea for a while, we’ll see more of them in the future.

Heroes Return is a fun breezy read, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which covers the fact that it’s a far more serious story than it seems at first glance. Hidden beneath the snark and the comedy is a really interesting take on ‘magic’ in all shapes and forms and a mystery that is crystallizing more and more, even while becoming larger each book. I really like this series and I hope we’ll get closer to the heart of the mystery in the next book. The sixth book in the Heroes series, Heroes at Odds is due out at the end of July.