Review: The Rebels of Cordovia

Title: The Rebels of Cordovia
Author: Linda Weaver Clarke
Format: E-book

Well, this was a refreshing read after Royal Rebel. The Rebels of Cordovia, by Linda Weaver Clarke, isn’t brilliantly written; there’s a *lot* of telling rather than showing, some noticeable editing flubs (often a symptom of self-published novels), and several plot holes, but it is quite possibly one of the sweetest, gentlest YA novels I’ve read in the last year or two.

A Ruritanian adventure-romance (in the various senses of the word), the plot concerns a young rebel rebel, Robin Marie, who leads a group of freedom fighters opposing an evil ruler who murdered the real king and hounded the crown prince out of the country twenty years previously. Robin, a young lady who’s been trained by her father in the arts of fighting and disguising herself, ends up joining forces with Daniel, the dashing leader of another rebel group, and together they plot to take down the evil king through a cunning plan.

Although the worldbuilding could have been better (you never really get a sense of how big the kingdom is–Robin and Daniel seem to lead actions in and out of a small- or mid-size village, but it is actually one of the more important places in the country, not to mention that I had no idea it was supposed to take place in the 1700s until some of Daniel’s clothing was described halfway through the novel), and the characterization not very deep, Clarke’s Robin is eminently more likable than the Robin of Royal Rebel. She is also competent, both at fighting/leading her troops and at interacting with other humans in social situations without stomping off in hissy fits or shooting off incessant, dull-witted snipes. She bests Daniel, a famed archer, in a shooting competition (though she later loses a horse race to him), and when it comes to developing an off-the-cuff plan to save a man who’s been captured by some soldiers, Daniel actually turns to Robin and lets her take the lead. This Robin isn’t perfect or flawless, and she does make mistakes when dealing with other people. However, instead of flopping about and acting helpless, she owns up to them, talks it over with the people she’s wronged, and works on fixing things and moving on. She’s not reckless or impulsive, and she is charmingly nonviolent, coming up with plans that–for the first time I can ever remember–end the book with not a single death (aside from mentions of the aforementioned king.

Although Clarke’s characters also make references to God and faith, they fit much less jarringly into the narrative than in Royal Rebel, and Daniel and Robin’s relationship is deliciously egalitarian and founded on mutual like and, shockingly, respect. It’s incredibly refreshing.

One of my favorite things about this novel, I think, was the respect the main characters showed for human life and dignity. A fair portion of the novel has Robin interacting with peasants, and–although no poor characters are viewpoint or major characters–there is a thread of something quite like social justice that runs through it. Robin is a do-gooder, but she and Daniel treat the peasant characters as equals (one point made is that the poor children should be able to get a good education), and end up trying to democratize the nation in a way.

Overall, I really dug this story. It’s not the best written thing I’ve read all year – or even all of last month – but it’s sweet, full of likable characters (including an awesome adolescent heroine), and a very quick, enjoyable read. I would recommend it far above Royal Rebel.

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