Held as a captive in Venda, the kingdom constantly at war with Dalbreck and Morrighan and filled with barbarians accustomed to wearing long strands of bones, Lia is desperate and hiding the depths of her relationship to Rafe, the Prince of Dalbreck masquerading as a mere envoy. Meanwhile, Kaden, the assassin, is torn between his duty to the Komizar, the dictator-like leader of the Vendans, and his love for Lia. To give Lia some protection, he tells the Komizar she has the gift, yet doesn’t believe she possesses it. Having preyed upon Kaden’s disbelief earlier, Lia still hides that she has the real gift. Upon her arrival in Venda and during short excursions, Lia discovers some magic or deeper prophecy at work as she is seeing ghostly figures and has been mysteriously adopted by one of Venda’s oldest clans. Though a prisoner, Lia’s status rises as she doesn’t bend to the Komizar’s scare tactics, demonstrates her smooth acceptance of the language and customs, and crafts her political machinations with shrewdness and audacity. When Kaden is sent to find a missing Vendan lord and thus his claim (which we know is secretly his protection) to Lia is negated, the Komizar swoops in and declares he will be marrying Lia. The stakes are rapidly rising for Lia and Rafe, and even Kaden’s loyalties are pushed to the breaking point. Will they manage to thwart the Komizar’s insatiable thirst for power and escape Venda before Lia is forced to marry against her will again?
Still one of my top favorite fantasy series. While this was a middle book, it did not disappoint! It was just as well written and fantastic as the first. This series is very character-driven with enough satisfying world-building to keep you hooked to the end and dying for the adventure to continue. I really enjoyed the transformations of our three main characters in this second story as we have unraveled who is who, assassin vs. prince, and seen how that plays into their relationships and political allegiances. Now with the Komizar in the picture, this places a third suitor for Lia’s affection (or simply her political status) in play. With Venda being a patriarchal and violent society, both Kaden and the Komizar discount Lia’s capacity for resourcefulness and brilliance, seemingly much like her own family did. As we find out, our heroine is strong, fierce, and determined to make her own choices about her future, even if everyone tries to take it away from her.
Unfortunately, book 3, The Beauty of Darkness, won’t be coming out until August of 2016. We’ve got a while to wait before we see how everything wraps up! (And isn’t that cover beautiful? I’m in love with it!)
Meanwhile, if you like Mary E. Pearson, you might also like to know another series of hers is set to come to screen sometime in the future.
Also, Happy Christmas, fellow YA readers! Hope you’re gifting (or gifted!) some great books this year!