Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape...and even less of being together. Desperate to save her life, Lia's erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komisar that she has a magical gift, and the Komisar's interest in Lia is greater than either Kaden or Lia foresaw.
Meanwhile the foundations of Lia's deeply held beliefs are crumbling beneath her. Nothing is straightforward: There's Rafe, who lied to her but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom she always believed to be barbarians but whom she now realizes are people who have been terribly brutalized by the kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her very sense of self, Lia will have to make powerful choices that affect her country, her people...and her own destiny.
This is a big book in size, but does not feel like a long one to read. That's an art and indicates good plot, characters we are happy to invest our time in, and lots of action taking place. As Jack Nicholson would say, "Hoo ah!"
What I loved about this novel was how Lia came to Venda full of her own country's prejudices against these very different people, but as time goes by, understanding dawns on her. She does a complete 360 in her perspectives and it is very refreshing. It's an eye-opening journey for Lia, and us, that is well written.
This book reminded me a bit of Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins, the third in her Hunger Games trilogy, because it is filled with political manoeuvring. The leader of the Vendan people, the Komizar, is ruthless and single-minded in his pursuit to gain power and turn that power into resources for his people. At the centre of this chaotic Tornado of a Komizar is Lia who plays many faces to keep her life and Rafe's life safe AND of course, there's the little matter of trying to escape. If anything, I think this aspect of the novel was a bit heavy-handed. The constant strength and maturity of Lia to juggle all these people, all these motivations, all this turmoil makes it hard for me to think of her as a 17 year old. Having said that, Lia provides a good role model for young ladies because she doesn't Google her way out of questions. Lia must be self-reliant or crumble to pieces.
I loved the action of this novel. There were some good twisty turns, escape planning and a tantalizing peek at some otherworldly powers taking place. It's a novel to steep in for a week or so and just wonder how the heck it will end.
This is one of those series, though, that is hard to read with a year in between books as they go through the painstaking process of manuscript, acceptance, editing, polishing, spit shining, do-si-do-ing, you name it, a book goes through it before it lands on the shelves. You'd almost need a Coles notes version before jumping into book two if you haven't read book one in a while and the same will be true when the third novel comes out next year. But, I will say it is well worth your time for this enjoyable series.