As many of you know, I am not a huge romance reader, so it will probably surprise you that I’m going to say upfront – I really liked this book. 4 of 5 stars liked it.
Aryk is the leader of a clan facing a hard reality. The constant infighting between the Clans of Isadorijka causes endless, needless deaths, prevents his people from any real trade, and ultimately keeps them living as barely more than barbarians do. To the outside world, they are nothing more than barbaric Rievers. Aryk is on a quest to unite the clans under one leader –himself – but to do that he has to not only overcome generations old traditions, but the army that a rival daq – clan chief- is building. Aryk knows that he cannot build peace alone. In an attempt to prove to other nations that not all Isadorijkans are rievers, he forms new alliances, including the beautiful warrior Verdeen. She is conflicted – about her future, herself and most of all about the unexpected and intense attraction she feels for Aryk.
Wildes has created a wonderful and complex world in this series, and knows her way around it well enough that even though I have read only one other book in the series, I never once felt like I needed a map to know what was going on. The story was told mostly from the point of view of Aryk, who didn’t know the back stories of any of the characters and so we are given just enough information to make this story work. Wildes did an excellent job of portraying the essence of the characters – We see a flash of the deep hatred Queen Dara has for rievers, the love that Cianan and Maleta share but since it is not relevant for Aryk to know the long back stories, we aren’t bogged down with them either. This story stands alone perfectly well. Wildes knows her characters well, and it is obvious that as each player steps on the stage, there is a fully formed personality behind it. (and it inspires you to want to read the other books in the series, where they have more starring roles.)
The pace is fast, there is no filler here, and that includes the sex. This is a solidly built fantasy story, that could easily sit on the shelf with other fantasy series. There is of course a lot of sex because this is after all an erotic romance novel, but the sex is important to both plot and character building. The one thing I dislike that seems to be a recurring theme in many of the romance novels I have read – otherwise strong women who suddenly turn into raving sex kittens at the first sight of the Hero, and end up turning into jellyfish – is the very thing that Wildes has avoided. Verdeen, even in the midst of passion still has control of her senses and still makes smart decisions. She is conflicted, and second guesses herself, but it seems perfectly in keeping with her character. Verdeen is strong, but young for an elf, and she notably grows throughout the book. There is also a great deal of set up for future adventures, and at the end, I found myself already wishing for next book.
4 out of 5 stars this time.