||This is a character novel, and as
such, is very well written. Even the plot, though thin, was interesting,
and I enjoyed seeing how it went from one disaster to the other. On the
other hand, while I thoroughly enjoy seeing plans go awry and turn out
far different than expected, it would be nice to see some of them go
I liked the characters
very much in this novel, especially Princess Adrina, who is introduced
in this novel. She is from Fardohnya, which still believes in the old
gods, and is ruled by a king who prays to the goddess of lust. He has so
many children, but is still trying to get a legitimate son to be his
heir. All of his children have been tutored in the arts of seduction and
masterful sex, so it is not really expected that Adrina could behave
herself after being married to a Karien Prince. The Kariens, of course,
believe in Xaphista, who was a demon before becoming a god, and who
gains his power through having worshipers. They are extremely prudish,
and their religion is very strict, on everything.
Adrina learns quite early on that she
must learn to behave, or risk being stoned to death. She pretends to adopt Xaphista, and appears as the perfect Karien wife. In exchange, she
demands a place in the battle councils. When Prince Cratyn (which she
gleefully mispronounces "cretin") comes to her bed once a month, she
sees to it that he can't perform. His only goal in having a Fardohnian
bride was to produce an heir to that king, so that he would own half the
world, and conquer the other half.
When Cratyn goes to the border of
Medalon with his army, Adrina goes with him. She misses part of the
battle, as the Karien priests cast a spell over a large part of the army
over night, and send the troops through the pass to be slaughtered by
the waiting Medalonian Defenders. Those who went to their death included
her retinue of body guards, and their captain, her half-brother. So
infuriated, she leaves in the night and goes over the border disguised
as a courtesan looting the dead bodies on the battlefield.
I kept waiting for Adrina to keep her
promise to Cratyn that he would pay for hitting her, for demeaning her,
and for all the other things he did to her, including sending her
brother to his death. She promised that a lot, but there was no payoff.
When he was finally killed, R'shiel did it, and it was so quick he
didn't have time to "pay".
The Kariens didn't want to face the
Defenders in battle, however, because they had a plan, somehow secretly
invading Medalon all the way into the Citadel. What they originally
planned, I don't know, but their plan actually went better than they
A lot of time among the Defenders is
spent with Tarja and Jenga and Damon Wolfblade of Hythria, who are
defending the border with Karien at Treason Keep, which Tarja
"discovered" in the last book. There is a lot of really good character
interaction between them, and a lot of soul searching, especially in the
way they are using First Sister Joyhina's authority, while she has the
mind of an infant, and is locked away. Tarja is also concerned for
R'shiel, who spends part of the book among the Harshini as she heals
from the fatal wound she received at the end of
The Defenders are sickened at the way the Kariens have thrown away all
those lives, not understanding that the Kariens are already behind their
When Adrina arrives, they easily see
through her disguise, and wonder what to do with her. She has a little
teen worshiper, who believes she is a true saint, and convinces himself
that she must lie to the atheist Medalonians and pretend to adopt their
ways or else she would be killed. That is, of course, until he discovers
that she has been sleeping with Damon Wolfblade. Adrina and Damon fall
in love in the typical storybook way. They first hate each other for
perceived wrongs in the past, then get to know each other reluctantly,
then get drunk and nearly make love, except they are interrupted. It is
only later, when Damon calls her to his tent for information that they
seal their passion, in a way that Cratyn never could!
R'shiel is allowed some time to heal among
the Harshini, and begins to love it among them, until she discovers
they've used their magic to reduce her violent tendencies. Then she
discovers how the gods, especially the god of war, will temper her with
pain every chance he gets. There are lots of chances here, as R'shiel's
plan once she leaves the Harshini take a turn for the worse. She gets
some demons to impersonate Joyhinia, because the quorum would never
believe in the simplistic child she has become. Once they get to the
Citadel, she and Brak don't count on the Karien priests being there.
While R'shiel is trying to coerce the Sisters to accept Joyhina's
retirement and Mahina's reinstatement, the priests take Joyhinia's body
and place Loclon's mind within it!
It's the next part of the book that I
have real trouble with. If the quorum had trouble believing the First
Sister had pardoned Tarja and sanctioned war against the invading
Kariens, they seemed impotent to do anything about it. What good is the
rest of the quorum, then? Afterwards, it's worse, as she (Loclon,
actually) single-handedly surrenders to the Kariens, and places the
Defenders under control of the priests. What does the quorum have to say
about this, about giving up Medalon's sovereignty? What does Loclon
think about it, even if does get to play at being First Sister?
Actually, he is too busy enjoying the power to think about it, yet.
R'shiel is tortured, Loclon in
Joyhinia's body taunts her and cuts her hair off, and then she is
transported across Medalon towards Karien. Of course, before she gets
there, she runs into Tarja's and Damon's forces, who refused to
surrender and snuck away from the border when they could. When R'shiel kills Cratyn, in
an emotionally impressive moment, even if Adrina didn't get her payback,
the Defenders take over again.
I find it interesting that most of the
people from Medalon have no trouble believing in the gods they've denied
for so long, or ignoring them completely, in such a phase of denial,
even when magic is performed right in front of them.
The world is left more tattered than
before. R'shiel urges Damon and Adrina to get married, not only because
they love each other (though they deny it), but for the stability of the
world. I wonder how many of the gods R'shiel is planning to kill when
she gets the chance. Instead of getting to wreak her vengeance on Loclon,
she is forced to go to Hythria to sanction the marriage so that the
people of both nations would accept it. I don't see Loclon's removal as
a luxury, however, but a necessity. He is guiding Medalon along a path
that will make it more difficult to keep the Kariens at bay. But I
suppose if she kills their god, they will surrender, anyway. Then it
will just be Loclon.
be all tidied up at the end of the next book? I doubt it, and look
forward to seeing how R'shiel goes about her tasks.