Devourer of books with a preference for fiction. Quite good at competitive reading. Happily hoards books of all kinds. Gets stabby going too long without reading.
This is the second book in the Remnant Chronicles, following directly on from The Kiss of Deception. It is impossible for me to review this without spoilers for the first book, hence, skip this if you're not caught up.
Princess Lia is a prisoner in Venda, surrounded by what she has been taught are violent and backward barbarians. Having accepted her feelings for Rafe, she may never have a proper chance to act on them, as they are both captives and the Komizar, the ruler of Venda, seems doubtful as to the use of either of his human prizes of war. Kaden, the Komizar's assassin doesn't want the girl he loves to be killed and argues that Lia's magical gift can be beneficial to the country. Rafe pretends to be a turn-cloak adviser to the Dalbreckian prince, claiming his master is just waiting for the King of Dalbreck to die so he can rule and make an alliance with Venda. Whether the Komizar allows Rafe to live because of this, or because he can be used as leverage to control Lia, is uncertain.
While initially seemingly unimpressed with his royal captive, the Komizar quickly changes his mind about her usefulness, to the worry of both Kaden and Rafe. As Lia is offered limited freedoms, she gradually discovers that all the stories she was told about Venda were lies, and the reason for the country's fierce raids is that the more powerful kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan have brutalised the populace to the brink of devestation. The common people are strong, resilient and above all, in desperate need of hope. Additionally, Lia needs to decide if she can trust Kaden, the man sent to kill her, but who chose to spare her life instead, who is now arguing passionately for her survival. She also needs to examine whether her feelings for Rafe are still the same, having found out his true identity and had to confront all the lies he told her. Most of all, she needs to step extremely carefully, to survive the Komizar's manipulations long enough for her and Rafe to figure out a way to escape their captivity.
While Lia annoyed me for a lot of the first book, I'm completely on her side here and she has come such a long way from the spoiled and impetuous princess at the beginning of the story. Her entire world-view has been turned on its head, and she's forced to acknowledge that most of what she's known before has been lies told to keep her ignorant. While there are still traces of a love triangle, it's not really there on her part, she just needs some time to reconcile the knowledge that the man she fell in love with is not a lowly farmer, but the prince she was in fact betrothed to marry and ran away from. Yes, he lied to her about his true identity, but she did also run away from their wedding, forcing him to hunt her down. He gets himself taken prisoner with her, so as to stay close to her and does his best to reassure her that they will be rescued by his men. Kaden clearly loves Lia still, but I can't really fault Lia for using every advantage she has in trying to get free, even if it means manipulating a man who is risking his life and position to keep her alive.
While I found that some parts of the book still dragged a bit, and I found the Komizar a bit too moustache-twirly to be interesting, I am still enjoying the series. The tribal society of Venda was interesting, especially in contrast of what has been revealed of Morrighan and Dalbreck so far, as were the added revelations in the back story, gradually revealed in the ancient texts Lia carries with her. I'm very curious to see how the pseudo-medieval world in this series emerged from the remnants of a high technology civilisation. I'm assuming all will be made clear in the final part, when Lia, Rafe and Kaden are clearly in for a doozy of challenges after the final third of this book.