Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Prince Istari has spent his life reviled: his parents wish he had never been born, the royal court of Belemere avoids him for fear of angering the king, and everyone else is kept away by his notorious reputation as a deadly sharpshooter. Now a hostage of peace in Tallideth, he is subjected to their hatred as well—even that of Regent Vellem, who once considered him a comrade in arms.
Unexpected solace comes in the form of Lord Teverem, a sad, quiet lord who assumed the title when his brother was killed in the explosion for which Istari’s father is to blame. He is kind and sweet and a sorely needed bright spot in Istari’s life—until Istari meets his family and learns of a dangerous family secret with unexpected ties to Istari’s past, a secret that could drag Tallideth and Belemere right back into war…
Starting where The Engineered Throne left off, this story follows Prince Istari who has been taken as a political hostage. Istari was told he would be treated as a guest during his six year stay, but he’s not surprised when he is treated more as a pariah. Just when things become unbearable he meets the kind Lord Teverem. Their friendship improves Istari’s life immensely, so when Teverem and his family are endangered Istari is happy to do anything to help him, including a marriage of convenience. Though he fears this will destroy their fragile relationship, Istari does all he can to help Teverem adjust and survive. They leave the capital of Tallideth, meeting more challenges and growing closer as they go.
By far my favorite part of this book was the characters. I liked Istari a lot, I especially liked he was such a powerful person and soldier who still struggled with feelings of inadequacy and depression. And I just loved Teverem! He was so kind and generous, and I particularly loved that he was demisexual (a kind of asexuality where a person only feels sexual desire for people they have a strong emotional connection with). His nieces and nephew were also adorable, and I loved the dimension they added to Teverem and Istari’s relationship. The secondary characters were wonderful and fun, and again I loved the addition of asexual and aromantic people into the books cast.
I also liked the plot of this book, thought the twist at the beginning does make it hard to review! I thought it was well paced and I loved that we can see that Istari is an unreliable narrator, in that he feels no one likes him when the way people act toward him shows that this is not true. I also thought the court intrigue was well handled, with just the right amount of complexity. I do wish the magic system of this world was explained more. Usually Megan Derr is phenomenal at world building, but in this series magic is mentioned several times and never shown or defined. Maybe this won’t bother people who aren’t fantasy nerds like me, but it was a snag in an otherwise delightfully unique and detailed world.
While this was generally a fun and easy read, there are several things people should be warned about. The first is that there is an attempted suicide in this book. The second is that, while the publisher tagged this book as asexual (referring to Teverem’s demisexuality) and containing no explicit content, there are several sex scenes in this book. This took me by surprise, and while it’s not a bad thing it is something to know ahead of time.
I recommend this series particularly to fans of marriages of convenience, fantasy, and Megan Derr.