Author: Jennifer Anne Davis
Publisher: Reign Publishing
Length: 374 pages
Source: Review Copy from Author
The Order of the Krigers has risen.
Determined to destroy the Order, the vicious king, Morlet, scours the land searching for the twelve chosen ones. He burns entire villages hoping to crush the Krigers.
He has other plans for Kaia.
In order to end the curse, Kaia must conceive a child before the Krigers can kill Morlet. However, Kaia doesn’t know if the father is supposed to be her fiancé, Vidar, or his brother, the evil king. Determined to find the answer, she sets off to the other side of the mountains with Anders. Stifling her growing feelings for the assassin, Kaia unearths secrets that force her to reevaluate her cause. Can she sacrifice so much of herself to save the kingdom of Nelebek? Can she kill Morlet when she is starting to understand and even sympathize with him? And is there really any choice at all, especially when it comes to matters of the heart?
With newfound power, Kaia’s heart and mind are entwined with the realization that choices come with a price, passion can rival hatred, and an evil looms on the horizon, more sinister than she ever imagined.
Protagonist: After freeing the other Krigers from Mortlet's captivity, the country of Nelebek is closer than ever to being rid of the ruthless tyrant Mortlet. However, before Kaia and the other Krigers can end Mortlet's reign she needs to conceive a child of royal blood, meaning either she has a child with Vidar or, more terrifying yet, she has to have a child with Mortlet. Yet, she's able to see the good parts of Mortlet, the parts that have yet to be corrupted by the Skog Heks magic flowing through his system. Much of Kaia's development in this book is tied into her role in breaking the curse. The symbol on her weapon means "choice" and still she feels that if she wants to do right by her country and the people she's come to care for, she has no choice. I loved watching Kaia's struggles in this book because it made her feel all the more real of a character. She's by no means a perfect character, she's flawed, she thinks too much with her heart, and she has real fears that can interfere with her mission, that being said, she still does what she believes is right and faces her challenges head on. Sometimes she comes out victorious, but other times she needs to lick her wounds and regroup. All these things make her such a great character to root for and to watch develop over the course of this series.
Romance: One of my favorite aspects of this series so far has been the way the author has approached the romance. In a way, there's a love triangle, but it's presented in a very unique and unusual way. It's obvious, even in the first book, that there's really only one true contender for Kaia's heart, and yet she's drawn to Mortlet, or at least the human side of him, Espen, and finds herself engaged to Vidar in hopes that conceiving a child with him will help break the curse, all the while fighting her growing romantic feelings for the assassin Anders. This isn't your typical YA romance, and the way the author handles it is inexplicably amazing. While Kaia's feelings for the men in her life play a role in the overall story, she never lets that define who she is. She's not trying to find a husband or someone to spend her life with, she wants to break this curse, so if romantic entanglements get in the way she won't let it stop her from doing what she needs to do, which I greatly admire in a YA heroine. That all being said the romantic tension between Kaia and Anders is off the charts amazing. It does get a tiny bit too soapy at times, but it always finds a way to reign itself in before it gets too much. Then there's the complicated connection between Kaia and Mortlet which is extremely compelling, while I'm not rooting for Mortlet and Kaia to end up in any way together, I understand her struggle and understand the fight that Mortlet's humanity, Espen, must be fighting every day.
World Building: With all the Krigers finally together you'd think that it wouldn't take that long to band together, link up their powers and destroy Mortlet, but there's much more to this story left to be told. Since much of Kaia's development involves her role in breaking the curse, that's also what most of the world building is based upon. In this book, we learn more about what transpired when the curse was first cast. Whatever did happen to the girl that Espen was so ready to give up anything to be with? Now that Skog Heks has been killed what does that mean for the rule of balance in Nelebek? Why is Kaia the only female Kriger? All of these questions and more are answered in this installment. I usually find that the second installment in a trilogy is the most world building heavy, and even though I haven't read the final book in this trilogy, this book is jam-packed with world building. While I'm sure there's still much to explore as this series comes to an end next year, I was blown away by the information we discover in this installment and I loved the way the author presented it. It never felt out of place or like a huge info-dump, but much more natural and realistic.
Predictability: Going over this story I was trying to pinpoint what twists there were and try and remember my reactions to them, however, I wasn't able to find that many. That's not to say that there weren't twists in this story, but more that they weren't presented like normal literary twists. There were definitely some twists that felt more "normal" that were either well foreshadowed or came out of nowhere, but there were other times that it was more how certain characters got out of tricky predicaments or how they reacted to trials and hardships that were in a way twists. Not because the characters were acting out of character, but because they handle it in a way that's both unexpected and yet completely something they would do that catches me off guard. Either way, there were only a small handful of times that there was something presented as a twist that I was under the impression the reader already knew or should have known, and even those moments didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.
Ending: As this installment was coming to a close I had so many expectations for where I thought the story was going to go, and yet nothing quite turned out in the way I expected. Things were postponed until the final installment that I thought would have happened in this installment, and there were things that I expected to happen that just didn't and the way the author wrote around it was incredible. I really wish I could go into specifics here because there's a moment near the end of the book that really spoke to me because Kaia does something that I've only seen a handful of other female protagonists do and it was something that just made me love her character all the more. Again, I wish I could go into specifics, but I don't want to risk spoiling people because not only am I against causing spoilers, but it's also a moment that I feel is best experienced without any prior knowledge that it's coming. The ending itself was both incredible and aggravating. Incredible because I loved the final climax of the story and where things leave off, and yet aggravating because I hate waiting for the next installment and while I know I don't have to wait as long as people who read this as soon as it came out, August can't come soon enough. (I bet the author feels the exact opposite though lol)
If you couldn't tell by my glowing review, I loved this book, even more than the first one, and everything the world building, the magic system, the characters, and the romance are all phenomenal. If you read the first book and were hesitant to read the second, don't be, it only gets better! (Granted that's coming from someone who wasn't hesitant to continue this series.)