For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got a treat: an award-winning novel by the amazing Raven Oak. This book had some fascinating themes, some of which we covered in our Fantasy Fiends Podcast Episode #003: What is Family, Really? This is a book I’m very certain you will enjoy!
Her name was Adelei.
She was a master in her field, one of the feared Order of Amaska. Those who were a danger to the Little Dozen Kingdoms wound up dead by her hand. The Order sends her deep into the Kingdom of Alexander, away from her home in Sadai, and into the hands of the Order’s enemy.
The job is nothing short of a suicide mission, one serving no king, no god, and certainly not Justice. With no holy order to protect her, she tumbles dagger-first into the Boahim Senate’s political schemes and finds that magic is very much alive and well in the Little Dozen Kingdoms.
While fighting to unravel the betrayal surrounding the royal family of Alexander, she finds her entire past is a lie, right down to those she called family. They say the truth depends on which side of the sword one stands, but they never said what to do when all the swords are pointing at you.
Amidst her enemies, in a land from the darkest reaches of her past, she must decide if she is to be more than another brainwashed puppet. No matter her choice, she must fight to do what is just and right to save the people of the Little Dozen.
My Review: 5 Stars
A very well-crafted story, one that explored some very emotionally intense and intricate issues. From the first page, I was drawn to the story of Adelei and her journey from the only home she’s ever known (that of an assassin) to the city and country that should actually BE her home. A fascinating look at the truth of what makes someone family—blood, loyalty, love, emotional ties, duty, respect, and more.
There were parts that I had a hard time reading (slowed down a bit), but once I got through them, I enjoyed the story immensely. Highly recommended!
Here’s a Taste:
The sleeping woman in his arms shifted, her heel connecting with his shin. The jagged scar to the right of her eye bunched together with worry lines. One of her hands flitted to the scar tissue along her throat, and she whimpered in rhythm to the twitching of the facial muscles around her eyes.
“Shhhhh,” King Leon murmured, running his thumb down her jawline. Through the deep blue bed curtains, tiny hints of light streamed in from one of four windows which left most of the room dark in the early dawn.
Even with the lack of light, the scar running parallel to her jaw stood out in contrast to the others along her body. The puffy and angry line stretched the full width of her neck, from ear to ear. Ten years together, and still she never spoke of it, never talked of the wound that walked in and out of her nightmares.
She thought she’d kept her past from him, but a few paid informants gained a king whatever information he wished. That and the fact that she talked in her sleep. A smile lifted the corners of his thin lips as he stared at the woman wrapped beneath the heavy winter blankets.
His thumb froze at the shift in her breathing, and he peered down to find blue eyes staring up at him. Instead of their usual humor, the deep, blue pools were haunted by shadows, and the smile fell from his lips. “What is it, Ida? What’s bothering you so? Was it something in Sadai?”
“I begged you not to send me.” The scar across her throat jumped when she spoke, and her voice resembled gravel.
“Since when has my sepier been afraid of anything?” The former captain of the royal guard didn’t answer as another tear slid down a cheek more gaunt than it had been a few months before. “Ida, love, I know you hate Sadai, but we all must make sacrifices for duty.”
Her body stilled while long pale fingers gripped the bed sheets. “You know nothin’.”
Leon didn’t know what shocked him more, that she was angry with him or that she was afraid.
“‘Twas a mistake to return to Sadai,” she whispered.
“I sent a woman I trust into that country, a tenacious spy who feared nothing, and she’s returned to me broken. I was going to wait until the sun rose before asking for your report, but considering your tears, I have to ask. What happened? What brought you back early and afraid?”
Ida rose from the bed, her bare feet picking their way across clothing strewn haphazardly on the floor from a few hours before when she’d returned.
The look on her face had led him to ask no questions, but as she stood in the sprinkling of sunlight the morning brought, dread seeped into Leon’s bones. Her fifty years did little to mar her body, but a decade of leading battles had left scars aplenty across her frame, and Leon frowned to see a fresh mark across her thigh, its scab already sloughing off and healing.
“I’ve failed you, Your Majesty.”
“Were you not successful then in finding the location of the Order of Amaska?”
Her lips trembled. “I—I was successful, Your Majesty.”
King Leon sucked air through clenched teeth much too fast, and the ever-present congestion in his lungs leapt forth. Another coughing spasm whipped through him.
Stars danced before his eyes, and Ida’s footsteps sounded nearby. Shortly after, she pressed the mug into his waiting hands. Some of the medicine sloshed out of the cup before it found his lips, and several swallows later, the spasm passed, leaving hope in its wake. “Where is the Order located?”
“Sire, there’s more—”
“Where are they?”
“They’re near the coast, near the town of Haif—”
He was two feet out of bed and halfway to the door before he remembered the need for clothing, and despite his bruised lungs, he quickly dug through his clothes chest. Leon seized the first clothes his fingers touched: an old pair of breeches a touch too loose at the waist, and an undershirt that bore a hole from a moth.
He didn’t care what he looked like. After thirteen years, he had finally found the men who had massacred his family. His giddy footsteps carried him across the room where he rang for a page. When the boy appeared, Leon said, ”I need Captain Fenton brought to my sitting room immediately.”
When the door shut behind the young page, Leon haphazardly dug through a box of letters. “Once Michael arrives, you’ll tell us both about their location. We have plans to make.”
“There’s more, and you must hear it alone.”
When he faced her again, she knelt on the stone floor, and her shoulder length hair spilled limply across her face. “What more is there? After thirteen years, I finally have the location of the bastards. Today is a good day, Ida. Today I will have my revenge.”
“Will ya march across Sadai’s borders to take it?”
“You’d bring the wrath of the Boahim Senate down upon us? Would you rip this land apart again for ‘nother pointless war?”
King Leon took her hands into his own as he knelt down beside her. “I thought you would understand this. Those bastards killed my wife. My daughter. What else would you have me do? The Boahim Senate has done nothing to stop the Amaskans. If they won’t seek justice, then I will.”
About the Author
Award-winning and bestselling speculative fiction author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood (2016 Ozma Fantasy Award Winner and Epic Awards Finalist), Class-M Exile, and the collection Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays (Foreword Reviews 2016 Book of the Year Finalist). Raven spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet.
When she’s not writing, she’s getting her game on with tabletop games, indulging in cartography, or staring at the ocean. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.
Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Amaskans-Blood-Boahim-Series-Volume/dp/0990815706
Visit Raven’s website: www.ravenoak.net
Tweet at her: http://twitter.com/raven_oak
Connect on Facebook: http://facebook.com/authorroak
And Google+: https://www.google.com/+RavenOak