He was expendable. He was a sacrifice. He was the emperor.
Raothan Ga’ardahn wants to take his own life. Twelve years in exile have a way of beating a man down, and the shameful secrets of his past, no matter how far buried, weigh enough to keep him that way. The last thing standing between him and oblivion is a sign from the gods. That, and a unit of Imperial Guard trooping onto his farm one late summer’s afternoon.
Across the continent, the Taunai heed the warnings of their dead: act to correct an unforeseen fracture in the Pattern of events, or face annihilation. Niquel, their bravest Questioner, accepts the challenge to descend into the dangerous lowlander capital for the good of her people. A journey alone away from her snowy mountain home awaits. Any worry about the strange man in her dreams will have to come later.
When the paths of the two outsiders cross on the steps of the imperial palace at Protreo, the fate of the empire shifts. One the Novamneans call ‘exile’, the other they call ‘witch’. Neither will ever be the same.
Ho, I found this book beyond frustrating. Because I almost loved it. I would have loved it, except the sex! Now, before anyone calls me a prude and asks me why I’m reading sexy fantasy if I don’t like sex in my books, let me say I have no problem with sex. I read quite a lot of it. Outside of the rapes (which I do generally try to avoid in the books I read for fun and sometimes get pissy about), I don’t even have a problem with any single element of the sex in this book. It’s just that the sex the book contains doesn’t AT ALL fit the story the book is telling.
The first one is full on m/f master/slave kink play with spanking, anal pegging and anal sex. Involving a character we’d just met long enough to have a work conversation going home to have sex with his wife, who is only introduced for the purposes of him having sex with her (and she basically isn’t in the book in any meaningful way after). Nothing in the book, up until that point, was even remotely erotic. The scene literally came out of nowhere. I spent that whole VERY LONG sex scene (12 pages) wondering what the point of it was. The characters were not important ones. The reader wasn’t invested in them or their relationship. The sex wasn’t stitched into the plot. The whole thing was jarring and out of place.
The second scene was a m/f gang rape. The third was coerced f/f sex, in which one was straight and the other basically owned her. The fourth was (m/f) forced fellatio, so rape. The fifth was another f/f scene, in which the previously straight woman ostensibly entered willingly, but only because she was told someone would kill her nieces if she didn’t seduce the other woman—so, basically another coerced scene. And the last was finally a sweet, gently love scene between the main characters (the only sex scene between the main characters).
The point I’m making is that the main couple basically have a very sweet VERY LOW STEAM romance and then the author shoved all this jarring, unpleasant sex into the plot with other characters. They didn’t fit together even a little bit. It’s not even that they were badly written. They weren’t. It just felt like the author took the sex scenes she wrote for an entirely different book and shoehorned them into this one in order to make it steamier and IT RUINED THE BOOK.
I can’t even reason that maybe she was trying to create a purposeful contradiction because nothing in the story or plot supports it. So, I’m just left scratching my head and super frustrated.
Outside of the ruinous sex, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the characters. The world is complex and multilayered. There’s some humor. The writing and editing is good. I would have 5 stared this book if the author hadn’t forced it from fantasy romance into erotic fantasy. (Not erotica necessarily. The sex isn’t the point of the plot. But definitely a higher erotic rating that the story needed or, more importantly, supported.)