Beautifully constructed fantasy romance
Very Highly Recommended
Three countries at war. No one can really remember what started it, but generation after generation, Krian, Illussor and Salharan men and women are sent to the battlefield to die for a disputed piece of land held by Kria.
When General Dieter von Adolwulf, leader of the Scarlett Army of Kria, prepares his troops to leave the battlefield after a long summer campaign, escaping before winter, he never expects to have scores of his men killed in a cowardly ambush. He has the assassin brought to him, and is amazed to find it’s a Salharan using magic to decimate his loyal men. And is even more shocked to find the man is one of an elite group of twenty-one men called the Seven star – a pack of Salharans deadlier and more cunning than any other.
The Wolf cannot abide this, and orders the man in chains. When threats and beatings fail to shake the man’s name from him, Dieter names him Beraht, a Krian name, the ultimate insult for a Salharan, who take pride in their names and the power they convey. And it’s doubly insulting that the man has no name of his own yet, not having earned it. The only way to redeem himself is to make Dieter retract it.
When an Illussor regiment ambushes and kills all but Dieter and Beraht, the two must trust one another to remain alive and reach the Winter Palace.
Along the way other characters are introduced – Illusors, Krians, Salharans – who weave a beautifully imagined tapestry of magic, love, jealousy, and treachery. We find out what caused the war, why the Illussors tried to kill Beraht, how the two lands got their magic. And why, most of all, Beraht is so focal to all thee lands.
Megan Derr has created a wonderful, multi-layered and deep work here. What I love best is how she takes her time and builds this fascinating world filled with magic and swords and men and delicate romance. Her characters come alive with detail and depth, and she weaves the tale so effortlessly back and forth among the major and supporting cast members.
Dieter is a fascinating character. In the beginning of the story, he is all bluster and gruff and even hate. His treatment of the unnamed assassin is horrible. And we despise him for much of the book. Until we finally are allowed to know his backstory. Then we see all, get the context, and bleed a little for him.
Beraht, the nameless, grabs the heart, though. Unnamed for most of his life, forced to do horrible things in the name of his country, used and abused at every turn. But always a survivor.
The romance is unexpected here. There are couplings obvious and some that evolve slowly. But all are true to the tone and tenor of the story.
I recommend setting aside two or three uninterrupted nights when you can curl up and spend quality time with this book. It demands and deserves nothing less. There are layers and layers of history, characters and subplots that wrap themselves around the reader and draw you in.
Great story. Great book. And fantastic job. I can’t wait to read the other books from this author.