Author: Ginn Hale
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Weightless Books
Type: Standalone Novel
Purchased by Reviewer
Blurb: Five years after abandoning the Sagrada Acedemy (Lord of the White Hell universe), Elezar Grunito has become infamous in the sanctified circles of noble dueling rings for his brutal temper and lethal blade. Men and women of all ranks gather to cheer and jeer, none of them knowing Elezar’s true purpose. But a violent death outside the ring marks Elezar as a wanted man and sends him into hiding in the far northern wilds of Labara.
There, creatures of myth and witchcraft—long since driven from Cadeleon—lurk in dark woods and prowl the winding streets. Soldiers and priests alike fear the return of witch-queens and even demons. Elezar soon learns that magic takes many forms, some too alluring to resist, others too terrible to endure. But just as he begins to find his place in this strange new country, the past he left behind along with his school days returns to challenge him once again.
Review: Elezar Grunito has not made the most wise choices since departing from the Sagrada Academy. He’s always been fiercely loyal to his friends. That has, finally, led him down the road to possible execution for murder. Being loyal to Atreau and his poor choices may have saved Atreau’s life for the time being, but it’s time to get out of town and lie low elsewhere for a while. Elezar and Atreau end up in Labara at the behest of Fedeles Quemanor, their good friend from school. Fedeles isn’t only saving Elezar and Atreau out of the kindness of his heart. They’re sent as emissaries to stop a possible war between Cadeleon and the powerful witches, known as grimma, who rule the four counties in conjunction with the counts. The Sumar grimma has been particularly troublesome. Visiting the Sumar grimma as a diplomat is highly dangerous. Most Cadeleonians that attempt to visit end up dead. So, Elezar and Atreau make their way to the city of Milmuraille. Atreau is to pose as Fedeles while Elezar poses as his varlet. The grimma in Milmuraille is Oesir. Skellan is going to battle Oesir and take control of his sanctum, in turn becoming the new grimma of Milmuraille. It doesn’t quite work out that way. As Skellan challenges Oesir a violet flame is released. I’ll just go on record as saying the violet flame is bad. Skellan escapes with his life, barely. He shifts into a dog and is hunted through the streets of Milmuraille.
Elezar finds a wounded, sickly looking dog and decides to nurse it back to health. He takes the stray into the Bishop’s palace with him, into his private rooms and feeds him and tends his wounds. Skellan is actually pretty happy at this point that he’s got a Cadeleonian protector and a regular supply of food. Skellan knows this won’t last forever as he’s got a task he’s set for himself, but he’s content to heal and eat. Being impoverished for years has done as much damage as the grimma’s guards. When Elezar leaves, Skellan stays with the Duke and continues to recuperate. Recuperate and snoop. Many interesting things are hidden in the palace of a Bishop.
Elezar was actually able to find the Sumar grimma. It took help and suspension of disbelief, but he did it. The grimma and her sanctum were both pretty creepy, however; the Sumar grimma had an incredibly good reason to be upset and to want war. Elezar sees war can still be prevented and sets off to do so. He returns to Milmuraille wounded and finds his dog on the loose. After checking himself into an inn for the night to rest and heal he finds himself with a man and no dog. That man? He’s a witch named Skellan and was his dog. It doesn’t take long before both men realize they’re in a desperate race to stop something catastrophic. If Skellan can’t stop the violet flame the Sumar grimma will have even more reason to launch an attack against Milmuraille and Cadeleon. If Elezar can’t stop the Sumar grimma, Milmuraille will be crushed in the oncoming war.
When nothing is as it seems, to whom, or what, can you give your loyalty? What is the breaking point for a loyal friend? No one was as they appeared at first glance. Everyone was dealing with extenuating circumstances and divided loyalties. Everyone knew some piece of information that clicked into the puzzle of the whole, including the reader. It was obvious Elezar had his hands on exactly what the Sumar grimma was looking for. All the major players wanted what Elezar had for one reason or another. Skellan and Elezar were the only clueless people. Poor Skellan was pretty much doubly clueless. He’s really the only character with no hidden agenda which is pretty ironic given he’s the one with enough magic to hide in plain sight.
Upon the completion of Book 1, it appears Commander Zangre Lecha is the only unreservedly bad character. At no point did I learn something of him that skewed my perception of him as wholly creepy and awful. This served to make him a fascinating device for Elezar to question his loyalty to Cadeleon. In this instance, Elezar exhibits his true loyalty to Cadeleon. He remains steadfast in his love of his homeland despite its flaws. Commander Lecha did awful things to the local Labarans and Mirogoths. Cadeleon was the evil occupying force and Elezar saw that first hand. Elezar’s worst fears about his homeland were confirmed, yet when the time came he became the new commander of the garrison because it was the right thing to do for both Cadeleon and Milmuraille.
This book was both an Ugly Duckling tale and an Opposites Attract tale. Yes, they cancel each other out in this instance, but the guys didn’t know that. This brings me to my One Big Complaint about the book: the sex was off the page. I didn’t want details of tab A fitting into slot B, but I would have loved to see the fears and vulnerabilities of these two characters as they finally got together. At what point did Elezar really allow himself to enjoy the pleasure? When did Skellan give up the bravado and really give of himself?
I don’t want to forget to mention Javier and Kiram appear as characters in this book. In keeping with the theme of the book, Elezar looks at his relationships with both men and judges them based upon new information. It was also an interesting opportunity for the reader to reassess their opinion of the bold, beautiful, badass Bahiim that should have been Duke. It was the little street witch, thrown away and overlooked, the one no one believed, that saved the day. Only the day isn’t saved. Yet.