Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save her life, Lia's erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.
Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: there's Rafe, who lied to Lia, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be barbarians. Now that she lives amongst them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.
Things I have learned from my recent YA reads: Reunions are dangerous. SO SO DANGEROUS.
Also I'll state this upfront - that whole love triangle thing? Resolved. Done. Lia chose and she doesn't waver. That doesn't mean she doesn't mislead, misdirect and lie through her teeth to survive, but her heart belongs to one person. And there's no way to go into this without spoiling that choice so read at your peril. I mean it. Seriously. LOTS OF SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK.
Kaden, having lived under the most magnificent Cloud of Denial this side of ANY fantasy or romance novel (seriously normally they leave this sort of denial to the female characters, not to the male), perceives things how he wants to see them. Maybe he truly did believe, in his heart of hearts, that if he brought Lia to Vendan land she'd be safe. Maybe he thought she really did feel betrayed by Rafe and she'd see that Kaden--despite being WORST then Rafe in a lot of ways that have nothing to do with him being the Assassin of Venda--could make her happy.
But you have to wonder about the guy when everyone under the bloody sun is like "Dude the Komizar does what he likes." and Kaden, for all his vaunted love for Lia and belief they were meant for each other and dreams of such, would (and did) say the same exact thing. Whether Lia was useful or not was not up to Kaden to decide, it was up to the Komizar and quite frankly Lia by herself wasn't terribly useful to him.
So the love triangle was done before the end of the first book and quite frankly whatever lingering affection Lia may have had for Kaden was turned to dust pretty quickly.
Lia, my friends, becomes a lady on a mission. The book is about 75% told from her point of view with two or three chapters dedicated to Pauline and the rest spread equally between Rafe and Kaden (there's over 60 chapters/400pages). Its interesting to watch some of the events the three witness together unfold across their perspectives. I'm thinking of the card game in particular, but there's a couple dinners that apply. All three are playing the other in some manner. Lia is playing Kaden to protect herself and to protect Rafe's real identity. Rafe is playing Kaden to protect his identity and Lia's real feelings. Kaden is playing Rafe to learn who he is and is unintentionally manipulating Lia in a game he isn't even controlling.
And in the center is the Komizar. The leader of the Vendan people by show of strength (which is pretty much how any position of power is attained in those misbegotten lands), Kaden and he have a strong bond that goes back over a decade. A man who is consumed with his quest for power, but is also determined to bring his people to glory.
I had some trouble with him, with pinning him exactly down. Part of it was that Kaden saw him with severely blinded eyes--or I shouldn't say that exactly. Kaden believed in him and trusted him because for a VERY long time the Komizar was the ONLY person who believed in Kaden or trusted him. If Lia had been the fluff-headed spoiled royal brat everyone expected. If she hadn't understood that words said and sacrifices made now were to bring her closer to that future she so desperately wanted...if she hadn't played Kaden the way she did...there wouldn't have ever been a question for him.
What made the Komizar dangerous wasn't his ability to weild a weapon or his willingness to sacrifice thousands in his quest. What made him dangerous was that he understood how to get loyalty. How to make others look at him and remember "He did THIS for me". He knew when to take an opportunity and run with it.
What made him was weak was not understanding how fickle humans are, even in their undying loyalty.
Oh this book. Guys I could go on and on about it. There was some discordent moments. Lia found out more in regards to some traitors in her father's court, and while I appreciated the updates on Pauline they were far less interesting to me then Lia/Rafe/Kaden's struggles. Also I would have liked to "see" from the Komizar's view. Its easy to make a man seem twenty steps ahead of everyone when you're only seeing the aftermath. Harder to justify it when you don't see how he knew.
Still the end was a WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU EVEN DOING TO ME RIGHT NOW ending, which while less people Lia loves die its no less heart breaking. I want to hope for the best. With my only other guidance in how Pearson may complete this series being the Jenna Fox Chronicles (which are, at best, bittersweet endings really) I AM VERY WORRIED FOR MY HEART.