When I found out this book was being revamped for a second edition, I was excited and eager for a chance to read it. I had already read the blurb and thought that it sounded like it would be a rich piece of storytelling that would have me riveted to the page. It. Did. I had quite a few different reactions as I read this book.
The story begins when an injured mercenary soldier, Kendra, who is battered in body and mind finds his way to a tavern where he despairs of ever getting back with the men in his unit again. They are either all dead or at the very least dispersed like himself. Up to his table, walks a stranger with startling gray eyes and a proposition. Kendras accepts the strangers coin and his proposition or at least until he is healed enough to get back to the Officer and the other Scorpions, his mercenary unit. His unit is like no other and they are more a band of brothers who are highly trained fighters than just regular soldiers or mercenaries which is something his new companion cannot understand. Kendras lets Gray Eyes use his body, but gives none of himself which he can see disappoints the other mercenary not that this matters to him. Kendras can bide his time and does until he can wait no longer for word of his fellow Scorpions. Leaving the mercenary and his other men behind sets Kendras out on a path that will take him in unexpected directions in his life full of danger, a chance for his dreams to be fulfilled and a choice all the while great men plot for power and no where is really safe.
Usually I am a first impression sort of gal when it comes to characters, but this was one of those rare instances when I couldn’t make up my mind about how I felt. As the characters’ pasts and motives were revealed, it forced me to revise my opinion more than once. Truthfully, I’m still on the fence about how I feel about a couple of characters, Kendras and Gray Eyes. This is not a bad thing. In fact, its evidence of the depth of humanity that these characters possess in that they don’t run around as the pure, white hatted hero and the evil black hat wearing villain. They are a bit of both and there is something bittersweet about Gray Eyes, a man devoid of principle, feeling something special for Kendras that is unrequited and Kendras yearning after another man through it all. As to the other characters, I was thrilled to finally meet the enigmatic ‘Officer’ that starred in Kendras’ memories and I liked the addition of the devious man who was always more than he seems, Widowmaker.
When it comes to the plot and voice of the story, I have no divided feelings.
This fantasy was full of all the good stuff- action, intrigue, and romance- all blended nicely. It was a harsh time in this fantasy world when a civil war from at least three directions if not four counting that High Priest’s group rages and the story reflects this. I should mention that even as brutality in war is raging on the men seek to take the edge off very frequently if you catch my drift.
The story’s backdrop wasn’t dwelt on heavily, but I have a curious turn of mind that doesn’t like a mystery once the end has come so I’m hoping that some of my questions are answered in the next book. I find Kendras’ background as a boy suddenly left by his parents in a strange country intriguing just as I want to know the ends and out of the man only known as Widowmaker. Also, I am eagerly awaiting a new installment just to see the slimy, manipulative High Priest guy get what’s coming to him.
All in all, I really got into this story and was disappointed when I clicked on the last page. I’d recommend it to m/m fantasy romance lovers who don’t mind a backdrop of war and the strong characters who fight it.
Thank you to Net Galley and Riptide publishing for providing a copy of the book for review purposes.
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