At a memorial service meant to honor the dead and mark the beginning of a truce between Skirfall and Morcia, Ackley spies a figure who does not belong—a mage interrogator whose presence will only cause harm should the Morcians realize who he is and all the people he has tortured. But the problem rapidly grows much worse than that when Ackley realizes his true purpose is assassination of the Morcian crown prince—an assassination Ackley prevents, but at great cost.
Banished from his own country, bound magically to the crown prince of his enemies, Ackley is certain of just one thing: whether he can figure out how to break the spell or not, his death is assured.
Dear Ms. Miller,
I bought your book despite the high price because I am always on the lookout for a book which deals with “from enemies to lovers” theme and while I had previously only read a couple of freebies by you, I decided that the blurb of this story sounded too good to pass up. I wrote a brief review on Amazon, but then I decided that I want to talk about this book in more detail, so here I am. I thought the first part of the book was fascinating – it moved with speed and the plot twisted and turned. I was intrigued when one of the characters was a loud-mouth who did a good deed for the prince of the country with whom they were at war, no less, and he suffered for it. I found the second part of the book significantly less fascinating, but before I explain why, let’s start from the very beginning.
As the blurb tells you, two feuding countries are observing a truce in order to conduct memorial ceremony for their fallen during the war, when Ackley notices that one of his fellow mages is attempting to curse the prince from Morcia to death. Ackley thinks this is a very bad and underhanded idea and casts a counter-curse which goes awry for several reasons. The unintended side effect of the counter- curse is that Ackley and Morcian prince are forced to be bound together, with each able to feel pain if the other one feels pain, and unable to walk too far from each other without suffering pain. The prince obviously cannot be at the ceremony any longer, the truce is pretty much broken and Ackley is forced to accompany him, because he cannot not to. Of course the prince is convinced that Ackley had his own sinister intentions in getting bound to him, and I really was ready to kick prince for repaying for a kind deed by not trusting Ackley, but I definitely could see his point of view, and he realized that Ackley is to be trusted relatively fast.
At Morcia our heroes have to deal with the fight for Morcia’s throne – the prince’s father had been dying for months and the Council that rules with the monarch had not been particularly happy with the prince for many reasons. There is also the matter of several deadly attacks on their lives. Ackley and the prince need to unmask the killer, figure out how to break the curse, and then find a way to stop the war. I really liked this part of the book. The attacks were truly deadly, I was worried for both guys, I was not sure who was behind the attacks and I was basically glued to the pages.
I thought Ackley’s magical abilities were very well portrayed, as was his frustration, because there were more restrictions on use of magic against people (good or bad) in Morcia than in Skirfall and the problems that arose made sense to me. I thought Ackley’s constant refusal to bite his tongue when he was talking to the prince also made sense – he was worried for his life, for his magic, he was under constant stress and he was not a meek person. I like guys snapping at each other, but I do not want such bickering to make them look like idiots or kids, and I did not think that happened in this book.
And then suddenly the story came to a screeching halt for me. The villain was unmasked in the middle of the book, and I am still not sure if I was happy with the revelation. I mean, I liked that it was a person who was under suspicion almost from the beginning, because it is nice when the characters are not stupid, and mostly they were looking for evidence in the right places, but at the same time I was thinking he did all that? Really?
At 50-60% of the book I started to feel that the author was artificially prolonging the “we do not know how to break the curse” thing to keep the guys together and the book really seemed to lose some steam. And when the curse was actually broken, it happened in really anticlimactic way. This was not necessarily bad; in fact I think I liked it. I just think it should have happened earlier in the book and some things could have been cut out.
The romance is literally – “from enemies to lovers”, because they realize that they love each other toward the end of the book. I guess they do become friends gradually but they were never 100% friends before they realized that they were in love. I have no problem with that, in fact I love that, but avoid the book if you do not; they are antagonistic to each other for a much longer period of time than they are not.
The escapade our heroes conducted to stop the war between the two countries actually made me dislike Ackley somewhat – to keep the things ambiguous let’s just say that I thought he was way too pleased to do things to bring his country to their knees even if it did stop the war. But that’s my issue and not book’s issue; I suspect not that many will have that issue.
I also thought that the world-building was somewhat sketchy – not absent, but sketchy. Yes, the two countries were monarchies, yes they were now at war, and yes the use of magic was more restrictive in one of them than another. I also really loved that there were so many women in the top positions in Morcia. There were a couple of council members, whom I liked a lot and found very competent. There were many women in the military and one woman was shown to be in the top military position, and there was also a woman as one of the top physicians. I really liked these features, but besides what I’ve described I really cannot say that I know much about these two countries and the world in general.
And lastly, I buy a lot of books from “Less Than Three” press, because a lot of them are good fantasy stories with great characters, but I have to say that typos and missing words are present in books from this press on a very regular basis. This book sadly is no exception.
Grade : C.