Author: Trisha Wolfe
Released: 19th April 2013
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I am convinced that Trisha Wolfe is made of magic. Magic mind, magic hands (for her ability to put on paper what is in her mind), magic that runs into her book and then reaches out to the reader to grab them and hold them in place, forcing them to continue reading. Why? Because yet again she has created another fantastic world, another set of characters who don't give you the option of not loving them, and because...well, because she's Trisha Wolfe.
Welcome to Cavan, one of the Three Realms and a place where women are the protectors. Kaliope is the new head of the Nactue, the Empress Iana's personal guard. Sworn to a lifetime of duty and protection, she couldn't be happier, having trained for this since she was a young girl. But when another of the Three Realms is attacked, it falls to Kal to guard Prince Caben, the last remaining heir to his kingdom. As far as she's concerned, he's a spoiled prince who is keeping her from protecting the the Empress. But things only get worse when the Otherworlders attack, and Kal and Caben find themselves kidnapped and taken below ground. The rules are much different here; for survival, they will have to fight to the death in a caged arena, against others who have also been kidnapped from different realms. Kal's urge to find her way out strengthens when she realises she needs to get back the relic that was stolen from the Empress, for the survival of both Iana and Cavan. And then of course there's the matter of why the Otherworlders have been attacking. And through all this she has to somehow keep both herself and the prince alive.
Wolfe truly excels at her worldbuilding. Her worlds are complex, made up of different elements, and yet they all fit together to create an outstanding backdrop. In this case we have a queendom, where women are highly respected and are the ones chosen to look after their families and generally take a slightly more leading role in society. There is the mythological element, where it is custom to pray to the goddesses. I love mythology, and when done well, they make a book incredibly intriguing; needless to say, it was done well here. I really enjoyed reading about what each of the goddesses were responsible for, and of the divide between good and evil, and then how this was extended in the story. The Otherworlders are the enemy race who live below ground, a concept both intriguing and perhaps slightly unfathomable when looking at it from a personal perspective. I can't imagine living most of my life underground, away from the fresh air and the sun (although to be honest, it's not like the sun comes out here all that often anyway). I really liked how they were presented overall as really aggressive, the enemy, but then you see this other side to them and realise that it's not all what it seems. Finally, the idea of mercury being the most valued material, the thing that keeps everything running and that everyone depends on. This world is one that has been thoroughly explored, and it is clear that the author has taken the time to really get to know it herself.
Kal then builds on this herself by being a really strong character. She never shirks from her duty, and she will do what she thinks needs to be done; her loyalty, her strength, her sense of needing to protect others and always putting herself second, all these are emphasised through her relationships with her friends and mother. It was really nice to see her grow throughout the book, allowing herself to confront old memories and letting someone in - someone who is not female. Kal's past is an incredibly sad one, where her brutal father had no care for her mother and even less for her; when I found out what he did to her, I was shocked and horrified, not to mention angry. It's easy to see how that affected her attitude towards men. Caben himself I found to be quite different from the usual love interests, even aside from the fact that he is a prince. He, too, grows throughout the book, becoming more responsible and more aware, really becoming stronger in all senses of the word. I loved the dynamics of their relationship and how that kept changing, and it was so heart-warming to see them accept each other despite their pasts and be there for each other. The secondary characters were well-written too, and their happiness and pain became my own. Bax was a particular favourite; as soon as I started to see certain things, it didn't take long for me to warm to him.
Once again this author has astonished me with the world she has created, and I really just had to carry on even when I told myself I would stop reading at a certain point. It's clear that Trisha Wolfe has explored each angle of this world, and because of that I felt like I was right there in Cavan and then underground, experiencing everything for myself; I had a clear understanding of how this world worked. What pains me now is that we have to wait for the sequel. I will have to come up with ways to get my Trisha Wolfe fix in the meantime.
The cool sensation of the fresh water on my skin helps me forget my nerves and I lie back, floating just below the top of the water. My body dulls, the cold soothing my sore muscles, and I welcome the numbness. The ceiling of the cave is sprinkled with tiny clusters of white lights, dotting the canopy above our heads like stars in the sky. I feel as if I’m sitting on the rooftop of my apartment, staring at the night sky, not here in the Otherworld, awaiting my death.
The water rolls, rocking my body, and I glance over as Caben floats up beside me. He’s on his back also, and points to the lights dusting the cave ceiling.
“Diamonds,” he says.
“Really?” I don’t know much about any minerals other than mercury. And somehow, diamonds as our stars makes my chest heavy. It’s too beautiful. “How can you tell?”
“The ultraviolet light shows the impurities,” he says. “The imperfections actually absorb the dark light, causing the diamond to emit a visible glow.” He chuckles. “A very expensive lighting effect.”
I laugh. “Quite expensive.” They twinkle as they reflect the rippling water. “But almost more heavenly than the stars.” I lower my voice at the end, hoping he didn’t hear my spoken thoughts.
Caben doesn’t speak, and the trickling of the stream and lap of the pool becomes the only sound as we float in compatible silence. I could drift off, fall asleep in this peaceful place, but I know we still have a mission to complete before the Reckoning.
This thought awakens me, and I touch my feet to the bottom of the pool and begin to wade toward the edge.
I hear Caben’s heavy groan. “No you don’t,” he says, and captures the bottom of my tunic. He tugs me through the water, back to the pool’s center. “Not yet. This could be our last reprieve, and I plan for us to enjoy it.”
As I turn to face him, his fingers slip from my shirt to my waist, grazing my stomach. My skin prickles, and I shiver, matching the trembling water around us. His deep blue eyes meet mine, and he swallows, his Adam’s apple working. Slowly, he begins to inch up my tunic—
“Wait.” I place my hand on top of his.
He cranes an eyebrow. “It should really have time to dry before we go back.”
Logically, that makes sense. But the heated look he’s giving me says so much more. And regardless of the attraction I may feel for the prince—a woman would have to be blind—and whether or not we actually escape this hell ... what then? We share an intimate moment once, and go back to our stations in life, simply pretending nothing happened?
Or maybe I’m reading too much into his gaze. He’s a man, and physical desire is self-serving. He may die ... and he probably wants to bed a woman one last time. Everything about his character screams he’s not one who thinks past the moment.
I could lose myself for now, give in to the pulse quickening my blood with need, but I’ve never shown a man the clamp over my heart. It would have to be something I did for a different reason if I ever chose to do so. Not merely because I may die soon.
As I push his hand away and start to swim off, he grasps my waist, encircling his firm arms around my stomach, and pulls my back to his chest.
“Don’t run from me,” he breathes into my ear. “I’m not asking for anything. Not even whatever it is you’re hiding. Just stay here.”
Help Trisha and the Tuff Girl Legion get to 50 reviews on Amazon to read this full scene from Caben’s POV! Scene will release on Trisha’s blog. You can bookmark the bonus material here!