This book is so sad and so full of hope at the same time, terrifyingly beautiful and bittersweet.
Avery has it all: dark magic, villains, heroes, flying horses, a dramatic plot with turns and twists, characters that you adore and villains to hate and last but not least a hauntingly beautiful romance. It’s a magical and dangerous world where Kayans and Pirenti look with prejudiced hatred on each other and wage a centuries old war. The story is told from 4 different points of view, where Ava’s and Ambrose’ journey builds up the main plot. Thorne’s and Rose’s perspective gives you more insight into the Barbarian Queen’s court. Thorne, the elder Prince of the Pirenti (and Ambrose’s brother) and his wife have their personal struggles. Their journey to understanding and love was so sweet and sad. But all four give emotional insight into the world of Kaya and Pirenti from different angles.
Pirenti soldiers look nothing like Kayans – these men are huge and beastly, and there is a deep sense of wildness to them. There are no women in this hall of soldiers – here women are considered inferior and would never be allowed to fight.
All but one, of course: The Barbarian Queen wages wars from her blood-soaked throne, demanding always that she be surrounded by men, and men only.
Ava’s bondmate Avery was killed by the Barbarian Queen. The people of Kaya die in pairs. With the forging of the soul magic, so is forged an unbreakable bond between those in love. When one dies, so shall the other, and forever will it remain so … But Ava survives even though she should have died. Now, a miserable despaired half-soul she doesn’t feel anymore, doesn’t have a taste, can’t smile or laugh or feel pleasure. Her family and friends look at her with mistrust. The only thing that that remains for her is vengeance. Execute vengeance upon the Barbarian Queen – the one that murdered her mate.
She’s captured by the younger Prince of Pirenti. On the way to a prison on a remote island, he falls in love with his captive. And by doing so, he starts to help her heal.
The water was icy cold – knives-all-over-my-body-cold. I surfaced amidst the shock, my heart and soul wide open to the vastness of the sea I’d just entered, and turned to see Avery smile at me. And as I looked at the naked beauty of the expression, I fell in love. It was that simple, that complicated.
This is me reading the book:
I cried a river over this book. All the characters in the story handle love, loss and an endless ocean of grief in such a realistic, emotional way. And the author has a way of making me care, of not only telling me that Ava is sad, but making me feel her longing for her mate, her confusion at realizing that she started to care for another, her shame at having betrayed her dead mate by laughing again.
Alone in my room, I curled into a ball and cried.
If you were here I’d run my tongue along your skin and taste you, and I’d say I’m sorry for the piece of life I remembered without you, and how for a moment upstairs I forgot the shape of your hand against my back and the look on your face when you ate something you liked. I’d tell you how hopeless I feel, how very sad. I’d kiss you, because I never kissed you enough. I never had enough of you at all. I never got the years we spoke of, the life we planned. I never had the children we were supposed to, the family you promised me. I never got enough of your laughter.
All the journeys depicted in this book are so excruciating and hopeful at the same time. It’s not only Ava who has to let go of her longing for a dead mate, her wish for vengeance and start living and loving again. It’s also Thorne and his wife Roselyn. It’s also Ambrose who loves Ava so fierce, to oblivion and back:
I let my fingers trace her lips, all the delicate, soft lines of them. I wanted to keep touching them for every second of the rest of my life. I wanted to kiss them until they bled, until neither of us could breathe. I wanted a life that was not my own, one I’d never be entitled to because I came from a damaged, violent country.
It hit me then – who was I to love a creature like this? I didn’t deserve her, and there was no lifetime in which I ever could. She loved a man I now remembered – a men with black hair, who had stood straight at his death and died for his country. A man who had known the line between right and wrong. And here I sat, a complicated mess of compromised beliefs and stretched morals. All I had left, all I possessed, was this one stupid truth.
“I love you as a women. I see you as you are, Ave – broken into pieces and suffocating – and I love all the pieces of you, no matter how small they’ve shattered, nor how far they’ve been scattered.”
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Charlotte McConaghy has created a vibrant magical world full of emotions, fleshed out characters, kick-ass action and a bittersweet love story.