"[T]he author concentrates mainly on his story’s human element, and as such, his characters are well-developed ... The impressively expansive plot includes men and women being conscripted into the king’s army and an intriguing, somewhat familiar religion featuring Micah, the son of God ... A lengthy but thoroughly captivating tale and a commendable series launch."– Kirkus Reviews
In this second installment of a trilogy, a mage apprentice and an ex-thief protect a special stranger while trying to dodge a vengeance-minded assassin.
Kane Bailey was once a nobleman and mage apprentice in the kingdom of Consaria. But the teenager became a fugitive after inciting King Hugo’s wrath by telling a clan leader, who was threatening Kane, about the enigmatic Three Roses. At the time, Kane didn’t know what the Roses were, only that the king was searching for them. Now he believes he’s found one of the three: simple-minded Jonas, who sports a rose tattoo. Kane’s belief is solidified when the apparently psychic Jonas warns Callie, a former thief Kane has befriended, that the mage apprentice will soon die. Callie intervenes, and Kane narrowly avoids a tragedy that leaves many others dead. The two, along with Jonas, later team up with sorcerer Master Cypher, who was Kane’s tutor back in Consaria. While fugitive Kane changes his name to Sean McAlister, the group gets assistance from Cypher’s acquaintance Count Guyver. Cypher also enlists Sean to ensure Jonas receives safe passage to the city of Asturia, though the sorcerer never confirms that the man is one of the Roses. Sean and Callie adjust to their new lives, he as an apprentice to another mage, she as Guyver’s retainer. But proficient assassin Rainer wants revenge against Callie, who once bested him in combat. He begins killing innocents in Asturia and makes it abundantly clear that Callie is his primary target.
This stirring novel, picking up right where the fantasy series’ first installment left off, continues the titular arc while giving the characters plenty of room to grow. For example, Sean and Callie’s relationship gradually deepens and even entails possible romantic obstacles, such as “ruggedly handsome” Sir Barnes’ catching Callie’s eye. Moreover, Sean and Callie act as parental figures to Jonas, whom the narrative equates with a “preteen” who’s prone to complaints of boredom. There’s likewise progression regarding the Three Roses; readers will have more than an inkling as to their meaning before the book ends, and the explanation is both intriguing and unpredictable. In addition, certain subplots, such as a ballroom dance and a surprise poisoning, have discernible ties to the main plot and characters. Hubbard (The Legend of the Three Roses, 2017, etc.) deftly outfits his tale with appearances or references to various creatures both recognizable (unicorns and giant golems) and less so (undines, which are elementals with mastery over water). While the author implies much of the physical violence, the story is still generally dark. Rainer steadily becomes more relentless and intimidating, and he’s the reason Sean suffers a few losses. Nevertheless, dry humor occasionally alleviates the somberness. This often comes courtesy of Callie, who suggests Sean use his magic by commenting, “Can’t you just wiggle your fingers and make stuff happen?” And when Sean’s new master doesn’t seem interested in adequately training him, Callie offers to “pound some sense into him.”
A rousing fantasy sequel that allows the story to evolve while setting the stage for the final volume.
A young nobleman and aspiring mage gets caught up in an attempt to assassinate a king and stop a war in Hubbard’s (The Dark Hour, 2016, etc.) fantasy novel.
Nineteen-year-old Kane Bailey is sorcerer Master Cypher’s apprentice in the Consaria kingdom. One night, while making potions in the study, a female intruder accosts Kane, demanding to know where King Hugo is. She tries to kill the monarch but fails, narrowly evading capture and bringing along an unwilling Kane as an expedient hostage. Callie, the would-be assassin, considers ransoming Kane, as he’s a noble, but she’s already angered her clan leader, Giacomo Kently. It seems that the Jackal, a legendary killer, had farmed out the assassination job to the clan and will want his payment returned—coins that the clan has already spent. Callie pins her hopes on the “Three Roses,” which Kane overheard the king mention to Master Cypher on the night of the attempted assassination. Neither Kane nor Callie knows what the Three Roses actually are, but Callie is sure that they must be valuable—and that they somehow relate to the ongoing war against the neighboring land of Lonsaran, which King Hugo’s been avidly promoting. The two’s search, meanwhile, will take them to seedy places like The Silver Vein, which is rife with hooligans who won’t think twice about abducting a nobleman—or doing something worse. Along the way, Callie and Kane keep their eyes open for the lethal Jackal, who’s specifically targeted her for his refund.
Hubbard’s story highlights a few familiar fantasy genre elements: goblins rear their ugly heads, and Callie’s clan buys a magic-negating crystal with the coins that they accepted for the proposed hit. But the author concentrates mainly on his story’s human element, and as such, his characters are well-developed. Kane’s noble status makes him rather stuffy, and he’s shown to be disconcerted by a decent meal of fatty steak, sans utensils. He also witnesses debauchery that’s a sharp contrast to his noble life; in The Silver Vein alone, Kane spots a cockfight, a couple engaged in public sex, blatant drunkards, and a bevy of fresh corpses. The highly detailed descriptions are coupled with contemporary-sounding dialogue, as when Callie assures Kane that his use of magic “totally kick[s] ass.” Hubbard doesn’t specify the year in which the story takes place, which subverts expectations that some readers may have for a tale set in centuries past. Memorable moments include Callie “city-jumping” (which is sometimes more bluntly called “roof-jumping”) and one sinister character requesting volunteers for a religious practice called the Gateway to Heaven, which is, quite simply, torture. The impressively expansive plot includes men and women being conscripted into the king’s army and an intriguing, somewhat familiar religion featuring Micah, the son of God. The characters’ quest to find the Roses gets sidetracked during the final act, which briefly separates Callie and Kane, but the hunt will clearly continue in the planned sequel.
A lengthy but thoroughly captivating tale and a commendable series launch.