This second volume of Arnold’s (Tapestry, 2012) medieval romance series explores the fate of Lord Tristam’s kidnapped wife and daughter.
When readers left Lord Tristam and Lady Grace of the kingdom of Blinth, they were ready to move beyond their respective, tragic pasts. Tristam had recovered from the loss of his wife and 9-year-old daughter to kidnappers in the aftermath of war with neighboring Polomia, and Grace no longer suffered from the trauma of sexual abuse. Then, Tristam’s daughter, Faith, miraculously returned to Blinth. This installment tells the tale of how she survived being abducted, along with her mother, by six greedy men on horseback. Near the border with Polomia, they were taken up the Boldengarth River into the heathen lands of Lolgothe. Constance bled to death after a beating, and Faith was sold into slavery. She became the property of a cult that worshipped a deity called The Beast and lived in a castle among other young virgins. Faith’s intelligence and sharp temper gained her respect from the Crone, who ran the sisterhood; nevertheless, years passed without any indication that Tristam was searching for her. Eventually, Faith’s stature in the cult grew, until she became known as the She-Beast. It’s to Arnold’s credit that she delivers a page-turner despite the fact that readers know the eventual outcome. The themes of tenderness and loss that Arnold developed in the previous novel are refreshed here; for example, when Faith’s mother is buried at sea, Faith tells readers, “Long after she passed from my sight, I clung to the rail searching the waves, adrift in my sorrow.” The cult’s inner workings, which help cover up the rapes of underage girls, are truly creepy (“The basin represents the womb,” Faith is told, “the birthplace of those who serve The Beast”). At her lowest point, Faith even seems to view her own body from the outside—a survival mechanism that Grace similarly uses in the first book. These and other intricate threads connect the two volumes, and Arnold builds great anticipation for the third.
A dark fantasy sequel that enriches its predecessor.