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.