A practitioner of magic struggles with her forbidden love for a king as she and her friends/students are threatened by impending war in the second of Gastreich’s (Eolyn, 2016, etc.) fantasy series.
Eolyn, the sole High Maga left in the kingdom of Moisehén, has a small coven with only five girls under her wing. They reside in the meek province of Moehn to hone their magic, an art once prohibited for females. Eolyn has long been in love with King Akmael, but years earlier she turned down his offer of marriage believing that a woman cannot be both Queen and High Maga. Akmael, in the interim, wed Taesara, the princess of Roenfyn, as part of a political maneuver to ensure an alliance between the two kingdoms. Meanwhile, dying San’iloman (leader) of the Syrnte, Joturi-Nur, names his granddaughter Rishona as his successor. Easily defending her claim by killing one of the princes who challenges her, Rishona makes plans to invade Moisehén, where she would have been princess if not for her parents’ murders long ago. She summons Naether Demons from the Underworld, and ensuing attacks put everyone in danger, including Eolyn’s students and friend/music teacher, Adiana. Battling demons may take a back seat for Eolyn when someone abducts members of her coven. Gastreich’s unhurried but engaging tale is heavily populated with characters and social themes, including feminism and bigotry: Roenfyn citizens are known for their disdain for “witches.” Characters are undeniably versatile; Rishona, though unquestionably the villain, is still worthy of admiration—at age 6, she demanded that her uncle teach her to wield a sword. But the story’s greatest triumph is Gastreich’s prose, a consistent blend of lyrical verse and dark imagery: “Trees creaked and groaned as if death were being drawn up in excruciating threads through their roots.” The inevitable clash, while striking, is over too soon, and a couple of significant deaths hardly leave a mark. There is, however, ample material left for the series’ subsequent volume.
Lush, evocative descriptions carry readers through an unforgettable journey.