A magical assassin for hire is forced into taking a gig as a bodyguard for the daughter of a man he killed; snogging ensues.
As he closes in on 20, orphan Mars Darksvane has already made kills aplenty, but his latest two—one being his best friend and the other an older nobleman who turned out, just like him, to be a secret adept of blood magic—have left him tortured with guilt. It is considerably compounded when he is pressed into guarding Fura Torvald, the latter’s grieving daughter. Fura, along with being beautiful and a dab hand at swordplay, is secretly working with brainier lifelong companion and lady’s maid Katrìn Darksdòttra to continue her beloved father’s research into destroying the poisonous Ice that powers another (more common) flavor of magic to the detriment of all but the oligarchic realm’s leading families. As Fura’s haughty reserve slowly melts, along with wrestling with his inner angst, Mars finds himself getting closer to Katrìn too. Various intrigues lead to a full slate of murders, fights, flights, betrayals, revelations, clinches, all leading to, in a credibility challenging climax, forgiveness in the midst of triangular unions both mystical and physical. The resolution is tidy, and while neither the magic nor the romantic entanglement makes much sense, readers may be willing to go with the flow. The central cast in this Scandinavian-inflected fantasy world reads White.
Confusing worldbuilding, but it’s nice to see the emotional conflicts playing out mostly in a male lead.(Fantasy. 14-18)