War Hero. Thiefmaster’s apprentice. Traitors. Every title comes with a price.
Arkaen is a gods-damned saint. He sacrificed his childhood innocence fighting for the beleaguered rebellion in a civil war and relinquished a comfortable life with the man he loves to reclaim his place as high lord from corrupt nobles. Now, a hidden enemy is manipulating his lower lords into talk of rebellion, including the powerful Rogue Baron who is slowly swaying the city into questioning every move Arkaen makes.
With the help of his near-omniscient lover’s gift of foresight, Arkaen finds a potential ally in Niamsha, a reluctant thief trying to pay for her brother’s education. But Niamsha owes an insurmountable debt to the mysterious leader of her thieves guild and failing to pay means death—for her entire family. When her guild leader demands she join forces with the Rogue Baron himself, she finds herself caught in a political battle beyond her skills. Torn between protecting her family and following her conscience, Niamsha doesn’t know who to trust.
If Arkaen can win Niamsha’s loyalty, he might just prevent a second civil war and the destruction of everything he fought to protect. Or he might get them all killed.
Nudging his mare forward, Arkaen rode out of the courtyard. The streets beyond his lord’s castle were quiet, only a few wealthier citizens outside. Most backed away at the sight of him, cautious gaze watching him through down-turned lashes. Arkaen kept an eye on the citizens he passed. That hint of fear hadn’t been there when he’d ridden out a few weeks before to see to Lasha’s vision. He’d deposed a baron since then, bringing the threat of war to the forefront of everyone’s mind. This felt more specific, though. Like they feared he might personally harm them. Another corner and a crowd of young men and women bantering and flirting scattered at the sight of him. Arkaen pulled his mare to a halt. Should have brought his swords. But the image of the high lord riding through his home streets armed as for a battle could only stoke the fires of unrest. Confidence was the best image he could build. He rode on, the few remaining people he passed seemingly prepared for his arrival now. Anyone on the street had already lined against the walls, eyes firmly stuck to the cobbles by the time he arrived, and he never again came across a group careless of his approach. As if some runner ahead warned every street before he turned on it. As if someone—or something—led him toward a certain goal. His muscles tightened, nerves strung for combat in the peaceful streets. “I should turn back.” He muttered the words under his breath, one hand rubbing at his bare belt loop as he turned the final corner to a broad alley that led to Brayden’s home. Four men, barely older than boys, loitered in the middle of the street. Arkaen pulled his mare to a halt again, the scrape of leather on stone clearly audible behind him. “Sayli’s going to kill me.” A deep chuckle from behind. “Nay, milor’, I ain’t think ya gotta worry ’bout that.” Arkaen half turned in his saddle to scout the threat behind him. Only two, though one was a heavy built man with thick mats of blond hair who filled a good chunk of the street by himself. That one would be tough to push past. The other boy with him, similar in build and coloring but much slighter, looked wide-eyed and terrified. One frightened child likely facing an early initiation and the leader. The four in front would be skilled enough to hold their own without direct leadership, then. Arkaen had no weapons but his wits and what he could re-appropriate. And Lasha, who wouldn’t miss the fight if Arkaen needed him. He offered a grim smile. “You gentlemen may want to stand down. I’ve no desire to take lives today.”
Chelsea Harper is the author and publisher of Wake of the Phoenix, book one of the Artifice of Power Saga. She lives in Colorado with her husband, daughter, two dogs, one cat, and countless imaginary friends. When she isn’t writing she enjoys games, from World of Warcraft to Elder Scrolls to tabletop RPGs and even the occasional board game. Musings, Mythos, and Magic
My thoughts: politics, power plays, love, duty and secrets all combine in this new fantasy series. As the characters lives bring them together, a future might be secured if they can learn to trust, and perhaps even like, each other.
Niamsha just wants to pay off her debts and get herself and her brother out of there, to start over somewhere new. But life has other plans for her. She’s needed to undermine the Rogue Baron running the city so the heir can finally take his father’s throne and quash the stories of him being a traitor. Arkaen came back a war hero, but there are those that think otherwise and are plotting against him. He needs all the help he can get.
Clever, twisting and enjoyable, this is the first in a new fantasy series combining political intrigue with magic and the secret world of thieves and others who hide in the shadows.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.