On the outside, Mayr seems to have it all: a successful career as Head of the Guard for a prominent politician, family and friends who adore him, and the attention of beautiful women. But appearances are a good way to bury secrets, including the fact that while Mayr is a romantic at heart, searching for the one person to share his life with, his lovers keep leaving him.
When his last girlfriend takes him back and suggests an intimate night with Tash, one of her lovers, Mayr reluctantly agrees. The last thing he expects is to fall hard for Tash, who is nothing like Mayr’s previous lovers—and about to undertake the Uldana Trials. If Tash fails, he’ll likely die. If he succeeds, he must give up Mayr, and become the latest to leave Mayr standing alone with a broken heart.
I absolutely adored this story. I loved the way Mayr and Tash circled each other and denied their feelings despite being obviously head over heels for each other. How they overcame obstacles in their path and were completely devoted to each other knowing they had no chance of a future together. I loved the way both Mayr and Tash fought to be together and fought each other getting in the way of what they think they deserve. The way they love each other no matter what is in their path is absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t put the story down. My heart hurt for both of them and their troubled pasts. But they healed each other and it was amazing to watch those transformations.
Mayr was so broken. He put on this front of confidence and assurance that embodied the idea of “fake it until you make it”. I hated that no one saw him like he really is but when he finally made it I was in awe of all he went through. There were times I wondered if he would drown in his emotions they were so all encompassing. The scene right at the end where he sees the person he never expected to see. I was a little overwhelmed right along with Mayr. But it was the perfect ending for him. It was the last thing he needed to finally feel complete.
Tash was so clear in some places but others he was a mystery. Not ever getting to see a scene from his point of view was a tiny bit frustrating. But at the same time if we did it would ruin the magic in a sense. Only ever getting Tash’s emotions through Mayr’s eyes made them that much sweeter when we get them. As a reader you cherish them a little but more. Getting to see his history unfold as Mayr asks questions and Tash goes on his Trials was wonderful to see. He has gone through so much and has so many things that need healing. I was astounded by what all he went through with the Trials but was proud of him for sticking to his faith. I adored the culmination of his Trials. Like Mayr says, he talks so pretty and has wonderful words to say. I despaired these two would never get and stay together at times. But I should have had faith like Tash did.
I loved the world Ms. Leah built. Despite not reading the first book, I was never lost or confused. I got immersed in the world quickly and easily. The way the government is set up and how the religion is intertwined with everything. It’s subtle but a constant presence that manages to be consuming without being overpowering. The varying degrees of faith each character has is a testament to how gentle that faith is. The vastness of the actual world is a bit surprising at first but it blends in quickly and you feel as if you’re there with everyone in this one city. You can see the temple and the house where Mayr protects Aeley and her wife Lira. You get lost in this world and forget it’s not real. The characters come alive and you get invested in all of them and want to see them all succeed and get their wants and needs met so they can flourish. I desperately hope there’s another story in this series in the future. I want to see more of the characters get happy endings.
Four and a half stars
I’m beyond excited to have Mayr join us today. He has some valuable words of wisdom to share with his younger self. But the purpose is so much more than just giving advice. It’s this beautiful thing he and Tash are doing together and I absolutely love it. I hope you do too. Read and enjoy!
It’s funny what we do for those we love. Like this, whatever this is. Tash says it’s a spiritual way to celebrate the anniversary of the night we met; I say it’s him baiting me into revealing embarrassing things. But there’s something romantic about what we’re doing, writing letters to ourselves from five years ago and burying them with the tree we’re planting out back. A symbol of love, he says, not necessarily for each other but self love. Goddesses know we could use more practice in that.
My dearest younger self,
Welcome to being twenty-six. If you thought life’s fun now, put on your good pants and keep your weapons sharpened. I remember where you are right now, how things seem. The best I can offer is this: keep going. Whatever comes, keep getting your sarcastic, stupidly sexy ass out of bed and caring for people.
I know things are confusing. Because fantastic, you’ve just agreed to be Korre’s new Head Guard. He really does consider you a second son. But he’s on his sickbed and everything’s sadder every time you see him. There’ll come a time when your heart completely busts over him, so be prepared. And be there for Aeley. She’ll need you more than ever. Allon’s always going to be trouble, so keep an eye on him. (Better yet, prepare his prison cell now because that bastard’s going to earn it.) But Aeley — she’s going to hurt worse than she tells you, so don’t let her go at anything alone. Tell her you’re there for her, no matter what. When she doubts herself, kick her ass (gently). She’ll sort herself in a couple years.
As for the rest of the family: prepare to laugh. Hard. You’ll be amazed (and horrified) at how Tara and Loftin are as parents. All those years of fearing they’d hate you for being there too much or too little won’t mean anything. You’ll still feel guilty about Mother, but everyone will be all right. Just focus on being the best uncle you can be. The kids aren’t Ili, but they’ll put a little childhood back in your heart — the bit you lost.
And since I went there: I know losing Iliane stings and Betta’s betrayal hurts, but there’s more to life than being bitter and used and miserable. There are these wonderful things called doors. Sometimes they close, but sometimes they open. And sometimes, second chances are on the other side. Pretty second chances like the one coming — it’s all big smiles (missing baby teeth and all) and gentle heart. Just be willing. Don’t brush Betta off too harshly.
Finally, let’s talk about this broken-hearted rejection thing you’ve got going. Love’s going to be tough for a while, so here’s some advice:
~ 1 ~ Be open. It’s all right to be frightened, but don’t let it close you off. If you lock yourself away with fear, you brew nothing but poison. Try new things with new people. Don’t be so afraid that you pass up chances.
~ 2 ~ Be kind and be generous, both to you and others. Forgive yourself. You don’t have to be perfect.
~ 3 ~ Be a fighter, but don’t fight everything. Some things are worth battling for, but if everything becomes a fight, you’ll lose happiness. Pick your battles carefully. You’ll find someone worth laying your love down for — make sure you have a heart to offer him.
~ 4 ~ Be you. Forget those who want you to be somebody else. And when a certain beautiful man enters your life, making no sense and talking priest, give him every bit of soul your heart has left. You’ll make bucket loads of mistakes, but loving Tash isn’t one. Don’t murder your romantic notions or lose faith in how you show love — Tash will value them more than all of your girlfriends combined. And when he says he’ll take care of you, he means it. But know that he hurts, too, and needs all the patience and compassion you can give. He’ll need you. So don’t pack your hope away yet. Just save it.
There’s more, but I think I’ll leave this here. If there’s anything worth saying twice, it’s to hold out for more. You’re not broken, just bruised. And one day, love will heal that.
With something or other,
Archer Kay Leah was raised in Canada, growing up in a port town at a time when it was starting to become more diverse, both visibly and vocally. Combined with the variety of interests found in Archer’s family and the never-ending need to be creative, this diversity inspired a love for toying with characters and their relationships, exploring new experiences and difficult situations.
Archer most enjoys writing speculative fiction and is engaged in a very particular love affair with fantasy, especially when it is dark and emotionally charged. When not reading and writing for work or play, Archer is a geek with too many hobbies and keeps busy with other creative endeavors, a music addiction, and whatever else comes along. Archer lives in London, Ontario with a same-sex partner and their cat.