What happens when the fairytale ends but the journey continues?
Book II of the Heart of All Worlds series finds Sehrys and Brieden living peacefully in Khryslee until King Firae must cross The Border in pursuit of a convicted criminal, one who has violated a magical doctrine and so threatened the stability of their world. When Firae’s plan goes awry and he becomes trapped in Villalu, he is faced with a choice between allegiance to the Council or allegiance to Brissa, the fierce young human queen who is determined to bring justice to Villalu. Firae discovers he must rely on the very criminal he was seeking to help him get home alive—a man he exiled long ago, but who awakens something in his heart more potent than his sworn duties as king.
Meanwhile, Sehrys is forced to ascend the throne in Firae’s absence, thus taking a role he was once groomed for, but one that Brieden fears could destroy their life together.
As each man struggles to understand his own destiny, devotion, and legacy, deeper and more urgent truths confront them all: Their world is in far greater danger than they realized, and each of them plays an integral part in its fate.
I absolutely adored this sequel to The Sidhe. I had been anticipating this book since about the end of the first chapter of Book 1. I knew I would enjoy this book as soon as I could read it. But oh man did I underestimate how good it was going to be. It wasn’t just good. It transported me to the realm and dropped me on the adventure all of these characters were on to fix The Border and save thousands of humans. You’re with characters that are more than just friends. You get to know their ambitions and secret wishes and want them to succeed in their endeavors. And you want to keep reading to find out what happens and then you cry out at the end of the book because how dare the book end! There’s still more story left. Now I can’t wait for book three and will likely be straight up stalking Ms. Ashe to see how it’s progressing. Because I want it that badly.
I adored he we got to see Sehrys and Brieden again. They’re not the focus of this story completely, but we see their relationship progress to a more stable level for them. Their scenes are wonderful and so full of emotion. Their love is so strong by the end of the book. You can tell they’re finally perfect. Even if they never have an actual wedding, they’ll be together forever.
Tash grew so much in this book. He came to grips with himself and his past. By the end of the book he’s finally ready to embrace his future. Seeing him fight his feelings for Firae and slowly let him in was amazing. You could feel the emotions pour out of the page as Tash struggled and then was deeply in love. All the while he’s berating himself for his choices in the past. But the way Firae treats him and how he helps Brissa and her court all help him to realize he’s worth finding happiness.
Firae grows in this story as well. He was sweet but far more innocent than you’d expect in the first book and when he first arrived in Villalu. He hadn’t experienced much of the world. I adored getting to see as his eyes opened to how things work outside of royal court and Council meetings. He was timid at times and realized he was at a disadvantage knowledge-wise being on the other side of The Border. How he handled himself once he got over his ego was wonderful.
I adored Tash and Firae together. They have so much potential together and they are desperately in love. The way they care for each other is so sweet. I can’t wait to see more of these two together in the next book in the series. I want to see how Firae handles the Council in regards to Tash and his actions. I want to see these two have a lasting relationship and so hope we eventually see their nuptial soul walks.
I’m eager for the next story in the series. There are still so many questions left unanswered and the fate of the entire world is hanging in the balance. We learn there’s so much more going on in this book and it just makes me drawn to the world Ms. Ashe created all the more. Part of me wants book three to be the last in the series. However I doubt it will be because there’s so much journey left for all of these characters. At the same time I don’t ever want the series to end because I love it so much. Though I do hope we find out the answers to all those lingering questions in the eventual end of the series. And get to see all of the couples fully and completely happy forever and ever. That would make me the happiest of happy readers.
Four and a half
We are quite blessed to have been given a note from Firae. He writes about his most prized possession and why he cherishes it. I adore what he has to say and I hope you do too. Read and enjoy!
From the desk of Rigday Firae efa es Alovur Drovuru Feririar, Silerth Valusidhe efa Ferban Gira efa es Alovur Drovuru Feririar ala es Fervishlaea efa esYestralekrezershe:
I understand the trouble that human minds have retaining a proper sidhe name, let alone a title, so any human that might stumble upon this writing may call me King Firae. Your Majesty is preferable, of course, but times are changing and humans are people (Sehrys would be so proud to hear me say that). Literally translated, it means “A Victory Blessed by the Gods,” and if I am to be honest, I would say that that is my most prized possession: my name. It was given to me by my mother and predecessor, who named me her heir rather than my cousin Lathehia, who, as her closest female relative, would normally get that honor.
The Royal Council all but openly sneered when I took the throne. They called me The Child King, and they were not the only ones. It has only been in recent generations that a male sidhe could rule at all, especially without a queen by his side. I would not, therefore, count my title as a prized possession: I hold it because it is mine, because my mother knew that I deserved it, and because I believe myself to be a fair and reasonable ruler. But I do not prize it. Perhaps someday I shall, when it no longer causes me such loneliness.
But my name: my name I prize with all that I have.
The last Firae in our family line was King Firae of the Eastern Border Lands, who died more than four thousand years ago. He was the first king to rule without a queen by his side, but rather another king, King Alesinae of the World River Valley. Until that time, and even still today, the most powerful and respected rule possible was that by two queens, though a king was deemed acceptable if he had a wife to keep his impulsive nature in check and ensure that he behaved rationally. The Royal Council of Sidhe Nations first refused to accept Firae and Alesinae into their ranks, but slowly, over the years that followed, hearts and minds were changed.
My mother did not know where my preferences would lie when it came to a mate, but she knew I was to be her only child. And she knew, just as well, that I was to be her heir, no matter what anyone may say. And so she named me Firae. A Victory Blessed by the Gods. And when it came to pass that my preferences were aligned with that of my ancestor of the same name, she felt no different. In fact, she found a boy for me. A boy of the Spiral caste, born to a family of the Common caste, but too powerful to remain in his little feririar along the Western Sea. And she brought him to Alovur Drovuru, insisted that he stay at the Great Hall, and sent him to all my lessons with me.
At first I merely believed she had brought me a friend. It was years before I learned that she had brought me a husband.
But the boy—Sehrys—did not become my husband. His affections lay even lower than the Common caste he had escaped, and he chose a human mate rather than me, his king.
I cannot say that it does not still hurt to think of it. To lose my mother and Sehrys both, to sink into the loneliness of my station while still trying to prove that I deserve to rule at all, is difficult to bear. But life is not without suffering, and I have borne less pain than many upon this earth. I am the second King Firae. The name is mine, and none shall take it from me. And like the King Firae before me, I know that I shall one day have a husband to rule at my side.
Firae looked ahead and refused to react to Tash or to the people gathered along the side of the road, who murmured and pointed to the two sidhe in the middle of the royal procession. Though Tash assumed the man had never ridden a horse, he managed to look graceful and regal as he rode with his back straight as a fencepost and his hands resting lightly on his thighs. When a groom had brought him the chestnut stallion, Firae had stroked the animal’s muzzle and whispered to him in the old language of land beasts, and then insisted that the horse’s bridle and saddle be removed before he would climb on his back.
“His name is Acorn,” the groom had said nervously, twisting his hands, and Firae had looked at Tash, silently demanding a translation, which Tash had given him.
Firae had scoffed. “I certainly doubt that. How could that child possibly know this creature’s name? I can’t imagine they share a language.”
Those had been the last words Firae had spoken to him since they left Pemerec.
Once Tash had revealed himself, Firae had gone cold, demanding to know who Tash worked for and then demanding an audience with Brissa and refusing to answer any additional questions. When Tash had tried to explain, Firae had simply walked away.
“Please,” Tash repeated. “I know you’re upset with me, but if you’d allow me to explain, I believe you may be sympathetic to our cause. You see—”
“I will allow the human queen to explain,” Firae said abruptly, his eyes remaining fixed on the front of the procession. “And you may consider yourself under arrest without liberty to speak.”
“I—with all due respect, you have no jurisdiction over me, Firae.”
“I beg to differ.”
“It doesn’t matter if you b—” Firae finally turned his head and looked Tash square in the eye. Tash closed his mouth. Perhaps he should hold his tongue and wait for Firae to speak to the queen. In fact, Tash couldn’t imagine what he could say. It was best if he remained silent until—
“How dare you!” Tash spat, pushing out the words with all the force he could muster. “You must have known that wouldn’t work, I’m not human.”
Firae turned his attention to the road ahead. “It was worth a try,” he said with a small shrug.
“If you try to compel the queen, I swear to you, you will not make it back to Laesi alive,” Tash snapped as his heart thrummed from the effort of pushing the intrusion from his mind.
“Your queen shall come to no harm,” Firae told him, “but I cannot make the same promise to you. So unless you would like to incriminate yourself further, I suggest holding your tongue until I have spoken to this queen.”
Charlotte Ashe works in the nonprofit world by day and writes romantic fantasy by night. A long-time fan of speculative fiction that skews feminist and features LGBT characters, Charlotte loves writing stories that are sexy, heartfelt, and full of magic and adventure. She has put her BA in literature and creative writing to use over the years as a writer of fan fiction, and her most popular work has drawn more than one million readers worldwide, been translated into several languages, and been featured in online publications including The Backlot. Her first novel, The Sidhe, was published in 2015 by Interlude Press and named a finalist for a Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award.
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