Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a great fantasy book that has magic, court intrigue, and a quest to escape a cruel Emperors.

Duke Kordas rules a tiny Duchy best known for horse breeding. Thought to be a “country bumpkin” at Court, Kordas’ feigned persona hides a cunning intellect and a quest dating back generations to break free from the suffocating empire and its litany of cruel Emperors. While most mages are forced to serve the Empire, Kordas’ family has been secreting away mages in their land for generations. Their intention is to build a gateway far enough away from the Empire to move their entire Duchy before the Empire notices they’re gone.

When the mages finally make a breakthrough and the plan is set into motion, Kordas is called to Court and must act as a decoy while the rest of his Counselors and Duchy get to work. But Kordas didn’t count on finding others at Court that may also be in need of rescue.

I really enjoyed this book. For a fantasy book, the characters are surprisingly optimistic and most of their plans go according to plan. Sometimes the plans go too good, which is hard not to roll your eyes at. The main character Kordas is someone that can’t sit still when he sees injustice, which only serves to complicate his life. He meets someone at Court that I really enjoyed reading about – I don’t want to say more to avoid spoilers.

There is some mysterious “thing” about Kordas that is constantly eluded to in the book, but is never really explained. That is frustrating. There are only a few main characters in the book, and they are fairly well defined. Most of the side characters aren’t well-developed, but they add texture to the story.

This isn’t a typical dark and broody fantasy book. It’s more fluffy and feel-good – which is weird to say about a fantasy. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the read, and although I thought it was a stand alone book because the ending is pretty satisfying, from the title and the few loose ends left dangling, I can see how this could be made into a series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and DAW. All opinions are my own.