Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a really good stand-alone fantasy book. Although the book is 480 pages, it’s a quick and easy read. Told in short alternating chapters from three main character’s points of view, the story sucked me in at the start and kept a steady pace until the satisfying ending.

The King of Zavonia has been killed and the Queen is missing. The usurper king quickly takes the crown, assassinates the High Guard that is accused of conspiring to kill the previous king and takes the country to the brink of war. Valdas, Captain of the High Guard, is accused of killing the king and is on the run. Riddled with guilt at failing to protect the King, he initially vows to avenge the king and find the true killer, but is set on another path to find the Queen and her unborn child – the dead king’s heir.

Mirza is a healer-witch of a traveling Landstrider band. She treats an injured Valdas and while walking in the spirit world to help heal him, is tasked with helping Valdas in his quest by his dead king. An unsettling, dark magic surrounds Zavnoia’s capitol, and Mirza wonders if she’s strong enough to overcome it. Agreeing to help Valdas to settle a debt owed by her band to his dead king, Mirza senses she will not return from the journey.

Lind is the assassin that killed the king. But who is the master behind the plot? Lind had no idea his actions would set into motion such a complicated series of events. How will he deal with his new contract by the same master? Will he be able to overcome his traumatic past so he can have a future?

I enjoyed this book and read it in three days. The main characters were likeable and well-defined. The author did a great job of portraying their growth as they overcome hurdles both internal and external, particularly with Lind. Issues of sexual assault and mental abuse are dealt with frankly, with sensitivity and understanding.

There is plenty of action, with the characters facing multiple obstacles during their trek. Sword-fighting, magic, necromancy, sulky ass-biting horses, ambushes – this book has it all. I particularly enjoyed the bit of humor the author injected into the story when things got too intense. Stand-alone fantasies are rare to find, and this is one of the good ones that I highly recommend you read. This is the first book by this author I’ve read, but I will definitely read more of her books in the future.

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