Rating: 3 out of 5.

3.5 stars

Once again, we visit this harsh, brutal world where pain is meted out indiscriminately and self-preservation is the only way to survive. Trust no one and watch your back. Remain armed at all times.

As with the previous book, this is not a warm and fuzzy fantasy. If you are sensitive to cruelty, child abuse, and down right horrible people doing horrible things, you don’t want to read this book, or this series.

The story is told from four main characters’ points of view. The first is Judah. When Judah flung herself off the castle tower, instead of certain death she awoke in an unknown forest across the country. Although she is finally out from under the thumb of all who would control her, she is injured, helpless and alone. She is found by a duo of thieves that rescue and treat her injuries for their own selfish reasons. Dependent on the two men until she recovers, the trio form a delicate, temporary alliance as they travel through the countryside. Danger lurks on all sides and they encounter one untrustworthy person after another, placing them in precarious situations.

The second and third POVs are Gavin and Elly. Judah can slightly feel her bond with her foster brother Gavin, but dares not reach out to him for fear of putting him in further danger. All she knows is that he and his fiancé Elly are still alive and Gavin is being mercilessly tortured, but she doesn’t know where they are. Gavin and Elly are shuffled from one set of kidnappers to another, and if they thought their living circumstances were bad before, now they are almost intolerable. There is no short amount of cruelty, as Elly in particular must be disciplined to play the long game in order to rescue her and Gavin.

New character Bindy is a young girl who worked as Magus Nate’s apprentice until the former Lord was killed and Nate was thrown in prison. She is contacted by a man alleging to be Nate’s friend who helps secure his escape from prison. But not all is as it seems, and Nate lands in an even more treacherous situation. Bindy is determined to remain loyal to Nate, despite his unwillingness and disinterest in protecting his own life. Bindy doesn’t understand everything that is going on, but she feels it’s her duty to protect Nate.

This book is 480 pages, and for much of the book nothing seems to happen. It is definitely more character based than plot based, as the main characters grow, develop and start to understand their place in the world. Judah learns more about her powers and Gavin and Elly discover untapped strength of character they didn’t know they had. We learn more about the power that Judah holds called the “work”, about the Slonimi, the people who lay claim to it and why they want to bring about the unbinding to set the power free. While we learn more about the world outside of Highfall, there is still a lot left unexplained. While I can understand the purpose of some of this, I won’t lie and say it wasn’t frustrating at times.

I feel like this book is the calm before the storm that will be unleashed in the next book. Some storylines were wrapped up, but a lot more were left open. The book ended on a satisfying cliffhanger with a promise of more action and intrigue to come.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing, Mira. All opinions are my own.