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Sora Fallcrest always dreamed of adventure, but as a member of the nobility, she learned the ways of a Lady instead. Now seventeen, she is expected to choose a husband and marry. She plots to run away, but just as she is stepping out the door, she runs into a mysterious man–and is kidnapped.

Abducted from her manor, Sora is plunged into a world of magical races, arcane jewelry and forgotten lore. She finds herself at the mercy of a dangerous assassin, haunted by an even darker past. She yearns for freedom, but he won’t let her go–not when her Cat’s Eye necklace is the only thing that can save his life.

But the necklace itself presents a problem. It is an ancient device from the long forgotten War of the Races, and its magic has the ability to steal souls. Can Sora learn to wield its power — or will the power wield her? (Winner of the SKOW 2006 Best Fantasy Award)

Blurb and cover from Goodreads

5 out of 5 stars

This review is going to have a touch of fangirling. While I confess that I found the beginning, where Sora spontaneously hatches the idea to run away, a bit awkward, as soon as we get to the Blooming, it’s straight uphill from there. Books like this are why I love Epic Fantasy. I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating that Epic Fantasy is my one true literary love. This book has earned itself a hard-won place on my very select Shelf of Awesome. This was a story that demanded I finish it and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the characters for weeks. I have unearthed a new series to follow and I am so, so thrilled!

The plot:

I found the premise of the plot to be refreshingly original, but not so different it lost its fantasy flavor. It was set up in such a way that I could breathe when I put it down, but at the same time the story wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to know what would happen and I went and downloaded the sequel the very next day (would’ve been sooner, but I needed Wi-Fi) because I was going into withdrawals.

The characters:

I really liked Sora and I think she is one of the few characters I would actually get along with in real life. She is headstrong, occasionally rash, and stubborn, but intelligent and with a core desire to do what is right. She didn’t whine, but she didn’t back down easily, even when Crash, the assassin, was nonverbally threatening to throttle her. She was compassionate and brave, if a bit naive at first, but still one of my favorite heroines I have encountered recently.

Crash, the assassin, is a mysterious figure who we don’t really learn anything about until the end. I think if I had to sum him up in a word, it would be “awesome.” It is difficult for me to put into words why I like him so much, but I guess it’s just because he is…awesome. It’s kind of hard for me not to grow fond of a ninja-like character shrouded in mystery who has inner monologues that go like this: He [Crash] didn’t waste words while fighting. It was useless to taunt the dead. Crash narrowly beat out Sora as my favorite character and I absolutely loved the part at the end where Volcrian’s wraith—spoiler—and Sora—spoiler—and Crash—spoiler.

There were two other main characters in addition to our villain, of the same race as our villain to boot. Dorian, the Wolfy mage, and Burn, the Wolfy mercenary. Dorian was a fun-loving, light-hearted thief who comes across as something of a little boy forced to grow up too soon. I grew truly fond of him as well as Burn and I couldn’t believe it when the author went and—spoiler.

Years ago, Crash took out a contract on the twin brother of Volcrian, a bloodmage. Now Volcrian seeks revenge for the death of his twin, growing more and more desperate as his searches turn up nothing. Volcrian has been twisted and warped by hatred and bloodlust, but it’s kind of difficult to properly hate his guts when you think about what he has been through. He is the ideal villain—balancing evil with just the right amount of sympathetic qualities to prevent you completely loathing him.

I am a fan of this series, as was confirmed when I read the second one and found it to be as incredible as the first. I am very, very excited for the third book releasing at the end of this month and to fans of fantasy and adventures stories in general, I cannot recommend this book enough!

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