Princess Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan (Lia for short, thank goodness) is in a bit of a pickle. Her parents expect her to follow tradition and seal an alliance they have made with a neighboring kingdom. To complete this monumental task she simply has to marry the prince of Dalbreck. But Lia has reservations. She fears the suffocating duty placed upon her, and really that fact that she has never even met this prince has put all sorts of unsavory notions into her head about both his possible looks and demeanor. So she conspires with her lady in waiting, Pauline, to escape the palace. They set out for Pauline’s hometown of Terravin where they are employed by innkeeper Berdi and start their life of simplicity.
This lasts for all of .2 seconds because no one is about to let a princess disappear into nothingness! The prince of Dalbreck is hot on her tail and trails Lia to to the town of Terravin where he rents a room anonymously in Berdi’s inn. Then to make matters worse, there is an assassin sent by the Komizar, ruler of the rival kingdom of Venda who happens to also occupy a room at the inn. LOVE TRIANGLE! Both Rafe and Kaden capture Lia’s attention. But it is Rafe, the mysterious assassin whom Lia eventually falls for. Unfortunately it is not a match made to be. Lia’s brother Walther comes to her after his wife is murdered by barbarians bereft and inconsolable. Lia realizes that it is her duty to return to her home in Civica, marry the prince and reset the alliance that could save her kingdom from war. She says a final goodbye to Rafe, never to see him again. Upon her return trip to Civica, Lia and Pauline run into Kaden who proceeds to kidnap her…WHAT WHAT?! KADEN IS THE ASSASSIN! Kaden and his troup of Vendan spies travel across the continent with their princess in tow.
The only thing keeping Lia alive is that Kaden has told the others that Lia has “the gift” (which she may or may not). Lia is seriously pissed about being duped (me too sister) and plans to escape at every turn. The book ends with the gang entering Venda and Rafe (who has been trying to intercept the group the entire time) acting as an emissary for the prince (stay with me folks, he’s the real prince) delivering a message for the Komizar.
What went down
- The novel starts with Princess Lia receiving her wedding kavah (an intricate henna-esq drawing on her back celebrating the union between two kingdoms, Dalbrek and Morrighan).
- But Lia does NOT want to end up like her mother, married to some stodgy old prince whom she has never even met.
- So Lia conspires with her maid Pauline to escape her fate and the two girls run away to Pauline’s girlhood home of Terravin, a sleepy seaside vista.
- There they are greeted by Pauline’s aunt Berdi who owns an inn in town and agrees to house and employ the girls.
- Lia enjoys the simple life that the village offers. But life is about to get a bit more tricky.
- One evening while serving dinner, Lia’s attention narrows on two handsome new patrons. Rafe is mysterious, dark and tanned. Kaden has light hair and warm brown eyes. Enter the ubiquitous love triangle.
- No one in the entire kingdom is able to find Lia tucked in this tiny seaside village (seriously?). But her brother Walther manages to track her down and tells her that the Scholar and the Chancellor are extra mad at her. Apparently, Lia did not leave the palace empty handed. She stole an ancient book from a hidden compartment in the Scholars private office. Lia has no idea what it says nor why it is important but it clearly is if he has let his anger known even to Walther. Walther also tells Lia that he and his wife Greta are expecting a child!
- Before Walther leaves, he informs Lia that Pauline’s love, Mikael, is a no-good soldier and two-timing scoundrel. This weighs heavily on Lia as she does not want to hurt her poor friend’s feelings and matters are complicated because Pauline is pregnant with Mikael’s child. In the end, Lia chooses to tell Pauline that Mikael has died rather than hurt her friends feelings. Needless to say, Pauline is devastated.
- The village of Terravin is preparing for the summer festival of remembrance, a time when the entire kingdom celebrates the deliverance of their people into prosperous land and food by a small girl named Morrighan. Lia travels to the city to purchase a few things for the festival but on her return trip, she is captured by a hired assassin. Luckily, Rafe & Kaden have been following her and Kaden shoots an arrow through the assassin. While Rafe disposes of the body, Kaden carries Lia back to Berdi’s.
- The girls observe the holiday of remembrance through holy rituals as well as festivities. This includes a log wrestling match that both Kaden and Rafe compete in (to the thrill of both the girls and the crowd).
- When they return to the inn, the frustrating relationship between herself and Rafe boils over and Lia storms out of dinner. Rafe follows and Lia yells at him to leave, but as with all spicy relationships, this little tiff ends in a passionate reconciliation smooch!
- Unfortunately Lia’s happiness is short lived when her brother returns in a fitful state. He was traveling with his wife, Greta, when a band of rebels attacked the bridge they were about to cross, killing everyone in their party including his wife and their unborn child. Walther is crazed and Lia is devastated. She realizes that her escape has had a larger impact than she could have ever foreseen. She must return home and leave this idealic village life behind.
- After packing her things and bidding her inn family good bye, Lia and Pauline head out for the capitol of Civica on their donkeys. Lia has promised to meet Rafe at the cistern on the way home for one last meeting. But the girls are intercepted by a chance meeting with Kaden.
- Kaden kidnaps Leah send Pauline into the tall grasses until they are far on their way. Cause guess what kids…Kaden has been the assassin this entire time which leaves Rafe as the prince…SURPRISE FACE!
- Kaden and his group of assassins must travel across the continent to deliver the princess to the Komizar, leader of the rival kingdom of Venda. In truth, Kaden was tasked with slitting Lia’s throat but for one reason or another, he was unable to. Instead he has convinced his band of outlaws that she has “the gift” (a magical power bestowed to 1st daughters of the kingdom of Morrighan). This actually works to Lia’s advantage as she constantly trips the group up with her “visions.”
- The group stops at a vagabond camp for a few days to rest, clean up and EAT! Dihara, the elder of the group, is able to teach Lia that in fact she does have “the gift” if only she would listen for it (and that her mother has taught her to suppressed her gift this entire time). She also aids Lia in the translation of the mysterious book she stole from the Scholar. It is also at the vagabond camp that Kaden (heavily intoxicated) divulges his secret love for Lia.
- A fight breaks out when it is revealed that Kaden’s group is the gang that murdered Lia’s sister-in-law.
- The group travels on from the camp. Lia takes the opportunity of a bison stampede to escape from her captors and spends the night in a strange forest. Here she is able to translate the book, a story about the beginning of Morrighan and the prophecy that potentially only Lia herself will be able to save her people in the end. She also escapes from a mysterious tiger in the woods.
How did it end?
In the end, Lia’s captors reconnect with each other and Lia atop a hill leading into Venda. There they watch as Vendan soldiers massacre a small band of Morrighan forces (including Lia’s brother Walther). Lia buried her brother (with the eventual help of Kaden’s men) and rejoins the others on the trek to Venda. Upon their arrival, Kaden prepares to present Lia to the Komizar as a princess and possessor of “the gift” (which he does not realize she actually has). Rafe catches up to the group and convinces Kaden to take him with them as an emissary of the prince with a message to the Komizar. And Lia finally realizes that Rafe is the prince of Dalbrek.
Morrighan = kingdom of Lia’s birth, also name of the girl who delivered her people to a better land
Venda = rival kingdom of barbarians & assassins, home of the Komizar, Kaden’s employer, also name of the sister of Morrighan, a crazed queen
Dalbrek = kingdom to the East, home of Prince Rafe
“The Gift” = traditional (possibly magical) gift possessed by the 1st daughter of a family, especially strong within royalty