When it comes to fantasy romance, Draven is in a class by herself so any new book is always a thrill! Her legion of fans will be overjoyed with this first book in her new Fallen Empire series, which features two protagonists caught in horrific circumstances that force them to take extreme measures in order to survive. As the hero essentially kidnaps the heroine in order for him to reclaim his birthright, emotionally they are worlds apart. How they come to respect, trust and love each other is truly a marvelous journey. Draven excels at worldbuilding and this book is another example of how she creates not only rich and compelling plots, but complex individuals who are truly unforgettable. A phenomenal start to what is sure to be an amazing series!
Every year the Krael Empire requires each of the villages to send a woman to the capital to be burned alive as tribute in the annual Rites of Spring celebration. For the last five years, the village of Beroe has sent the same young woman, although each time she wears a different face. Gilene has both the gift/curse of being impervious to fire, but also the ability to cast illusions. What Gilene doesn’t realize is that Azarion, the Gladius Prime, has seen through her illusion and realized she is the same person coming back year after year. This time, Azarion is planning to use Gilene’s gifts in order to escape his life of slavery and return to his homeland. Knowing she is trapped, Gilene does help Azarion escape the city, but instead of letting her return to Beroe, Azarion informs her he is taking her to Savatar, the Sky Below. In his country, Gilene would be considered an agacin, blessed by the goddess and Fire Mother Agna, but in Gilene’s village she is just a tool used to protect the rest of the village women. Azarion was betrayed and sold into slavery by his cousin, but now he is determined to reclaim his birthright. Having an agacin by his side will do wonders to prove his claim. Gilene is angry at Azarion’s kidnapping, for despite the way they treat her, her village needs her. Still, the more time Gilene and Azarion spend together the more their attraction grows. Regrettably the Empire and its corrupt and deadly practices remain a threat they cannot ignore! (ACE, Oct., 384 pp., $15.00)