Publisher: Ace

Joint Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Posted March 18, 2021 by Casee in Reviews | 0 Comments

Joint Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Casee & Holly
Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
Narrator: Renee Raudman
Series: Kate Daniels #10
Also in this series: Magic Shifts, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds, Magic Bites, Magic Strikes, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites, Magic Bleeds , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic , Magic Rises , Magic Strikes, Magic Mourns, Magic Bleeds, Magic Dreams, Magic Slays, Gunmetal Magic, Magic Gifts, Magic Rises, Magic Tests, Magic Stars, Magic Shifts, Magic Steals, Magic Breaks, Magic Breaks, Iron and Magic, Magic Binds, Magic Triumphs
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 327
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: four-half-stars

Mercenary Kate Daniels must risk all to protect everything she holds dear in this epic, can't-miss entry in the thrilling #1 New York Times bestselling urban-fantasy series.

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She's made friends and enemies. She's found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate's doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows her time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

For her child.

For Atlanta.

For the world.

Magic Triumphs is the conclusion to the Kate Daniels series. It’s been a wild ride from start to finish. Ilona Andrews resolved just about everything while showing us a softer side of Kate. Kate as a mother is something to behold. Although she is softer because she is now a mother, she’s also even more protective of her family. Both Holly & I were very satisfied with the conclusion of the series (Holly after a re-read). The great thing is that we get to revisit Kate and Curran in the new Aurelia Ryder series which follows Kate’s ward, Julie.

Casee: I don’t know why I haven’t reviewed this book yet. It’s easily one of the best books I read in 2020. I adore Kate and Curran and now Conlan. I have so many feels that I don’t know where to start. What I can say is that I was very satisfied with the ending (though not the end of the KD world) of this series.

What did you think when you first read it? Does it get better when you re-read?

Holly: I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed the first time I read it. There were several loose ends left open, and I didn’t love the pacing. Of course, a “disappointing” read from Ilona Andrews is still better than a stellar book from some other authors. It did get better when I reread. I still feel like a lot of threads were left open, which isn’t like IA at all, but it was a satisfying end to Kate’s story.

Casee: I’m not going to lie either, I was pretty disappointed with how the whole Roland thing was wrapped up. He was such a badass for most of the series. Kate defeated him in, like, five minutes. I really enjoyed their father/daughter relationship even though it was extremely dysfunctional. When Roland finally made his move against Kate, at one of her most vulnerable moments, it made me pretty emotional. I was kind of hoping for a truce by the end of the series.

Holly: I think they came to as much of a truce as they could, considering they were coming from such different places. I am actually more satisfied with the way it ended now that the series is continuing and we’re learning additional details.

Casee: I was really satisfied when I finished the book. Although there are a few things that bothered me, overall I thought that it was a fitting ending to a great series. It’s even better now that we get Aurelia Ryder.

Holly: I agree, it’s better now that we’re getting a continuation story with Aurelia Ryder. I loved the scenes with Conlan. He was adorable.

I really hate how Kate and Curran hide things from each other. I know why they do it, but I wish they wouldn’t. Why can’t they just communicate like two adults?

Casee: I agree about Kate and Curran hiding things from each other. I know they both are coming from what they think is a good place, but the fact is that they lie to each other. Or if not exactly lying, they omit pertinent detail all for the sake of protecting the other one.

I loved Conlin! He was the cutest little thing. When he shifted, I just went “awwwww”.

Holly: This book was problematic for me the first time I read it because it was the end of the series and so many things were left unanswered. Now that Iron and Magic and the Aurelia Ryder series’ are being written I don’t feel quite the same way. I love Kate, Curran and the entire cast of characters from the series. I loved Kate’s personal progression, the way their romance grew, and the other relationships she formed. I’m really looking forward to seeing more in this world and I’m glad things ended the way they did with Kate.

I would say this is a pretty solid conclusion to the series, now that I have a little distance from it. 4.25 out of 5.

Casee: As I mentioned above, I was a little disappointed with how quickly the Roland situation was resolved but in retrospect I believe that it had to be written the way it was. It was a great conclusion to the series. I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

Casee: 4.5 out of 5
Holly: 4.25 out of 5

Kate Daniels


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Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews

Posted January 6, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Magic Triumphs by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Rowena
Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #10
Also in this series: Magic Shifts, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds, Magic Bites, Magic Strikes, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites, Magic Bleeds , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic , Magic Rises , Magic Strikes, Magic Mourns, Magic Bleeds, Magic Dreams, Magic Slays, Gunmetal Magic, Magic Gifts, Magic Rises, Magic Tests, Magic Stars, Magic Shifts, Magic Steals, Magic Breaks, Magic Breaks, Iron and Magic, Magic Binds, Magic Triumphs
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 328
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars
Series Rating: four-half-stars

Mercenary Kate Daniels must risk all to protect everything she holds dear in this epic, can't-miss entry in the thrilling #1 New York Times bestselling urban-fantasy series.

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She's made friends and enemies. She's found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate's doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows her time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

For her child.

For Atlanta.

For the world.

Magic Triumphs is the final chapter of the Kate Daniels series and it was so good that I had a moment after I finished where I let myself be sad that I’m done with these books. I’m so glad that we’re not done with the world though. I’m looking forward to reading the Iron Covenant series and the Aurelia Ryder series. There’s still so much to look forward to and man does that make me happy.

So this book is one helluva book. This was a really emotional read for me. I cried a lot. Lots of stuff happened and seeing Kate struggle to keep it together while bringing everyone together was a lot. She needed everyone to come together to defeat Roland and by some miracle she made it happen. Friends, family, enemies, they all came together to fight for Atlanta, and Kate was right there in the center of it all. Goodness, seeing Kate in this book and remembering Kate from the beginning of this series is pretty incredible. When we first met her, she was so closed off to relationships and people in general but to see her in this last book, you wouldn’t have guessed it. She is the driving force for so many people and she’s loved by so many people that only Kate could unite an entire city against a common enemy. Only Kate can make people set aside their differences and their issues to fight together.

There were so many characters that have come such a long way from the beginning of this series. Curran, Derek, Julie, hell even Gastek and Mahon. Goodness, Derek, and Julie were babies when we first met them and now they’ve grown and they’re fighting the bad guys along with the people that raised them. Julie is a big sister and Derek is a man who is loyal and ready to take on the world.

I feel like I keep saying the same thing over and over again in my reviews of the books in this series but I promise they’re true in every case. This book was filled with everything that makes a story great. The growth of the characters that we have all come to know and love is fantastic and the humor is present at every turn, despite the seriousness of their situation. Ilona Andrews writes incredible stories of good vs. evil and this is one of my top favorites of all the books that I’ve read by them. This book has is an emotional finale that will be hard to beat. I loved everything about this book and I highly recommend it. Read Iron and Magic first though because that story leads into this one. It’s another good one so it’s worth the wait to read this one.

Final Grade

4.5 out of 5

Kate Daniels

The Iron Covenant

four-half-stars


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Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Posted December 21, 2020 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Magic Binds by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Rowena
Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #9
Also in this series: Magic Shifts, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds, Magic Bites, Magic Strikes, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites, Magic Bleeds , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic , Magic Rises , Magic Strikes, Magic Mourns, Magic Bleeds, Magic Dreams, Magic Slays, Gunmetal Magic, Magic Gifts, Magic Rises, Magic Tests, Magic Stars, Magic Shifts, Magic Steals, Magic Breaks, Magic Breaks, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs , Magic Triumphs
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 333
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-half-stars

The new, “heart-stopping”* novel in the New York Times bestselling series that “defines urban fantasy.”*

Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

Magic Binds is the ninth book in the Kate Daniels series and this book had a lot of the end is near vibes going for it, at least for me. Kate and Curran are planning their wedding and stuff just keeps coming up that they have to deal with and most of the shenanigans start and end with her evil ass manipulator of a father, Roland.

It took me a while to get this book read because I was super distracted by a bunch of other stuff going on in my life. This pandemic has introduced me to a bunch of new to me things and reading kind of fell to the side but I knew that I wanted to read this book and I knew that I was going to finish the Kate Daniels series this year and so I kept right on pushing through until there was no turning back. The Ilona Andrews duo are really good at their job. After nine books, you’d think that they would run out of steam but nope, they just keep right on delivering the goods.

I enjoyed this one a lot and I didn’t think I could love Kate and Curran any more than I already did but reading this book made a liar out of me. I loved them both more. I really like that though they’re both these serious badasses, at the end of the day, they’re just as normal as you and me. Kate had a job, she had a family and friends and she had a whole lot of responsibility. She didn’t take any of these things for granted and she worked her ass off to be there for everyone, get the job done, and made sure to be home every night to make dinner. It’s so easy to see yourself in Kate and in each and every single book, I connected with what she was going through, what she was feeling, and even though I didn’t always agree with her, I still really loved her character.

In this book, she’s dealing with her father taunting her, trying to drag her into one mess after another mess and she doesn’t have time for him or his shenanigans but when he kidnaps her friend, she can’t just sit idly by while Roland tortures him so she decides that she’s had enough of Roland’s shit and goes to get her friend.

This one is another winner and I am so sad that my reading adventure with Kate front and center is coming to an end. I’m really looking forward to continuing in the same world with the Aurelia Ryder and even the Iron Covenant series but I’m sad that Kate and Curran’s series is coming to an end. It’s been a really great reading adventure and this book was just one of many wonderful journeys. I love seeing everyone come together to help Kate fight the bad guys and there’s just so much goodness in this one. The humor that we all know and love, the action is there, and the characters are all shining examples of why this series is so popular. If you haven’t read this book (I’m looking at all of my So Cal blogger buddies), you should definitely fix it. It’s SOOOOO GOOOD, I promise!

Final Grade

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Kate Daniels

four-stars


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Review: Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Posted July 1, 2020 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Magic Breaks by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Casee
Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Narrator: Renee Raudman
Series: Kate Daniels #7
Also in this series: Magic Shifts, Magic Shifts, Magic Binds, Magic Bites, Magic Strikes, Iron and Magic, Magic Triumphs, Magic Bites, Magic Bleeds , Magic Burns, Magic Strikes , Magic Slays , Gunmetal Magic , Magic Rises , Magic Strikes, Magic Mourns, Magic Bleeds, Magic Dreams, Magic Slays, Gunmetal Magic, Magic Gifts, Magic Rises, Magic Tests, Magic Stars, Magic Shifts, Magic Steals, Magic Breaks, Iron and Magic, Magic Binds, Magic Triumphs , Magic Triumphs
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First Person
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 381
Length: 16 hours and 18 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Goodreads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
five-stars
Series Rating: four-half-stars

No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…
As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.
As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

As Alpha of the pack, Kate Daniels has responsibilities that she would rather not have. When her mate and lover, Curran the Beast Lord, is called away to a hunt, Kate must attend the Conclave. The Conclave is a gathering of The People and the Pack. They meet once a month to air out any grievances or issues with each other so a war doesn’t start. When a Master of the Dead is murdered, it’s obvious that it was a shapeshifter that did the killing. Now Kate has a short amount of time to find out who the killer is, all without the support or help from Curran.

When Hugh d’Ambray shows up at the Conclave, Kate is shocked. She thought that Curran killed her father’s right hand man. It’s immediately clear that Hugh has a nefarious plan to bring her back to her father. Kate is having none of it. She knows where she belongs and it’s not with Hugh d’Ambray. Her place is with Curran. It doesn’t take long for Kate to realize that Curran was drawn away from the Pack so Hugh could get to Kate and hurt the Pack.

With Hugh chasing Kate like his life depends on it, Kate and company end up at the Order of Merciful Aid. If you read the series, you most likely remember Ted. Ted runs the Atlanta chapter of the Order. He was always a shady sort and in Magic Breaks, he decides to go out with a bang. He allows all his Knights to be slaughtered and himself killed so he can go out a martyr. In the meantime, Kate is trying to keep her friends alive and away from Hugh. All without Curran.

I think this is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever tried. Nothing I can say will express the magnitude of greatness that is this book. It gave me all the feels, the whole time I was listening to it. The narrator is amazing. I felt like I was Kate. That’s how good she is. Kate is fucking phenomenal, Curran is beastastic. Like I want a Curran of my own. I am kicking my own ass for not reading this series sooner. It has everything. Action, romance, suspense, thrills. If you haven’t read it, you need to.

Rating: 5 out of 5 (for real).

Kate Daniels

five-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: Dragon Unleashed by Grace Draven

Posted June 28, 2020 by Casee in Features | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

I was first introduced to Grace Draven when Holly, Rowena, and I did a joint review for Phoenix Unbound. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would like it, but the blurb was so interesting that I had to read it. It was as good as I thought it would be. Dragon Unleashed is the second book in Draven’s Fallen Empire series. I can’t wait to dive in.

Sunday Spotlight: Dragon Unleashed by Grace DravenDragon Unleashed by Grace Draven
Series: Fallen Empire #2
Also in this series: Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1)
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: four-stars

A dragon shapeshifter and a healer with power over the earth fight a corrupt empire in this thrilling and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.
Magic is outlawed in the Krael Empire and punishable by death. Born with the gift of earth magic, the free trader Halani keeps her dangerous secret closely guarded. When her uncle buys a mysterious artifact, a piece of bone belonging to a long-dead draga, Halani knows it's far more than what it seems.
Dragas haven't been seen for more than a century, and most believe them extinct. They're wrong. Dragas still walk among the denizens of the Empire, disguised as humans. Malachus is a draga living on borrowed time. The magic that has protected him will soon turn on him--unless he finds a key part of his heritage. He has tracked it to a group of free traders, among them a grave-robbing earth witch who fascinates him as much as she frustrates him with her many secrets.
Unbeknownst to both, the Empire's twisted empress searches for a draga of her own, to capture and kill as a trophy. As Malachus the hunter becomes the hunted, Halani must risk herself and all she loves to save him from the Empire's machinations and his own lethal birthright.

Excerpt

Chapter One

If there was one thing Malachus had learned about humans during his long life span, it was that they were first and foremost thieves. They stole anything and everything, nailed down or not, from jewels and livestock to women and children. And if battlefields and graves were any true indicators, the dead were no more safe from their larceny than the living.

The Sovatin monks who’d fostered him as a child never truly prepared him for the scope of humanity’s predation upon itself. Though human as well, the monks lived isolated from the depredations of the so-called civilized. Malachus never forgot the grief on their faces-the horror-at discovering their sacred necropolis destroyed beyond repair by treasure seekers. It was his first real taste of humanity as a whole, and he found it revolting. It was also the impetus for him to become a sought-after bounty hunter with a reputation feared throughout Winosia’s prefectures.

His martial training combined with his true nature gave him an edge, one that made grave robbers and slavers question whether pursuing their professions was worth the risk of becoming the quarry in his hunt.

This hunt was different, more personal, and his prey far wilier than he’d anticipated, slipping through his fingers countless times over numerous leagues and a treacherous sea. Either they possessed extraordinary luck or they knew what he was and how to outmaneuver him. Now, far away in an unfamiliar country, Malachus’s luck had run dry.

The pair possessed a treasure he would move mountains to regain, and they had fled across the Raglun Sea to these lands. The ship Malachus had sailed on to follow them had almost caught up to theirs, the mother-bond calling to his soul with a war drum’s beat. But fickle gods had churned the waters into a raging cauldron and flung his ship far off course. An experienced captain and crew had saved the ship and those on board, sailing the beaten vessel into harbor with broken masts and ripped sails. Malachus’s quarry had long since vanished into the interior, moving westward.

He’d managed to track them from the coast to this forest, guided by the internal beacon connecting him to the artifact he hunted. His mother-bond, which was all that remained of his mother, his birthright, and his ability to reclaim his true heritage.

Malachus stood at the tree line and gazed upon the fields before him that stretched to the base of the distant black-striped mountains. A wide road snaked toward a miasma of dust in the distance, a steady stream of wagon and foot traffic traveling its length. According to those he’d spoken with when he first came ashore, a great market, promising all manner of goods available for sale, had sprung up where once a Kraelian garrison had stood. He suspected his prey was there. He stabbed the damp earth in front of him with the point of his sword, wishing it was the belly of one, or both, of the thieves. He needed that mother-bond. Nothing more than a bit of bone at first glance, its value lay far beyond anything the pair might get from a buyer. After four hundred years of imprisonment in a human body, kept quiet by magic, his true form had grown restless, a dangerous prisoner, and a fatal one if he didn’t set it loose in time. Even now, the force of his inevitable transformation surged through his bones and muscles, making the veins in his arms and neck bulge at times, and his head throb. It was certain that he’d have to slough off his human guise and embrace the draga one. Ignoring that imperative guaranteed death. He needed the mother-bond to safely initiate that change.

At his patient mare’s inquiring whicker, he turned. She whuffled a second time when he stroked her neck.

“They’re close, Batraza,” he told the horse. “Likely trying to pawn what they pilfered.”

Finding the thieves and the mother-bond would be easier in a contained market than trying to track them across leagues of unknown, and likely hostile, terrain. If he listened hard enough, he could hear hints of faraway voices. They were about a full day’s ride from the dust cloud, and that was if he and Batraza didn’t have to shelter from the summer storms that periodically doused the area.

For now the sky curved blue above him, and he eyed the clouds scudding by, noting those that gathered into thunderheads to linger in the distance. Malachus sighed, cleaning his blade before resheathing it. The ragged tips of Batraza’s tail slapped against his arm as she swatted away the pesky gnats that swarmed in clouds around their heads and tried to fly up their noses. Unlike other horses, she didn’t lay her ears back in warning or try to bolt when Malachus drew near her. That, as much as her preternaturally long life span, made her as strange as her rider.

Malachus offered her the treat of a withered apple he had fished from the depths of one of the bags attached to the saddle, and swung nimbly onto her back. The two turned away from the road toward an open space where the tree line curved in a horseshoe shape around gently swaying grassland.

Time and solitude allowed Malachus to plan his next move as he tracked the mother-bond to the shores of the far-flung Krael Empire. Sometimes he felt more hound than human or draga, his nose either to the ground or to the wind as he searched for his legacy. The blue sky overhead rapidly gave way to blackening thunderheads fissured with lightning. A few bolts broke free to strike the ground, and Batraza pranced beneath him, nervous at the storm’s approach. Malachus guided her deeper into the trees before dismounting. She leaned against him as he cast a spell the monks had taught him to calm her so she wouldn’t bolt when he left her to return to the open curve of grassland on foot.

Rain blew in with a howl and then a roar, slanting sideways as the storm gusts drove it across the landscape like an overseer wielding a whip. Malachus tilted his face to the sky and let the deluge pummel him, washing away his frustration along with the layer of travel dirt he’d acquired since his last bath.

A shimmer of light illuminated the shield of his closed eyelids, followed by a boom of thunder. Within the sheltering trees, Batraza whinnied her fear. Malachus murmured, “It’s all right, girl. Just a little light and noise, nothing more. You’re the safest you can be where you are.”

As quickly as the storm blew in, it passed. Thunder rumbled in the distance, chasing walls of rain that galloped across the forest before bashing into the mountain range. Black clouds splintered by lightning trailed behind, and Malachus crossed his fingers in the hope that his height and singularity on the flat ground might lure one of those crackling tongues of light toward him. Lightning always loved the draga, even those disguised as humans.

A bright bolt forked out of one of the clouds to strike him. He convulsed with the shock wave of power that hammered through his muscles and boiled the blood in his veins. For a moment, his heart seized before restarting with a double-time beat. Every hair on his body stood up, and the smell of charred cloth filled his nostrils. Still, he kept his feet as the lightning anchored him to the earth and exploded images across his mind’s eye.

A market teeming with people against the backdrop of a ruined fortress, his mother-bond haloed in shimmering light and resting on a square of purple cloth. A woman’s pretty face and somber gray eyes. An older man with similar features and the same gray eyes. And most important, the two thieves he’d tracked this far. All those depictions flashed before him in the time it took for the lightning to pin him to the ground, burn bright, then burn out.

Released from the lightning’s lethal hold, Malachus staggered before falling to one knee. He breathed deep, fire in his lungs and agony in his bones. Smoke wreathed him and the burnt grass around him. A wispy tendril meandered from a thumbnail-size burn hole on the top of his right boot. The wetness of rain-soaked ground seeped through his sole. The lightning that exited his body had left a matching burn hole there.

Any other man would be a smoking husk by now, but Malachus was not a normal man any more than Batraza was a normal horse. His magic made the mare unique just as Malachus’s mother’s heritage made him peculiar. Batraza was a horse that wore the guise of magic. Malachus was magic who wore the guise of a human.

He’d need to repair his boot, but the damage had been worth it. The lightning had revealed a great deal. The valuable piece of his mother’s skeleton still moved westward, pausing briefly as if teasing him with its nearness.

While most of the images the lightning had shown him were obvious location markers and hints, the one of the woman with the solemn features puzzled him. She might well be a buyer interested in possessing the mother-bond-and woe betide her if she was-or she might be traveling with the thieves he tracked, unknowing that they carried a lodestone that put a relentless hunter on their trail. The man she resembled was a mystery as well, though Malachus had no doubt that he, too, was somehow tied to the mother-bond. The lightning wouldn’t have shown them otherwise.

He stood, soaked to the skin, and shook off the last remnants of the sky’s blistering kiss before returning to Batraza. She snorted and rolled her eyes when Malachus drew closer, stamping a hoof as if to admonish him for leaving her alone among the trees.

“Peace, Bat,” he said in his most soothing tone and gathered the reins before swinging into the wet saddle. The storm’s power had fizzled. To the west, the clearing sky took on a golden hue, overpainting the blue as the sun regained dominion over the clouds.

Malachus guided the mare out of the forest. If they traveled without stopping and avoided the road’s heavier traffic, they’d reach the market by the following nightfall. A new moon meant a blacker-than-usual night. He could enter the market without much notice, just one of many travelers journeying toward the temporary city. Though he wasn’t human, he wore the form of one no different from all of those who trekked toward the ruins.

They reached the market after the vendors closed shop and the encampment surrounding it settled down for the night. That suited him fine. He found it far easier to navigate new surroundings without throngs of people milling about to trade, socialize, or steal.

The sickle moon hung midway in the night sky as he circled the camp perimeter, ringed by hundreds of tents and wagons as well as livestock pens guarded by a few people and a fair number of dogs. The air was redolent with the scent of humans and animals, mud and wet felt-unpleasant except for the drifting scents of cooking spices and herbal teas simmering over fires. Those teased his nostrils, and his empty stomach rumbled in response. Malachus nodded briefly to the watch who silently observed him as he rode past pens and clusters of tents, inciting the dogs into frantic barking or frightened yelps if his gaze lingered too long on them. The mother-bond’s draw hummed along his senses like silver thread stitched into fabric. He guided Batraza along the market’s edge and farther out still, where the grass grew undisturbed and untrampled and the light of torches no longer chased away the thick darkness. He brought the mare to a halt and breathed deep, allowing his senses to open wide, feel even more the hard draw of draga magic as he sharpened his focus on the thing that had driven him to cross deep seas and foreign lands to find it.

He’d camp for the night and renew his search in the morning. Reconnoitering in darkness had its benefits, but this was a large tent city populated with enough watchmen that someone would interpret his investigating as nefarious and try either to shoot him or to knife him. Confrontations never went unnoticed, and he didn’t want to give any warning to his prey of his presence here. For all they knew, his ship had gone down in an angry sea and he along with it. He didn’t want to disabuse them of the notion in case they’d made such a fortuitous assumption.

The spot where he chose to camp was no more than a patch of wet ground away from the meandering patterns of flattened grass that marked a well-traveled trek made by campers who wished to relieve themselves away from their living spaces.

The night sky stayed clear, and he counted the stars salting its expanse from his supine view on Batraza’s saddle blanket. The mare grazed nearby, her lead rope staked within easy reach. Malachus listened to the sounds around him-the call of a night bird, the distant ululation of wolves, the rustle of some rodent hiding from predators looking to catch their dinner. Above those, the murmur and flow of voices, their words indistinct. Friendly conversations and hot arguments, the intense sensuality of moans during lovemaking, a woman’s sweet lullaby to a fretful baby.

These were the things that reminded him there was more to humanity than its larceny, its petty cruelties. His understanding, and the empathy that came with it, was a fragile thing, even after decades of living among humans outside the monastery. He looked like them, but they possessed dark depths he’d never fully comprehend, nor did he want to. The sounds he listened to now, of mundane lives lived in peaceful hours, softened his attitude a small bit. It wouldn’t last. It never did.

His thoughts settled once more on the gray-eyed woman the lightning had shown him earlier. Attractive, but he had known sublime. Dignified, but he had met majestic. There was nothing about her appearance that strayed from the conventional into the remarkable, yet her image remained emblazoned in his mind. He saw it overlaid across a spectacle of starlight and behind his lids when he closed them. It was more than a suspected connection to his mother-bond. He wanted to know her name, hear her voice, learn what lay behind those eyes the color of dove’s wings. His fascination with her made no sense, but Malachus didn’t question it. His spirit understood his instinct better than his mind did, and he couldn’t shunt its message aside. The lightning had shown her to him for a reason.

Fallen Empire

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About Grace Draven

Grace Draven is a Louisiana native living in Texas with her husband, kids and a big, doofus dog. She has loved storytelling since forever and is a fan of the fictional bad boy. She is the winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice for Best Fantasy Romance of 2014 and 2016, and a USA Today Bestselling author.


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