Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

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In a land governed by the cruel Frostblood ruling class, seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has spent most of her life hiding her ability to manipulate heat and light – until the day the soldiers come to raid her village and kill her mother. Ruby vows revenge on the tyrannous Frost King responsible for the massacre of her people.

But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable…and so are the feelings she has for Arcus, the scarred, mysterious Frostblood warrior who shares her goal to kill the Frost King, albeit for his own reasons. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King’s men, she’s taken right into the heart of the enemy. Now she only has one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her – and in doing so, she must unleash the powers she’s spent her whole life withholding.

Frostblood is set in world where flame and ice are mortal enemies – but together create a power that could change everything.

I actually liked Frostblood by Elly Blake quite a bit.

It is a fast read. The writing style is clean and the story flows very smoothly. There are many of the tropes generally associated with fantasy YA – magically powerful but untrained female protagonist, brooding male lead, end of the world prophecy and of course, an evil king. But it retains a freshness, mainly due to the author’s writing style and because the book is not gritty but rather has a fairytale-esque quality to it – which makes it charming rather than typical.

I had guessed the main twist quite early on in the book, but still the start of the second part brought some surprises. The book also has a feel good factor – most people, when given a choice – choose to be good. I think that makes the book feel lighter than it actually is. There is decent character development of the protagonist, and some nice touches in regards to the other characters as well. I would have preferred them to be more fleshed out, but they are more than caricatures – and the second book might have quite a few things in store. Plus, the book has a somewhat definitive, happy ending. That was so good to have.

It will be a definite favorite with people who have just gotten into this genre (or want to check it out) and also good for people who are a bit tired of all the brutality/murder/grit (you get the idea).

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‘Death is certain for all who are born…or is it?’

Professor Bharadvaj is more than just another whisky-loving, gun-toting historian-for-hire. Behind the assumed identity of the cynical academic is a man who has walked the earth for scores of years. He is Asvatthama – the cursed immortal, the man who cannot die.
When Professor Bharadvaj is approached by the enigmatic Maya Jervois to search for a historical artefact unlike any other, he is reluctant to pursue it. The object in question, the Vajra, is rumoured to possess incredible alchemical powers, but the Professor does not believe it exists. After all, he has spent many lifetimes – and identities – searching for it, in a bid to unearth the secret to his unending life.

Yet, as the evidence of its existence becomes increasingly compelling, the Professor is plunged into an adrenaline-fuelled adventure that takes him from the labyrinthine passages beneath the Somnath temple to the legendary home of the siddhas in the Nilgiris, and finally into the deserts of Pakistan to solve a confounding puzzle left behind by the ancients.

But who is behind the dangerous mercenaries trying to thwart his discoveries at every step? And is the Professor – a legendary warrior in a long-ago life – cursed to walk the path of death and bloodshed forever?

I am not really a reader of Indian urban fantasy. Or even Indian fantasy, in general. Call me a snob, I don’t mind. It is definitely true when it comes to picking what books to read. This book has converted me if the rest in the genre are just as good.

Immortal by Krishna Udaysankar is the story of Asvatthama. Yes, that Asvatthama – the one who was a part of the Mahabharata. The son of Dronacharya. Duryodhana’s friend. Disgraced at the end of the Great War and cursed with eternal life.

Of course, I am sure I will learn a lot more about him when I get to The Aryavarta Chronicles – Govinda, KauravaKurukshetra – by the same author.

That being said, let’s talk about this book. Asvatthama is alive and well and has now been ‘roped’ into a search for the Vajra. Something we think is a mythical weapon. Or is it? It is definitely mythical, even to Asvatthama – who is extremely skeptical. After all, if he could not find it in centuries – it must not exist, right?

We move with this man, this undying man, as he follows the trail from the temples in Dwaraka to the deserts of Balochistan. What he is doing is truly interesting, but who he is now, that is even more interesting. Here is the man who was there with Genghis Khan, with Subhas Chandra Bose – who fought in battles all over the world – who, in his own words, is now that rare breed – ‘a soldier by profession’. It is him as a person who truly intrigued me – his fear of his body rotting – of losing his mind due to this horror – but not being able to die, his terror at the thought of forever drowning – and the fact that he overcomes all this to do what needs to be done. I liked the other characters too. There are no caricatures – but real people. All with their own machinations, desires and failings.

An extremely interesting read, the book is filled with well-researched references, characters that feel real in spite of their ‘magical’ realities, and a story that keeps you hooked and guessing till the end. I personally really enjoyed all the name dropping Asvatthama does.

Definitely, a read I’d recommend.

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Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

A Court of Mist and Fury is the second book in the series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. The first book in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, had a touch of inspiration from Beauty and the Beast, a fairy tale many of us are familiar with – at least the Disney version. It rises and builds up like a crescendo. Alluring, beautiful, intricate, stunning and filled with the shadows that have no place in Disney. At the end of it, Feyre saved her Prince Charming (or Beast if you want to stick with Beauty and the Beast reference) and was changed irrevocably in doing so. She is now a mortal soul in an immortal body. Her lover is an immortal High Lord of Faerie and she has saved him, and all of Faerie, from the clutches of evil. 

But now the first book is done and Feyre technically has achieved her Happily-Ever-After. Yet, everything is wrong. Because she is not who she was. She no longer needs someone to save her, instead she has already done the saving. She needs a partner, not a protector. Tamlin is wrong for her, and it is so so hard for her to see that, admit that, after going through so much due to her love for him. And Tamlin, he seems to love her, yet he cannot see he’s suffocating her, drowning her in his ‘protection’. Consumed by his own demons, he is letting what he needs take precedence over what can help her.

And then there is Rhysand: the High Lord of the Court of Night. He should be evil. He should be hated. He should be wrong. But he is the only one who seems to understand Feyre. Who is trying to help her be herself, to help her get out of the trauma of Under The Mountain. Who is saving her from herself and from Tamiln.

This book starts on a low note – building from where the first book left – but then it does start building and it is so much more complex, so much more layered than the the first one. Maybe because we know more about the world now and maybe because that is the difference between Rhysand and Tamlin. Where Tamlin is cagey, secretive and treats Feyre as less; Rhysand treats her as an equal, is honest and believes in her being her own person.

It is the difference between an abusive relationship and a real one. The other characters all have depth, have real pain, sorrow and the strength to rise beyond that. They do not overshadow each other but rather exist in a harmony.

Yes, the book is a fairytale. Because after Tamlin, there is a Rhysand. It gives hope that after an abusive relationship which you gave everything, which nearly killed you, there is a chance that you might find the person who is actually the other half of your soul. A person who makes you see not just the good in the world, but in yourself.

And maybe this is what all fairy tales should be: real, bitter, cruel but always with an edge of hope.

Throne-of-Glass

We all.. I really wanted to start this post on a plural note… because simply put.. Its harder to admit that you’re the only crazy one. But then again, I know I am not. Alone that is. Crazy has always been debatable at best, especially considering I am here talking about books. Anyone who reads, and I do mean reads, will know what I mean.

Recently I went on a reading strike. Nothing caught my interest, not even books I had been waiting almost a year for (they’re still gathering dust on my hard drive) and when I finally shook myself out of it, to my consternation, the only that would keep my interest was romance. I am not proud of it, not one whit, but at least it was not the sappy stuff. I am holding very tightly onto that one redeeming quality.

When I finally got over that bender, I immediately succumbed to an assassin bender. Let us not even try to understand the mechanics of how that came around. What I can say is, I am quite proud of the books I read on this bender, especially the series that has drop kicked me out of my rut. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is a dark fantasy series that I somehow just cannot call YA, because apart from the age of the protagonist, there are (thankfully) no elements whatsoever of the genre present.

I started with the prequels. The books are set in a world where most of the continent has been conquered by one cruel man over the past decade, and magic has been banned by royal decree. The protagonist, Celaena Sardothien is the most famous assassin of Adarlan, in fact, she is Adarlan’s Assassin.  She is also sixteen and gorgeous though very few are aware of what she looks like. There are few things Celaena will not do, she is an assassin, but trading in slaves is one of them. So in the first of the prequels, she sets the events in motion that precipitate everything.

Celaena is not just an excellent assassin, she is the best. Her displeasure with the man who raised and trained her, eventually leads to her choosing to break from him. Her love for Sam, an assassin she grew up with, eventually puts her in a place where she can either be Adarlan’s assassin or she can be with him. She chooses Sam, chooses to leave everything behind, to be happy. Of course that is not how things turn out and at the start of the first book, Celaena has been a slave in the salt mines of Endovier for a year.

And that is where the main plot of the series starts because as interesting as they are, the prequels provide insight into Celaena, but a lot is still left to be revealed.

Throne of Glass, has Celaena freed from Endovier by the Crown Prince, Dorian, who wants her to be his representative to become his father’s next (and first) Champion (read official assassin).  After a year in the hellish mines, her courtly manners are rusty, her form terrible but she has a championship to win, her identity to protect, figuring out why a Queen who died a 1000 years ago is talking to her and if she wants to do her bidding, all the while surviving not only in the actual fighting but whatever creature is hunting down the champions one by one.

Then there is Chaol. The Captain of the Guard is the best friend of the Crown Prince, and his relationship with Celaena is complicated at best. But I think he is one of the most layered characters in this series and becomes more and more intriguing, the more we get to know him.

Add in the fact the Dorian himself is fascinated with the assassin who reads until she falls asleep, and that there is another Princess, Nehemia,  in the castle who has decided she prefers Celaena’s company over that of the other court ladies and their combination is no less volatile than dynamite and fire. Even Chaol knows better than to annoy them when they’re together.

And this is the just the first book.

This is an intricate series, with twists, details, plots, intrigues and lots of layers to everything and everyone. That is what makes it so very interesting to read. The wit and humor that is laced throughout the novels also makes them fun, in spite of all the violence and the darkness of the story. This is definitely a book I would recommend, especially if you enjoy a kick-ass, no-nonsense female protagonist who refuses to agonize over anything.

Lines in the Sand

Posted: June 26, 2013 by Arushi in Original Fiction
Tags: , , , , ,

I think this one is the last Micara post. I do not have much to add to her story anymore. The story is much more detailed in my head but those details do not need to be told – not really. This is a ‘less is more’ kind of tale.

The posts that I have written in this story collection in order of reading:

  1. Kind Regards
  2. Choices
  3. Fireworks
  4. Love is Blindness
  5. Negotiations
  6. Lines in the Sand

Sword

Nearly silent footsteps followed her as she strode along the hallways of the castle, memory guiding her steps. She had spent years here, learning the lay of the place to make sure she could evade anyone and everyone. She had been prey.

She smiled and stopped. The footsteps behind her hesitated. She whirled around, her smile turning savage. It was a man, a wraith almost, but one who thought he could follow her around. Because he feared his master more than he feared her. No one feared her as they should. Her smile widened and his face lost all color.

“You will tell me who sent you.” She said quietly. The man stood entranced, a bird caught in the gaze of a snake. But he did not speak.

“May I?” Shay asked and she scowled. She had not heard his approach.

“Have at it.”

“Who sent you?” Shay asked conversationally and the man made a small sound of fear.

“I do not like repeating myself.” He said mildly and the man swallowed before whispering a name.

Shay smiled benignly, making the man shiver in terror. “He is yours, love.”

Micara scowled and turned away. “No.”

I watched her sleeping. She looked peaceful and her lips were curved up. It was so rare to see her smile, to see peace on her face. I would do anything to have her look like this when she was awake. “Anything?” a whisper came to me and I nodded, knowing that I had just made a deal with the devil. 

“Will you say something?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Are you okay being here?”

Micara paused. She had just entered his, no their room. She moved to the terrace and sat down on the floor before meeting his gaze. He looked… earnest. Yes, that was the word.

“I would live in hell to be with you and count myself lucky. Just because I dislike the rest of the place is no reflection on my feelings for you.”

“You think this is hell?” Shay asked.

That is what got through to you?” She raised a brow and he laughed softly, sprawling next to her.

Micara’s finger grazed a stone on the wall as if she was stroking a blade of grass. Her eyes fixated as if the wall was the most fascinating thing in her world.

“Here.” She whispered. “It was here that he slammed you so hard, you bled.”

Shay shuddered, seeing what she could see. Who said the past was gone? It was alive, still like a snake, ready to bite you at the first unguarded moment.

“Then he dragged you to the court, down this hallway. He had you whipped while the nobles watched. He threw you in that windowless cell for two weeks.” She went on, each word bit off like a curse.

“I survived.” Shay murmured, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her close.

“Yes.” She leaned back into him, the word a mere breath.

I roamed the halls, unwilling to face anyone or anything. I had failed.  I could feel the pain, holding my chest in a vice. Even breathing hurt, or maybe that was just my bruised ribs. In blood and pain we had been bonded and I had sent her away. Because I was too weak to protect my wife. 

Shay stroked the hair back from her face. Her eyes were closed, her breathing even, but he knew she was awake; had woken up a moment ago when he sat up in bed. She opened her eyes, smiled and he could feel the world brighten. His world revolved around her and he knew it. It had since the day he first saw her. Standing up to a court full of hyenas with her head held high.

“You’re too far away.” She murmured and he leaned in, grinning when she nipped his lip.

She grinned back.

I had taken a vow and I had broken it in only mere hours. There were oathbreakers and then there was me. I placed the palm of my hand on the stone. I could still see the blood on it. A chill ran down my spine, thinking of what could have happened. I could exist without her, as long as it meant that she lived. Even if I was not at her side. 

“Do you mean it?” Micara asked, her voice soft, full of pain and joy all at the same time.

“Of course.”

“Then yes. The answer is definitely yes.”

Shay laughed at her excitement but he could not deny his own joy of it. The pleasure of destroying this place, this castle his family had held through untold centuries, stone by bloody stone.

He laughed and it was a free sound. Free. Finally.

I had made a deal with a sorcerer to bond our souls. She was my bride and yet I had moved her, half asleep, wrapped only in the sheets from my bed and carrying but one knife to a whorehouse, because I could not protect her from my father’s wrath. His wrath at me because I was going to be more powerful than he could ever be. He still should not have moved against her. She was off limits and he should not have crossed that line. 

They stood together watching the pile of rubble in front of them. The nobles watched them carefully, terrified of what the royal couple would do next. But there were no other acts of destruction.

“Have the stones cleared. I do not want anything left here. Dig out the very foundation stones and throw them all away. Then start building a new castle.” Micara’s voice rang out and men hastened to obey.

The queen’s word was law and preparations had already been made before this castle ever came down. Preparations had been made years ago in the hope that she would someday come back and help his destroy this place.

I would get her back. He feared my power when I was nothing but loyal. He thought he could control me now, after I had sent away my one reason for breathing, my only reason to obey. He was a fool and I would make him pay. I would destroy him, destroy this placed filled with his evil stone by stone. And I would wait until she came back to me. 

“What do you want to do now?”  Micara asked watching the city with him. The palace was gone, but the cliffs remained.

“I am not sure. What would you like to do?”

“Travel. Everywhere. See this kingdom that you have made me a queen of.”

“So be it. We will come back after our new castle is ready.”

She smiled, her fingers lacing with his. He gripped her hand tightly and they both knew it would be a long time before either of them let go.

LUMS-early-morning

This is a story I wrote a few years ago. The original is actually still up on the net but this one is the modified version. I guess I have learned some grammar over the years. Thankfully!

My inspiration then was the song Memories by Within Temptation. It is a beautiful song. When I rewrote it though, I played an instrumental piece. Still I do like this story and wanted to share the revamped version. Let me know if the ending is confusing – I would learn to write better – and be happy to clarify.


Memories

Kaya’s POV:

Past (One Year Ago):

I walked through the back alleys, my hands shaking, afraid that someone would recognize me. The cloak covered me from head to toe, but I was still afraid, anxious, without rhyme or reason. I heard footsteps and I quickly moved to the side, my heart hammering so loud, I thought it could be heard by anyone. The footsteps came near, even as I crouched close to the ground, hidden behind a barrel.

“That is an awful place to hide.” He whispered to me, his hand clamping on my mouth before I could let out a startled squeak. I held still, terrified, as the footsteps came closer and closer and then they receded, going ahead. I calmed to a degree, now he my only opponent,  his hand still upon my mouth but the hard grip had changed to a caress. As if reading my thoughts, he removed his hand.

He stood up and I realized just how tall he really was. He extended his hand to me, palm up. Hesitantly I took it and he pulled me to my feet.

“Come with me.” he said and started walking. My hand in his, it would seem I had no choice but to follow, yet I knew this was my decision. He would not have stopped me if I had left. But he had known that I would follow him to the end of the world and over.


Present:

I stared at all the people around me. Women in their glittering gowns and sparkling jewelry, men strutting like peacocks, and I wanted to run. I lifted my gown and whirled, heading for the door only to come face to face with him. I had been craving to see him since we last parted. I reached out to touch him, but he was gone. Like a mirage of water to a man dying of thirst in the desert. A cruel dream. A tear slipped from my eye, but thankfully my mask absorbed it. A princess could not be seen crying at her own ball.


Past:

He led me down alleys, around tight corners, through houses, until I had no idea where we were. He picked me up and jumped effortlessly over walls, over fences and even over ditches. No one could have followed us. No one would know where I was. No one would know who I was. A fierce joy took hold of me until I wanted to laugh from the joy of freedom. He seemed to sense it and he smiled at me, still leading me by my hand while I waited for him to surprise me.


Present:

I turned on my heel, wanting to leave this cursed ball, but my brother blocked my way. His face said it all. I was to be the good hostess, not the runaway fool. I turned back, swallowed my pain and moved through the crowd. I smiled, I talked and all the while, I unconsciously looked for laughing dark eyes, for an amused smirk.

Someone touched my shoulder, I whirled around, sure that it was him, but was met with empty air.

My name was whispered and I started to look but could not see him. No one here with that height, with that strong frame, with that stubborn chin. With those caressing eyes.


Past:

I was suddenly in the middle of what had to be a celebration.

There were people everywhere, talking, eating, laughing, drinking, being themselves without fear of what anyone would think. They were happy.

He led me to the center, his shrill whistle getting everyone’s attention. The hair on my neck prickled as all eyes turned to us, but he did not seem to mind. He undid my cloak and tossed it aside and then I was in his arms for a dance.

The music started, a cheer went up. I blushed even as I matched him move for move. We were not alone on the floor for long, for soon there were couples dancing all around us. I laughed as he picked me up and whirled me around in the air.


Present:

I felt nothing as the dance progressed, the circular movement of the dancers making me switch from one partner to another. I felt the brush of warm fingers on my back. I tried to stop and look, but my partner twirled me around quickly into the arms of the next dancer.

I felt nothing even as I rotated on the spot holding his hand. I thought I heard a chuckle, and I looked, but he was not there.

The dance was over and I wanted to rush away, but my path was blocked. I looked up to see my uncle, gazing at me with something that looked like both pity and sorrow. I turned away, moving back to the dance floor. I motioned for the music to switch to my favorite piece.

I started dancing. It was the ‘fandango’ and I was supposed to have a partner, but he was not here. So be it. I danced for both of us. When he was to hold me as I arched back, I leaned back on my own, imagining his arms around me. I could almost see him as I danced. Almost feel his breath on my face, almost feel his beating heart under my palm.


Past:

The music changed and our innocent waltz became the sensual ‘fandango’. His arms were around me and I knew that we would dance with me loving every moment of it. We moved together, in a rhythm that was our own, as if we had always danced together. As if we were parts of one whole that had finally come together.

We moved while everyone watched, yet I could hardly care, all I could see was the man in my arms. All I could feel was his breath and his heartbeat.

I knew he would hold me. I knew when he spun me, I was safe and yet I was flush with the excitement of it all.

I laughed out loud when it ended, my leg cupped in his large hand, my head thrown back, back arched and my hair brushing the floor. Applause rang around us, but I could only see the rare grin that graced his lips.

I whispered his name and his smile widened. He took me away, with the same speed with which he had brought me, grabbing my cloak on the way. We ran through the streets again, but it was so different now. We were not being chased, we were racing the wind.


Present:

I finished the dance, applause rang out, but I could not hear it. I was looking for him. His shadow had been with me, I had felt it, then why could he not be here as well? Warm arms wrapped around me from behind, I turned with a happy cry, for it had to be him.

I knew my face fell when I saw my friend and I saw understanding in his blue eyes. I hated that understanding. I pushed at him and walked away.

I only wanted his arms around me and if he was not here, then I would be alone.

I could almost see him roll his eyes at the proclamation.

I heard the whisper of my name, I tried to run to him, but I was stopped again by my family. I cried out in anger. I wanted to go to him. He was waiting for me, I could feel it.


Past:

I splashed water over him from the river and he started a war, which ended only when both of us were drenched. We trudged back to a nearby cottage and the old woman clucked her tongue at us, even as she allowed us in. We were the first ones to visit her in years, she told us, even as she fussed.

I huddled in the blanket, as my clothes dried. He did the same. The old woman gave us both hot soup to drink while she scolded us for playing in the cold river. We exchanged glances like guilty children, and were off as soon our clothes dried.

It was dusk, and we ran back the way I had come. Back home, even though we knew we would be in trouble. As he was leaving that night, he promised me that he would be back. I smiled. I knew he always kept his promises.


Present:

I pushed my brother away. If I could not have him, then I did not want to be near anyone else. He needed to be here, or I needed to be where he was.

My brother stopped me again. Infuriated, I stalked out to the garden. I heard him murmur my name again and I ran towards his voice, but all I could see was empty air. Why would he not stay with me? I felt his fingers brush my hand, I whirled around, but it was just petals dancing on the wind. His breath caressed my hair as he pulled the pins lose, making my hair cascade down my back and yet I could not see him.

I heard his laugh as he placed flowers in my hair. I heard the music that was him as he pulled the ribbon from my throat.

I turned and I turned but I could not see him. Oh why was he taunting me so?

“Damian!” I called, my voice cracking and he brushed a kiss on the back of my neck.

“Shh…” he murmured, but when I turned he had left me again.

“Kaya,” someone called and I turned to see them standing together. My brother, my uncle, and my friend. Why could he not be standing there with them? Why were they only three instead of the four men I was used to – my uncle Jace, my brother Ash, my friend Luc and my fiancé Damian.

“He’s gone. He died in the war.” Uncle said kindly and I laughed. He must have gone senile in his old age. What war?

“You know he is gone. He led the army to victory, but he is gone. We held his funeral a year ago.” Ash’s voice was soft, cajoling.

“No! There was no funeral. How could there be one without me and I never saw it. A year ago he showed me the party out where I was not allowed. He danced with me and we played in the river. He brought me home and he would not even let any of you scold me.” I snapped enraged before turning away to leave.

“Kaya!” Luc called but I did not listen to them. Damian was here. I was sure of it.

Then I saw her. The old woman from the riverside. She was looking at me sadly but then she smiled and gave me a small crystal bottle.

“Drink this and then you can sleep until he comes to wake you.” she said kindly.

I took the bottle from her and drank it in one gulp.

“Thank you.” I whispered and he echoed me. I turned and in my dimming eyesight, I could finally see him. I smiled as the world went black.


Twenty Years Later:

Normal POV:

“That tower is off limits.” The noble cautioned the young Prince who had come to the castle to discuss state matters. Part of a political delegation, he should have been thinking of how to greet the royals he would be meeting in moments yet all he could do was stare at the tower.

Now he turned to the man and smirked.

“Nothing is off limits,” he jumped down from his horse and started towards it. His speed increasing with every step

“Stop!” a shout came from behind and he was startled into stumbling by the familiar voice that he had never heard before.

He turned and the blonde, blue eyed man gasped. “Damian…” he whispered. Luc, yes that was his name. He was chief adviser of King Ash.

The Prince scowled and turned back to the tower. He had to go to it. He had to see it. He had to be there. She needed him there.

He did not even truly understand that thought, or where it had come from, as he ran for the tower. The guards at the bottom tried to block his way, but he pushed them aside. He never noticed the command that stopped them, as he ran all the way up the twisting stairs.

He ran and ran, knowing that she was at the end of this staircase and yet he did not know who ‘she’ was.

He kicked in the door at the end of the stairs and skidded to a stop in room filled with sunlight. He could see nothing but the woman sleeping on the bed. Her face was pale, her brown hair spread around her like a silken halo. He saw a shadow of her laughter as they danced together, caught her fragrance as she brushed against him, felt the softness of her finger tips as she stroked his cheek. There she was, sleeping in front of him, he knew he had never seen her before and yet he knew he had known her all his life.

He went to her, kneeling next to the bed, touched her face with trembling fingers. Water drops fell on her cheeks, he realized he was crying. He moved closer, kissed her forehead and she blinked up at him, awoken by his intrusion.

“Damian?” she murmured, eyes wide and he smiled.

“The one and only,” his reply was lost as she threw herself into his arms, laughing and crying at the same time. He hugged her tightly and then whirled her around in joy.

She leaned back in his arms and smiled, “I knew you were just hiding to annoy me. You were always close to me.”

“I promise never to do that, ever again.” he vowed softly and her smile widened. He never broke his promises after all.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. I read the books almost back to back and while I do like the first one more, this one is no slouch either.

In the first book we learned about Camorr, about Alchemy, about the Eldren and about Locke and Jean. Now we have no use for most of this knowledge because we find ourselves in Tal Verrar, in the middle of another game.

Tonight is delicate business,” said Drakasha. “Misstepping in Port Prodigal after midnight is like pissing on an angry snake. I need-” 

“Ahem,” said Locke. “Originally, we’re from Camorr.”

“Be on the boat in five minutes.” 

The quote above is not here just because I adore it, but also because it tells so much.  Yes, there is no Camorr in this book, but Lock e and Jean are Camorri and as Locke says, people need to understand, you do not mess with a Camorri and get away with it. That just does not happen. That is what makes this book. The madness of Locke Lamora and the fact that people truly do not understand that he will get his own back, no matter what he has to do get it.

It has been a little more than two years since the events in The Lies of Locke Lamora and Locke and Jean are working their way up the nine floors of the Sinspire – the biggest chance house (casino) in the world to swindle its owner, who also happens to be a mob boss, on par with the likes of Capa Barsavi.

As if that were not enough, the Archon (a military ruler born out of war in a trading nation) of Tal Verrar ‘hires’ them for his own purposes and they cannot refuse. No matter how much they want to. Oh and he also knows exactly who they are – the Bondsmagi are vengeful that way. Plus there are continuous attempts on their lives from an unknown enemy.

In the middle of all of this, the two end up on the pirate ship Poison Orchid, under the command of Captain Drakasha. It is here that Locke has to face more than a few uncomfortable facts about himself. Especially as he watches Jean fall in love.

Jean for his part is still the madly dedicated friend but not blindly. Never blindly. He is the one who rips Locke out of his constant ruts of grief. More aspects of his personality crop up and I cannot help but appreciate more and more the dynamics between them that Lynch has created.

Jean is also the unlikely philosopher. He is a romantic while also being the declared bruiser. Some words from him that I loved:

“As for history, we are living in its ruins. And as for biographies, we are living with the consequences of all the decisions ever made in them. I tend not to read them for pleasure. It’s not unlike carefully scrutinizing the map when one has already reached the destination.” 

That whole conversation, between Locke and Jean was brilliant. For the whole thing though, read the book. It pops up when 12% of the book is done.

Still, I missed the Gentleman Bastards. The thrill of watching them lie through their teeth to everyone but each other was so much fun! And this time, well, there was no them. There were two. It is only near the climax of the book that that feeling came back. It had to, because everything was finally falling into place. The pieces were coming together and when the puzzle clicked into together, what a spectacular picture it made.

Still there were moments, where the Gentlemen Bastards shone through in all their glory:

“Crooked Warden,” said Locke, “men are stupid. Protect us from ourselves. If you can’t, let it be quick and painless.” 

“Well said.” Jean took a deep breath. “Crazy part on three?” 

“On three.”

To me the first book was not just Locke or even Locke and Jean, after all, Calo, Galdo and Bug were almost as prominent in their absence as they were in their presence. This book, lacks a few of the layers present in the first one. The timelines do play around but since the past with Father Chains is already known and the boys do not have a history in Tal Verrar, not much can be added.

The parts about what happened after they left Camorr are woven in deftly, yet they are few and far in between. There is also the story of how they have climbled the six floors of the Sinspire and what plans they have laid out in the last two years, yet that zing is missing. The Thorn of Camorr is missing. The other characters are interesting but there are more of the ones you love to hate, than the ones you actually love. There are so few protagonists, so many enemies.

Nonetheless, it is unfair to compare the two books, as they are quite different and both are really really good in their own ways. To see a pirate captain with two little children was fun, especially when the daughter and Locke interacted. I wish there had been more of that. What a hellion Locke could turn that toddler into.

The Gentleman Bastards is a series of the unexpected. Nothing is what it seems and truly, reading these books is an absolute pleasure.

The next book that will be coming out is the prequel called The Bastards and the Knives on May 1st 2013 and the 3rd book in the series, Republic of Thieves,  comes out on September 3rd 2013.