Thursday, March 28, 2019

#Review - To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough #YALit #Mystery

Series:  Erin Blake (#1)
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Mysteries

In this contemporary mystery by debut author Sheryl Scarborough, a teenage girl uses forensic science to solve the cold-case murder of her mother

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.

“Fifty percent of human DNA is identical to the DNA of a banana.

To Catch a Killer is the first installment in author Sheryl Scarborough's Erin Blake series. Erin's mother was murdered when she was 2 and she has been raised by her mother's best friend Rachel. Thanks to her uncle, FBI agent Victor Flemming, Erin is very interested in DNA and how the experts going about collecting evidence to hopefully put away murderers etc. 

As a volunteer, Erin stole the box of evidence from her mother's cold case while working in the police department. Since then, she has been hoping for a miracle in uncovering who her mother's killer is, and who is her father. As the story opens, Erin is tossed back in time 14 years, when she finds her beloved Miss P murdered in her own home. Miss P was an avid fan of CSI and the science behind it. Her death is truly unexplained as to why anyone would want to harm her.

The suspect in the crime? A boy by the name of Journey Michael's who is the schools superstar basketball player. But, Journey claims that he has no motive for killing Miss P who was helping him in a project that I won't spoil. With her best friends Spam (not her real name) and Lysa, Erin tries to uncover answers even when the adults, including Rachel, and Victor, and the Sheriff, and the Detective in charge of the investigation, all warn her off.

Erin, Lysa and Spam also have a side business called Cheat Business. It's fair to say that the author definitely did her homework, or asked the right questions from the right people in regards to the collecting of DNA evidence. It is also fair to say that I spotted the villain early on in the story. You, as a reader, have to put your own clues down on paper and then follow them back to the person with the most to lose if this person ends up being caught by Erin. 

The relationships in this story are really solid. Yes, Rachel and Erin have some issues, but they are a team who have been inseparable for 14 years. I loved Erin's connection to Victor. Victor is a fun character who doesn't put Erin in a corner and tell her to behave or else. He slowly allows her to explain her ways and means of putting together clues, and gives suggestions at the right times throughout the story.

Overall, a solid start to the series which appears to be only 2 books.

#Review - Mahimata by Rati Mehrotra #Fantasy

Series: Asiana # 2
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Epic

A young female assassin must confront the man who slaughtered her family, risk her heart, and come to terms with her identity as a warrior and as a woman in this exciting fantasy from the author of Markswoman.

Mahimata is the second and final installment in the Asiana series by author Rati Mehrotra. Filled with terrific characters, expansive world-building, a tough heroine, a formidable hero, and thrilling action, Mahimata has everything fantasy readers want. The story continues where Markswoman left off. The series focuses on two main characters: Kyra a Markswoman from the Order of Kali which happens to be the oldest Order of Peace in Asiana, and Rustan, a Marksman from the Order of Khur, the only Order of Peace composed of men. 

Unlike the previous installment, Kyra and Rustan are on two separate courses that will see them parted for most of the story. In her duel with Tamsyn, the Order of Kali’s dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, Kyra emerged victorious. Yet, Tamsyn left her mark on the young assassin. Deeply wounded by Tamysn’s blade, Kyra struggles to recover and reclaim her old life. Her return to the caves of Kali is bittersweet, for she no longer feels as though she belongs. Her beloved teacher is dead and she's about to get lifted to a prestigious position.

Her best friend Nineth is missing. Gone, too, is Rustan, the Marksman who helped her train for the duel--and became far more than a teacher and friend. Kyra must not only take on the leadership role of her Order, but she must also work with the remaining Orders of Peace (Valavan, Zorya, Matsu, and Khur) in order to fight back against the man who is responsible for the slaughter of her entire family. She also forms an unlikely alliance with the wyr-wolves who the Orders have been hunting to near extinction. Kyra has a singular goal of removing all Kalashiks from the world.

Rustan, too, has changed. Shaken by his feelings for Kyra and the truth about his parentage, Rustan exiles himself from the Order of Khur and sets off on a quest for answers. His odyssey leads him to the descendants of an ancient sect tied to the alien Ones. They promise to share their knowledge of Asiana’s past if Rustan will apprentice himself to them. To do so, though, means he must renounce his Order—and forsake Kyra. I am just going to come out and say that Kyra's story was a whole lot more fun to read about. Rustan has major issues.

In the end, I was a bit thrown off by the ending. I do believe that there are things that need to be said without actually spoiling what happened. That being said, I liked the action of this story. I liked seeing a different side of Kyra. She becomes much stronger and much more open to working with others who don't have the same goals. It was nice to see the friends, Kyra, Elena, Nineth, and yes, even Akassa back together again even if it was for a brief time in the story.

Markswoman and Mahimata are catnip for sci fi and fantasy authors who bring a great element of action to their stories, such as Sarah Beth Durst, S. A. Chakraborty, Marie Lu, and Sabaa Tahir, and are ideal for fans of authors such as Emily R. King, who mix magic and romance brilliantly.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

#Review - Between the Lies by Michelle Adams #Thrillers

Series: Standalone
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Publisher
Genre: Thrillers / Psychological

She believes what she’s been told. But the truth is a whole ’nother story. . .

I can’t recall the life I had before the accident. So for now I have to make do with this place, these people. This version of myself. Chloe. Whoever that is…
She wakes up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. No idea who the people are who call themselves her family. No sense of who she is—or was. But once Chloe Daniels returns to her childhood home, she slowly starts to piece together the details of her life. A house by the sea. A successful career. The car crash that caused her to lose it all...

Chloe’s loved ones tell her that they want what’s best for her. So does her therapist. But how can she put her trust in those she does not know? And why are certain details from others’ stories about who Chloe is, and what really happened to her, not adding up? Chloe has a deep, visceral sense that someone is lying to her, that there is a world of dark secrets she cannot access—yet. The person she used to be may be gone. But the new Chloe will stop at nothing in her quest to find the truth...even if it kills her.

A page-turning novel of psychological suspense, Between the Lies will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax.

Michelle Adams Between the Lines asks the question, what would you do if you woke up in a hospital with no memories of who you are, how you got here, or if the people around you are actually who they claim to be? Are they really trying to help you, or could something even more sinister be going on? Are there things going on that we should be looking for as the author slowly unravels Chloe Daniel's life before and after her accident, or is it all an attempt to send you down a road with no answers? 

As Chloe recovers from the trauma, both physically and mentally, she starts to remember bits and pieces of her life, faded memories of events and people, as well as glimpses into the person she was before the accident. She knows little about her past - just that she was in a serious car accident that took the life of her son, a car accident still under investigation by the police. Her father claims he only wants to help her, but yet he uses some treatment options that one could say is highly unprofessional. 

No spoiler by saying that no one should go through what Chloe does in regards to her so called family. Treated like a prisoner supposedly in her own home, heartbroken to learn that she lost her son during the accident, Chloe begins her own road to recovery and answers. As Chloe gets closer to uncovering the truth, it might also mean putting herself back in harm’s way. Was it really an accident? Can she really trust the parents who seem so intent on changing the narrative to what they want her to believe about her life before the crash? Can she trust the doctor who enters her life and seems to have a familiarity to him?

This isn't the first story I've read where the character wakes up in the hospital without any memories of who they were before the accident, probably won't be the last. I would never wish this on anyone, let alone those who have crossed my path and stabbed me in the back. It's horrible to watch Chloe struggle with regaining parts of her lost, including a son who she obviously loved very much. But, Chloe isn't a likable character and no, I won't discuss why for this would mean spoiling part of the story. Let's just say that sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes, those mistakes come back to haunt you.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

#Review - Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: The Bloodleaf Trilogy# 1
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: March 12, 2019
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Edelweiss/Publisher
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Epic

A roar of a dark and luscious epic fantasy that’s layered with heady romance, bloodthirsty magic, and ghostly intrigue—an absolutely wicked delight.

Princess Aurelia is a prisoner to her crown and the heir that nobody wants. Surrounded by spirits and banned from using her blood-magic, Aurelia flees her country after a devastating assassination attempt. To escape her fate, Aurelia disguises herself as a commoner in a new land and discovers a happiness her crown has never allowed. As she forges new bonds and perfects her magic, she begins to fall for a man who is forbidden to rule beside her. But the ghosts that haunt Aurelia refuse to abandon her, and she finds herself succumbing to their call as they expose a nefarious plot that only she can defeat. Will she be forced to choose between the weight of the crown and the freedom of her new life?

Bloodleaf is the first installment in author Crystal Smith's trilogy by the same name. In the vein of The Hazel Wood, Anna Dressed in Blood, and The Cruel Prince, Bloodleaf is deliciously creepy and laced with a rock 'n roll edge that will haunt you late into the night. So, after reviewing several sources, Bloodleaf is apparently a retelling of a story called The Goose Girl, a set of German fairy tales from the Grimm Brother tales.

17-year old Aurelia is a princess in the land of Renalt. Being arrested, tried, and publicly executed is a real fear of hers. Continued calls for Aurelia to be investigated by the Tribunal linger hang over her head every day. People are truly afraid of Aurelia because she is the first female born to the crown in hundreds of years, and the first not to be given away. Aurelia has magic in her blood. Magic that if caught, will end in tragedy. 

Everyone in Renault, even the royal family, lives in fear of the Tribunal, a shady organization that apparently has jurisdiction over witches and seems to possess absolute power. The public is on the side of the Tribunal (witches = bad), so the fact that Aurelia is rumored to be a witch isn’t exactly great. What's worse is that Aurelia really is a blood mage - she can see spirits of the dead and do magic with her blood. 

After an assassination attempt almost kills her, and the Tribunal attempts a coup against the Royal Family, Aurelia is forced to flee her home. But, that's only the beginning. She's soon betrayed by so called friends and has to make her way to Achleva under an assumed name where an impostor has taken her place. There she meets new friends and confronts the new threat facing the kingdom: a wicked mage is destroying the magical wall that protects Achleva, one murder at a time.

With Zan by her side, Aurelia must find a way to save her brother, stop whatever plans her betrayer has in mind, and learn the true powers of her blood magic before it is too late to stop a cataclysm. I am actually up in the air of my overall assessment about Aurelia. In the beginning, she has no restraint in getting into trouble. She doesn't care about her safety as she watches a hanging take place. In the later part of this book, she does show some remarkable character growth, and that is why I will most likely continue with this series. 

The gallows had been erected in the shadow of the clock tower, partly so that the spectators could witness the executions without the nuisance of sun in their eyes, and partly so that the Tribunal could keep its killings on precise schedule. Order in all things, that was the Tribunal’s motto.
I held my cloak tight around my chin, keeping my head down as the crowd converged in the square beneath the clock tower. It was a chilly morning; breath was billowing from my mouth in wispy clouds that rose and disappeared into the fog. I scanned right and left from under my hood, wary.
“Good day for a hanging,” a man next to me drawled in a conversational tone.
I glanced quickly away, unable to meet his eyes for fear he might notice mine. It wasn’t often that a person was determined to be a witch by such a trivial trait as the color of her eyes, but it wasn’t unprecedented.
A murmur rippled across the crowd as two women were prodded up the stairs onto the platform. Accused witches, both of them. The first woman’s shackled hands shook so hard, I could hear the clink of her chains from my distant spot in the throng. The second, a younger woman with a sad face and stooped shoulders, was perfectly still. They were both dressed in rags, dirt caking their sallow cheeks and clinging to their matted hair. They’d probably been isolated and starved for days, long enough to turn them desperate and feral. It was a calculated tactic; if the accused witches seemed subhuman and unhinged onstage, it not only quelled the reservations of the scrupulous few who might doubt the Tribunal’s practices, but it also made for a more entertaining show.
The man who’d spoken to me sidled in closer. “Fantastic fun, these hangings. Wouldn’t you agree?”
I tried to ignore him, but he leaned in, repeating quietly, “Wouldn’t you agree, Princess?
Startled, I found myself staring into a pair of purposeful, umber-colored eyes flanked by an unsmiling mouth and a cocked eyebrow.
“Kellan,” I said in a heated whisper. “What are you doing here?”
He set his jaw, shadows collecting in the hollows beneath his copper-brown cheekbones. “As I am supposed to be guarding you, perhaps you can tell me what you are doing here and answer my question and yours at the same time.”
“I wanted to get out.”
Out? Out to this? All right, let’s go.” He made a grab for my elbow, but I snapped it back.
“If you drag me away now, it will cause a scene. Is that what you want? To draw attention to me?”
Kellan’s mouth twisted. He had been appointed as a lieutenant to the royal family’s regiment at fifteen and assigned as my personal guard at seventeen. Now twenty, he was long since oath-bound to protect me. And he knew the only thing more hazardous to my health than standing in the middle of a crowd of agitated witch haters would be alerting them to my presence. Though it pained him to have to do so, he relented. “Why do you even want to be here, Aurelia? How can this possibly be good for you?”
I didn’t have a reasonable answer for him, so I didn’t reply. Instead, I nervously fiddled with the charm bracelet at my gloved wrist; it was the last gift I’d ever received from my late father, and wearing it always had a soothing effect on me. And I needed serenity as the black-clad executioner arrived, followed by a Tribunal cleric who announced that the great Magistrate Toris de Lena was taking the stage to officiate.
Toris was a commanding presence in his starched collar and stiff black Tribunal coat. He paced in front of us, holding a copy of the Founder’s Book of Commands to his chest, the very picture of somber regret.
“Brothers and sisters,” he began. “It is with great sadness we gather today. We have before us Madams Mabel Lawrence Doyle and Hilda Everett Gable. Both have been accused of practicing arcane arts, and both have been tried and found guilty by fair tribunal.” Around his neck hung a vial of red liquid. He raised it so all could see. “I am Magistrate Toris de Lena, bearer of the blood of the Founder, and I have been selected to preside over these proceedings.”
“I don’t understand,” Kellan was saying quietly by my ear. “Is this some challenge you’ve put to yourself? Come stand in the midst of your enemies? Face your fears?”
My eyebrows knitted together. Being arrested and tried and publicly executed was a very acute fear of mine, but it was only one black horse in my vast stable of nightmares.
“My people are not my enemies,” I insisted even as a fist-pumping chant burgeoned around me: Let them swing! Let them swing!
Right then I saw a dim shadow pass in front of the younger lady—?Mabel—?and pause next to her. The shadow flickered at her feet, gathering form from the morning mist until it became starkly clear. The air grew even colder in the square as the spirit pulled heat and energy into his cloudy form. It was a young boy, no more than seven. He clung to the skirt of the shackled woman.
No one touched him. No one even looked his way. I was likely the only one who could see him. But Mabel knew he was there, and her face shone with something I could not name: perhaps pain, perhaps joy, perhaps relief.
“I know that woman,” Kellan whispered. “Her husband used to come through Greythorne, selling books, at least two or three times a season. He died last year, one of those who caught that awful fever that went around the first part of winter. Him and a son, too, I think.”
I knew Mabel too, but I couldn’t risk telling Kellan that.
The tower clock showed it only a minute away from the hour, and Toris’s florid speech was winding down. “It is your time to speak,” he said to the women as the executioner situated a rope over their heads and around their throats. “Madam Mabel Lawrence Doyle, you have been tried and found guilty by fair Tribunal for the distribution of illicit texts and for attempting to raise the dead through use of magic and witchcraft, in defiance of our Book of Commands. By the blood of the Founder, you have been condemned to die. Say your last words.”
I stiffened, waiting for her to point a finger at me, to call me by name. To bargain for her life with mine.
Instead she said, “I am at peace; I have no regret.” And she lifted her face to the sky.
A familiar scent drifted around me: roses, though it was too early in the season for them. I knew what it meant, but when I looked right and left, I saw no sign of her. The Harbinger.
Toris turned to the second lady, whose whole body was shaking violently. “Hilda Everett Gable, you have been tried and found guilty by fair Tribunal for attempting to use witchcraft to harm your son’s wife, in defiance of our Book of Commands. By the blood of the Founder, you have been condemned to die. Say your last words.”
“I’m innocent!” Her voice rang out. “I did nothing! She lied, I tell you! She lied!” Hilda pointed her bound, shuddering hands at a woman near the front of the audience. “You liar! You liar! You’ll pay for what you’ve done! You’ll—?”
The clock struck the hour, and the bell reverberated across the multitude. Toris bowed his head and pronounced over the sound, “Nihil nunc salvet te.” Nothing can save you now. Then he gave a nod to the executioner, and the floor dropped out from beneath the women. I let out a cry, and Kellan pulled me into his shoulder to muffle it.
The bell tolled nine times and fell silent. Their feet were still twitching.
Kellan’s voice was gentler now. “I don’t know what you thought you’d see here.” He tried to turn me away to protect me from it, but I twisted from his grasp. Even though being near a transition from life to death always made my stomach turn, I had to bear witness. I had to see.
Mabel’s body had gone completely still now, but the air around her shimmered. It was a strange thing to watch a soul extricate itself from its body, slipping out from the grotesque shell the way a fine lady might step from a muddied, cast-off cloak. When she emerged, she found her son waiting and she went to him. In the instant they touched, they were gone, moving from borderland into whatever lay beyond, out of my sight.
It took longer for Hilda to die. She gagged and spluttered, her eyes bulging from their sockets. When it did happen, it was an ugly thing. Her soul tore itself from its body with what would have been a snarl, if there had been any sound. Hilda’s specter lunged at the woman she’d pointed at in the crowd, but the woman did not seem to notice. Her attention was on the sloppy sack of bones swaying at the end of the gallows rope.
“Would you like to claim your mother-in-law’s body?” Toris asked the woman.
“No,” she said emphatically. “Burn it.” And Hilda’s ghost silently screamed, dragging her intangible nails across her daughter-in-law’s face. The woman paled and put her hand to her cheek. I wondered if Hilda’s rage had given her spirit enough energy to exert
I didn’t envy the daughter-in-law. Hilda would probably remain in the borderland indefinitely, following her betrayer, silently screaming, clouding the air around with her hate. I’d seen it happen before.
“Let’s go, Aurelia,” Kellan said. He used my name instead of my title; he was becoming distressed.
The crowd was starting to get raucous, pushing forward as the bodies were dragged down from the stage. Someone next to me gave me a hard shove, and I stumbled forward toward the cobblestones, putting my hands out to catch my fall but coming down hard onto my wrist instead. I wasn’t down for long, though; Kellan was already lifting me to my feet, his arms circling me like a protective cage as he forced our way out of the mob.
My hand went to my empty wrist. “My bracelet!” I cried, straining to look over my shoulder at the place where I’d fallen, though the ground could no longer be seen through the mesh of bodies. “It must have broken when I fell—?”
“Forget about it,” Kellan said firmly but kindly—?he knew how important it was to me. “It’s gone. We have to go.
I slipped from his grasp and turned back into the crowd with my eyes on the ground, pushing when I was pushed and shoving when I was shoved, hoping for any glimpse of my bracelet. But Kellan was right; it was well and truly gone. He reached me again and this time held fast, but I didn’t want to fight him anymore; the whistles had begun to blow. Within minutes the Tribunal’s clerics would be marching on the gathering, rounding up any who seemed to lack the requisite enthusiasm for the cause. There were two new vacancies in the Tribunal’s cells, and they were never left empty for long.
It wasn’t more than an hour later when I found myself standing in the beam of my mother’s antechamber skylight, staring at the half-finished confection of ivory gossamer and minute, sparkling crystals—?thousands of them—?that would soon become my wedding dress. It would be the most extravagant costume I’d ever worn in all my seventeen years; the Tribunal’s influence in Renalt extended even to fashion. Clothing was meant to reflect the ideals of modesty, simplicity, and austerity. The only allowable exceptions were marriages and funerals. Celebration was reserved for the events that curtailed one’s opportunities to sin.
The dress was my mother’s wedding gift to me, every tiny stitch done by her own hand.
I touched the lace of the one finished sleeve and marveled at its fineness before reminding myself how unhappy I would be the day I had to wear it. Every day brought the occasion closer and closer. Set for Beltane, the first day of Quintus, my wedding was now little more than six weeks away and looming large on the horizon.
Sighing, I straightened and went through the door into the next room, ready for battle.
My mother was pacing on the other side of her table, skirts rustling with each restless stride. Our family’s eldest and closest adviser, Onal, sat straight-backed in one of the parlor’s less comfortable chairs, sipping her tea with pinched brown lips and a carefully cultivated disdain. At the sound of the door, my mother’s blue eyes whipped toward me, all of her anxiety loosed at once, like the snap of a bowstring.
“Aurelia!” She used my name like an epithet. Onal took another slow sip of her tea.
I thrust my hands into my pockets. The gesture was supposed to make me look sheepish and repentant, of which I was neither. But this whole thing would be over faster if Mother thought I was remorseful.
“You went to town alone this morning? Have you lost your mind?” She lifted a stack of papers and shook them at me. “These are the letters I’ve received this week—?this week!—?that call for you to be investigated by the Tribunal. Over there”—?she pointed to a separate pile of paper, two inches high—?“are the possible threats against you that my informants have gathered since the beginning of this month. And here”—?she pulled open a drawer—?“are the more poetic and fanatical predictions of your demise we’ve been sent since the beginning of this year. Let me read one to you, shall I? Let’s see . . . all right. This one contains a very detailed methodology of how to determine if you’re a witch. It involves a sharp knife and a thorough examination of the underside of your skin.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her about the severed kitten’s head I’d found in my closet last week, laid out alongside a poorly scrawled country prayer to ward against witches; or the red x’s that were scratched on the underside of my favorite saddle, an old hex meant to make a horse go mad and turn on its rider. I didn’t need to be reminded of how much I was hated. I knew it better than she did. “They want to peel my skin off?” I asked lightly. “Is that all?”
“And burn it,” Onal supplied from behind her teacup.
“One week until you leave,” Mother snapped. “Can’t you manage to stay out of trouble until then? I’m sure when you’re queen in Achleva you’ll be able to come and go as you please. You can go into the city and do . . . whatever it was you went to do today.”
“I went to a hanging.”
“Stars save me. A hanging? It’s like you want the Tribunal to come after you. We’re very lucky we have Toris there on the inside.”
“Very lucky,” I echoed. She might think Toris, the widowed husband of her favorite cousin, was the crown’s trusted ally keeping the Tribunal in check from within, but I’d never be convinced that he didn’t enjoy the part he played up there on the gallows stand.
“Aurelia,” she said, taking stock of me, head to toe. I knew what she saw: a tangle of pale hair and eyes that should have been blue but weren’t, not quite, erring more on the side of silver. Outside of those attributes, I was not particularly unpleasant-looking, but my peculiar traits and tendencies made me stand out, made me strange. And Renaltans were suspicious enough about me simply because I existed.
I was the first Renaltan princess born to the crown in nearly two centuries—?at least, the first who hadn’t been given away in secret at the hour of her birth. It was my duty to fulfill the treaty that had ended the centuries-long war between our country and Achleva by marrying Achleva’s next heir. For 176 years our people believed that the lack of girls born to the royal family was a sign that we were never to truly align ourselves with the filthy, hedonistic Achlevans. Proof of our moral superiority. My birth shook their faith in the monarchy, the king and queen who had the gall to first have a daughter and then keep her.
Sometimes I agreed with them.
A knock at the door broke the tense quiet. Mother said, “Bring him in, Sir Greythorne.”
Kellan came through first, looking around and then giving a wave behind him.
A man stepped out from behind Kellan. He was dressed in crushed velvet the color of a twilit sky, with a golden sash crossing his chest and fastened by a brooch in the shape of a three-pointed knot. In his ear winked a rakish ruby stud; on his finger shone a silver signet depicting a spread-winged raven. He had a shock of gleaming black hair, untouched by the silver that should have accompanied his age. Startlingly colorful, he was like a lone stained-glass window in a world made up of plain leaded panes.
He was an Achlevan.

Monday, March 25, 2019

#Review - A Parliament of Bodies by Marshall Ryan Maresca (#Urban #Fantasy)

Series: The Maradaine Constabulary #3
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Publisher: DAW
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Urban

Mixing high fantasy and mystery, the third book in the Maradaine Constabulary series follows Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling as they track down a dangerous murderer.

The city of Maradaine is vexed by the Gearbox Murders: a series of gruesome deaths orchestrated by a twisted mechanical genius. With no motive and no pattern, Inspectors Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling—the retired spy and untrained mage—are at a loss to find a meaningful lead in the case. At least, until the killer makes his most audacious exhibit yet: over a dozen victims in a clockwork deathtrap on the floor of the Druth Parliament.

The crime scene is a madhouse, and political forces conspire to grind their investigation to a halt. The King’s Marshals claim jurisdiction of the case, corruption in the Constabulary thwarts their efforts, and a special Inquest threatens to end Minox’s career completely. Their only ally is Dayne Heldrin, a provisional member of the Tarian Order, elite warriors trained in the art of protection. But Dayne’s connection to the Gearbox Murders casts suspicion on his motives, as he might be obsessed with a phantom figure he believes is responsible.

While Satrine and Minox struggle to stop the Gearbox from claiming even more victims, the grinding gears of injustice might keep them from ever solving these murders, and threaten to dismantle their partnership forever. 

A Parliament of Bodies is the third installment in author Marshall Ryan Maresca's The Maradaine Constabulary series. The Maradaine Constabulary series unveils a different layer of the city, on the side of the law, as opposed to the criminal underbelly in the Maradaine novels and Streets of Maradaine. This series features Satrine Rainey and Minox Welling, two detectives in the constabulary who protect the city of Maradaine from crime. 

I should probably warn readers: you are encouraged to read The Way of the Shield which is a brand new series, but features characters that you WILL see in this book. As I say that, the story opens with Dayne Heldrin who spent 2 years in Lacanja before returning in The Way of the Shield. He is now in sort of another exile as the liaison between the government, King's Marshal's and the Taran Order. Dayne has been plagued by one particular character since Lacanja, and now that character seems to have followed him back to Maradaine. 

Dayne knows that Inspectors Minox Welling and Satrine Rainey are in charge of the Gearbox Killer investigation. So, when shit really truly hits the fan, it is Satrine and Minox that are called in to help solve and uncover who the Gearbox Killer is and what he wants. If you are a reader of this series, you know that Satrine and Minox's partnership has been anything but smooth. Satrine is generally hated by almost everyone, including Minox own family, and Minox is under investigation for being an untrained Mage who also works for the Constabulary. 

So, while Satrine and Minox are investigating the Gearbox Killer and his victims, Minox must come to a realization that he might have to rethink his future. Minox, Satrine, Dayne, Jerinne also find themselves being roadblocked at every turn which makes their jobs even harder. There are some other characters that I have come to follow closely, including Corrie Welling who was promoted to Sergeant and now works for the Special Response Squad. She, at least, gives Satrine the benefit of the doubt that she can handle herself. 

After all, Satrine spent years working for Druth Intelligence and is trying to take care of an invalid husband and two daughters. I really wish, however, that the author would do a backstory telling Satrine's story when she was at Druth since a surprise was revealed in this story and things are getting very, very interesting. No Spoilers! This is a story that is really character driven. I've already mentioned Dayne, but there is also Jerinne Fendall who is a 3rd year initiate Tarian Knight who has worked alongside Dayne. 

I want to make something clear. I love the addition of Dayne and Jerinne. They added a depth that the story probably didn't need, but it was nice to see Satrine and Minox getting allies that they can trust. I mentioned that the ending broke my heart and I am even more befuddled that I am going to have to wait a bit longer until we get another book in this series. I am also curious about Minox's relationship with Joshea, another untrained Mage who seems to be getting more and more involved.

So, in closing, and for those keeping track:  

The Shield of the People releases later this year; 
The Fenmere Job (Streets of Maradaine) which means the return of Asti & Verci along with the Thorn is 2020. 
People of the City (2020) is apparently a book that is going to bring all of the author's characters from all of the authors series together to solve the current situation that is subtly upturning everyone's life upside down. I hope! According to the author's web page, this will be the end of Phase I. 

If you are a fan of mixing high fantasy with mystery, then you should be reading this series!

Chapter 1

Satrine Rainey would never have guessed that she would make a habit of waking up before sunrise to go to Absolution at Saint Limarre’s Church. In her nearly forty years, she hadn’t ever bothered with the ritual. Her soul was probably beyond salvation; she had accepted that. But she needed to talk, and she was filled with secrets too terrible to hold in, but too dangerous to entrust to anyone.

Anyone but Sister Alana, under the silence guaranteed by the rite of Absolution. Sister Alana would never tell her secrets. The ritual was taken very seriously by both the government and the church, so nothing said under Absolution could ever be used in persecution or prosecution.

Even the secrets of a not-so-former spy turned Constabulary Inspector.

Of course, Sister Alana was more than just a Cloistress of the Blue in the Church of Druthal. She was an old friend-the only person left from Satrine’s childhood on the streets of Inemar who could be called that. Most others from those days were dead, jailed, or wasted. Hardly any of them were someone she would have considered a friend even back then. Her own mother-that waste of flesh named Berana Carthas-had abandoned her when she was twelve. Just left to live with some man who didn’t want to deal with a daughter.

Sister Alana was the only person who knew everything about who she was, who she had to become, and who she was now.

She knew Satrine well enough to be sitting on the back steps of Saint Limarre’s, looking out at the small burial field behind the church, waiting with pastries and two cups of tea.

“I didn’t tell you I was coming today,” Satrine said as she walked up.

“Didn’t need to,” Sister Alana said, standing up and embracing Satrine. “I saw last night’s newssheets. Tea?”

“It seems too hot for tea.” It was now autumn, but the sweltering summer heat still hadn’t broken. Even now, before the sun had properly showed itself over the towers of East Maradaine, the heat was oppressive. For the past few months Satrine had forsaken the traditional coat of a Constabulary officer, usually wearing just her shirtsleeves and inspector’s vest.

“You’ll drink it anyway,” Sister Alana said, sitting back down on the steps. She was right. Satrine may have made a habit of seeing Sister Alana early in the morning, but she wasn’t accustomed to it. Most nights she barely managed to sleep at all. She took the tea and sat next to the cloistress. “How was your Saint Helsen’s Day?”

The fact that yesterday had technically been a holiday-both the equinox and a Saint Day-had barely registered on Satrine. She worked the whole day, and there was no particular observance she would make to Saint Helsen. She didn’t even know Saint Helsen’s story.

And in thinking that, it came to her, courtesy of her telepathically induced education. Saint Helsen, Savior of Harvests. The Sickle-Bearing Pilgrim.

“It was work. And you know that.”

“Bless those whose work keeps us safe.”

At least last night she went home at a reasonable hour. She was able to eat dinner with Rian and Caribet, spend time taking care of Loren. She hadn’t realized how much Rian had sprouted over the summer. Her eldest daughter was now almost as tall as she was, and looked far older than her nearly fifteen years. Her summer working the glove counter at Henson’s Majestic store had done wonders for the girl’s maturity. And the money helped. For the first time since Loren’s accident, it didn’t feel like they were just scraping by each day.

“The girls go back to school today,” Satrine said idly.

“You aren’t here to chat about the girls.”

“No,” Satrine said.

Sister Alana closed her eyes for a moment. “May our voices only be heard by God and the saints, for our words are for no one else.”

“Thank you,” Satrine said. “So what did you read in the newssheets?”

“Many things, most of which probably had nothing to do with you and yours.”

“Aventil had another street war last night. Nine dead, including two constables.”

“Aventil isn’t supposed to be your problem.”

“I’m in the Grand Inspection Unit now,” Satrine said. “The whole city is technically my problem.” In truth, in the months since they had launched the GIU, it had been a steep learning curve of what the new unit meant. They were supposed to handle the big cases, the ones that had a wider scope than any one precinct. What it really meant was fighting with stationhouse captains, officers, and patrolmen over jurisdiction and resources.

“You’ve been sweating over Aventil for the past few weeks.”

“Why shouldn’t I? Welling and I work one case, and right after that, gang wars explode. Two of the gangs are determined to destroy each other, another splinters into two factions, and I just wonder…”

“If you could have stopped it then?” Sister Alana sighed. “Please, Satrine. Aventil has been a nightmare since we were girls. You couldn’t have saved it. You definitely didn’t start it.”

“And then there’s the new case. Cases.”

“The children?”

“No, that one is on Mirrell and Kellman.”

“I thought you and Minox were working it.”

Satrine sighed. Minox had pushed the idea that a series of missing children-mostly street rat kids like she and Sister Alana had been when they were Tricky Trini and Lannie Coar-were part of a larger case that warranted deeper investigation. Evidence had connected those missing children to a handful of other cases involving children from working-class families, and even a few from minor nobility. Minox had put the pieces together-notably the similar witness reports from all over the city-to show that there was some sort of larger conspiracy to kidnap children. Though for what, he still had no idea. Satrine suspected another fighting ring, or something even more disturbing.

Once Minox had presented his evidence to Captain Cinellan, the case got a lot more notice. That meant it wasn’t going to be handled by the inspectors who handled “the strange ones.” Not by Satrine Rainey, who was still loathed throughout the city Constabulary for faking her way to an Inspector’s rank with forged orders, or by Minox Welling, the Uncircled mage who still had the threat of Inquiry hovering over his head. So the pile of files for the missing children went to Mirrell and Kellman. Satrine didn’t understand why-they weren’t very inquisitive or investigative. A delicate case that involved a lot of moving parts, that was not their forte.

“No, we’re working the Gearbox Murders. That’s what the gaudier newssheets are calling it.”

“Yes,” Sister Alana said. “I rather like the gaudy newssheets. There’s something honest about the level of viscera they commit to.”

“You’re talking about the ones with the drawings.” Satrine picked up a pastry. She was going to need something in her system for this.

“I really have to ask,” Alana said, picking up one of the newssheets she had stacked next to the steps. “These contraptions you find the victims in. They aren’t actually this elaborate, are they?”

Satrine took the paper from her. The sketch showed a monstrosity of machinery, with gears and blades and some poor woman caught in the thing while bits of her were being sliced off. As gruesome as it was, there was also an almost comical aspect to it, as the machinery also had strings, candles, mice in wheels, and a whole assortment of elements that were purely the artist’s imagination.

“Nothing like that,” Satrine said. “Most of the time we never even saw the machine…. I’ll spare you the gore. There were five deaths-that we know of-before we realized they were connected. Now seven.”

“Who are they?”

“Victims from every part of the city, each found in a different part of the city. No rhyme or reason behind it. Men, women, old, young, rich, poor.”


“Not yet. But…” She hesitated to voice her thoughts.

“Go ahead.”

“Whoever is doing this, they’ve got resources. They’ve got time. And they want attention. If it isn’t nobility, or at least someone with money and influence, I’ll eat my vest.”

“And this theory of yours has met with resistance?”

Sister Alana hit on the point. “Minox doesn’t think so. He thinks this is someone with a message. There’s a grand scheme to it.”

“A grand scheme for what?”

“He’s not sure. He can’t figure out the message.”

“And so his theory holds more credence than yours why? After all, the theories don’t exclude each other.”

“It doesn’t, just…” Satrine sighed, taking a bite of the pastry. “When he gets his hunches, he just digs into them like a crab on the beach.”

“Did he spend the night in the stationhouse?”

“Probably,” Satrine said. “If I were to predict-”

Before Satrine could finish that thought, the back doors of the church burst open, and a young blond woman in nightclothes stormed out, swinging a great candlestick like a sword. “Betrayal! Beware the betrayal and escape the darkness!”

Satrine was on her feet, instinctively grabbing her handstick, but Sister Alana had already reacted. In swift motion, she ducked the swinging candlestick, popped back up, and knocked the blond woman in the face with a perfect punch.

The blond woman dropped to the ground, and then looked around rather confused.

“Sister Alana,” she said curtly. “Why am I in the back garden in my sleeping attire?”

“You were having one of your spells again, Sister Myriem,” Sister Alana said. “Go inside and clean yourself off. I’ll come to check on you shortly.”

Sister Myriem stood up and dusted herself off, giving Satrine a polite nod before returning inside the church.

“She’s still a problem?”

“Not for long,” Alana said with a heavy sigh. “Or at least, not mine. She’s going to be transferred to Saint Bridget’s. Not my doing. The other cloistresses here are terrified of her.”


“This fit was a sedate one for her,” Alana said. “In a few weeks, she’ll be gone. May the saints forgive me, but I will sleep easier.”

“I wish I could.” Sleep hadn’t been easy…all summer, frankly. Between the rigors of the job and the strain of caring for her husband, it had already been hard enough. The words a Lyranan spy had whispered in her ear had set her thoughts spinning every night. “You’re working with a traitor.”

Sister Myriem screaming “Betrayal” in her fit didn’t help. Something about that young woman was just unnerving. She didn’t blame Alana for wanting to be rid of her.

Alana guessed her thoughts. “Do you honestly suspect Minox is a traitor of some sort? In collusion with corruption?”

“Not at all,” Satrine said. “But I can’t shake the feeling. Pra Yikenj spoke with…conviction. And she had proven insightful before.” Satrine’s first encounter with Pra Yikenj had been a little over fifteen years before, when the spy had noticed Satrine was pregnant before Satrine had.

“She wanted to rattle you.” Alana glanced about furtively. “And your other masters? What do they think?”

“Druth Intelligence isn’t telling me anything new, other than to remind me that there’s some sort of corruption in the Constabulary that they worry about. Which…isn’t useful to tell me.”

“So what will you do today?”

Satrine was about to answer, when she heard the pounding of feet and a wheezing breath that was oddly familiar. “I think I’m about to get summoned to the stationhouse.”

And then Phillen Hace, newly minted Senior Page in the Constabulary, raced into the churchyard. “Inspector Rainey.”

“Phillen,” Satrine said calmly, picking up her tea and sipping it. “Did Inspector Welling send you in search of me?”

“Yes,” Phillen said.

“And did he presume to tell you to find me here?”

Phillen looked guilty for a moment. “Yes.”

“Has he been there all night?”

“Near as I can tell, ma’am. I mean, I slept.”

“Fine. Be with you in a moment.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said with a bit of a salute. He gave a nod to Alana. “Begging your pardon for interruption, your glory.”

“Always, son.” As Phillen went to the street, Alana sighed and looked at Satrine. “Never the time we need.”

“Come to the house sometime,” Satrine said. “I would love you to meet the girls.”

“I’ll try. I don’t get much chance to cross the river.”

Satrine let Sister Alana embrace her one more time and went off to where Phillen was waiting patiently for her.

A thought crossed her mind. “You do go home sometimes, yes?” She had never thought to ask the boy that. He always seemed available when Welling sent him, at any hour.

“No point, ma’am. Ain’t had a home for a year, save the stationhouse. And that’s the best year I’ve had.”

“What about your mother?” Satrine asked. “You’ve mentioned her before.”

“I have, indeed,” he said. “That year I brought up? It’s been the year she’s been in the Quarry for theft and grift.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. She knew he had no fondness for his mother-she understood that all too well-but she also understood it wasn’t easy to feel nothing for one’s mother.

“Don’t be,” he said. “I’m the one who got her nabbed and ironed.”

“How long does she have left to serve?”

“Five days,” Phillen said as they approached the stationhouse. “It should be interesting.”

“Let me know if there’s anything you need,” Satrine said. Phillen nodded and dashed off. She steeled herself and went into the stationhouse. There was surely about to be some form of aggression or difficulty facing her, from the patrolmen or the desk sergeants, or most likely Miss Nyla Pyle, the floor clerk for the GIU who hated Satrine with cold fire. All that she was used to.

That was part of her every day.

Sleep had not been a priority for Minox Welling for the past few days, catching only a few hours in the stationhouse bunk to refresh his mind before returning to his analysis of the “Gearbox Killer” murders.

He had to confess, it was possibly the most singularly troubling case he had ever encountered in his time as an Inspector Third Class in the Maradaine Constabulary. He had never before seen a case where the murderer had no apparent motive beyond the thrill of killing. That, and the message Minox theorized was hidden within the murders.

“There is no thrill to killing,” Joshea Brondar said. “I spent three years in the army trying to avoid it if I could.”

“That’s you,” Minox said quietly. “Men like you and me are fundamentally decent. But to the deranged mind-which is clearly what we’re dealing with-there is.”

Joshea picked up one of the charcoal sketches of the crime scene. “Is it all right if I look closer at this?”

Friday, March 22, 2019

#Review - The Way of the Shield by Marshall Ryan Maresca #Urban #Fantasy

Series: Maradaine Elite #1
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: DAW
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Urban

The first novel in the Maradaine Elite series blends fast-paced high fantasy and political intrigue.

Dayne Heldrin always dreamed of being a member of the Tarian Order. In centuries past, the Elite Orders of Druthal were warriors that stood for order, justice, and the common people. But now, with constables, King’s Marshals, and a standing army, there is little need for such organizations, and the Tarian Order is one of the last remnants of this ancient legacy. Nevertheless, Dayne trained his body and mind, learned the arts of defense and fighting, to become a candidate for the Tarian Order.

When a failed rescue puts Dayne at fault for injuring the child of a powerful family, his future with the Tarians is in jeopardy. The Parliament controls the purse strings for the Order, and Dayne has angered the wrong members of Parliament. He returns to the capital city of Maradaine in shame, ready to be cast out of the Order when the period of his candidacy ends.

Dayne finds Maradaine in turmoil, as revolutions and dark conspiracies brew around him, threatening members of Parliament and common people alike. Dayne is drawn into the uproar, desperate not to have one more death or injury on his conscience, but the Order wants him to stay out of the situation. The city threatens to tear itself apart, and Dayne must decide between his own future and his vow to always stand between the helpless and harm.


The Way of the Shield is the first installment in author Marshal Ryan Maresca's Maradaine Elite series. The fourth series of the Maradaine universe tells the story of Dayne Heldrin, an elite warrior and protector of the city of Maradaine. This is a series set to the back drop of high fantasy, which means lots of characters, political machinations, with the introduction of the grand ten, as well as plenty of action, magic and adventure. 

The Maradaine Elite series introduces a new layer of the city—the aristocracy and powerful officials—building on the perspectives introduced in the other three Maradaine series for which you will see some crossovers with the other three series. In fact, Dayne and his colleague Jerinne Fendell appear in the next Maradaine Constabulary novel which I will be reviewing soon. This book shares the same setting with the authors other series – the sprawling metropolis of Maradaine, populated by mages, vigilantes, police investigators, criminals, cults, politicians – and now, knights.

For the first time, we are introduced to the Tarian Order, an order with a code who carry shields and swords. This group is one of the rare groups that hasn't been consumed by the navy, or the army, or the King's Marshal's. Dayne has spent 2 years in a place called Lacanja with his mentor. After a rescue goes sideways, Dayne is recalled to Maradaine where he discovers that his actions haven't been forgotten by the elite who choose who will gain a promotion to the next level. 

In the meantime, a group of wannabe Patriots decide to try to kill members of Parliament, and he and Jerinne, one of the initiates, become involved in trying to stop the plotters, whose real leaders are very high in status. Dayne is a solid character who puts others ahead of himself. He is also self-punishing and self-deprecating at times. In fact, due to his attempt at saving an innocent from a vindictive villain who readers will see again soon, there is a very dark possibility that he won't be granted a promotion to the position of Adept. 

This would weigh heavily on anyone in the same position hoping for a promotion to a position he is more than qualified for. Dayne also has an interesting relationship with the daughter of a Duke which we really need more background information on. Dayne isn't the only focus of this story. Jerinne Fendall is a 2 year initiate who gets caught up with Dayne's desire to see justice and to stop a serious threat towards those who serve in the Parliament. 

The most curious characters of this book are the Grand Ten. These people come from all walks of political life and have gathered together to create a conspiracy not like anything that Maradaine has seen in a very long while. There is a very deep corruption in this city where not everyone gets a fair slice of the freedom pie. It is so corrupt, that the same people are being elected over and over again while the King seems to be vacant from his duties. 

This is a world that doesn't allow women the opportunity to vote, but women like Jerinne are able to stand tall as an initiate and join Dayne is fighting for what's wrong, and not what's easy. The Way of the Shield is full of intrigue and interesting characters, I will be eager to see where the author takes his characters next. As I said before, Dayne and Jerinne also appear in the next Maradaine Constabulary series which I think you will find interesting. I like the crossover aspects giving each story a bit more depth and excitement.

Chapter 1
From the Trelan docks, on the northern bank of the great Maradaine River, the city of Maradaine smelled of tar, horses, burning oil, and sweat. The scent hit Dayne Heldrin like a wet sack, but he was amazed at how much he missed it, how immediately he recognized it. This wasn’t home, but it was very close to it. It was far more home than Lacanja had been for the past two years.
A small crowd gathered right at the foot of the gangplank, demanding the attention of the ship’s recent passengers. They shouted and waved, ready to sell trinkets or sweets. Several old men were waiting with rolling carts, anxious to help people with their trunks. Dayne had let most of his fellow passengers leave the ship first, partly from politeness, but mostly in the hope it would thin out this crowd.
“You, you!” one old man called out to him. “You need help, yes?”
Dayne was carrying his trunk over his shoulder. Heavy,but nothing he couldn’t handle. If this man tried to carry it, Dayne feared it would break his spine.
“No, thank you,” Dayne said and continued to walk by.
The man pulled his cart along as Dayne walked. “No, sir, please. Allow me.”
“I’ve got it.” Dayne knew this aggressive helpfulness was simply this man’s way of making of living. The old man’s arms were bare, wearing short sleeves in the warm spring sun. A faded tattoo of a ship’s helm and hash marks showed he had given twenty years to the Druth Navy. Given the man’s age, that had to have been during the war years.
“Then maybe you need a carriage? Or a room to rent?”
“No to both,” Dayne said. “I know where I’m staying, and it isn’t far.”
“Where’d you come from?”
“Oh, lovely city,” the old man said. “Tell you what, I should have gone there when my tour ended. Could have gone to any city on the coast, and I chose here. Stupid mistake.”
“I didn’t care for it,” Dayne said. That was an understatement. Enough misery and failure had befallen him in his two years in Lacanja to last a lifetime.
A pair of newsboys came up to Dayne as well, holding out newssheets from rival presses.
“Where’d you come from, mister?”
“Why you got a shield, mister?”
“You want to know what’s going on, mister?”
“That a real sword, mister?”
“Off, scads,” the old man said. “The man’s a Tarian Knight. Don’t you know anything?” He then snarled, and the boys ran off.
“Tarian Knight” was not the proper term, even if he had been an Adept or Master in the Order. It was a common mistake that Dayne wasn’t going to bother to correct. Instead he handed a half-tick coin to the old sailor, and pointed to the small group of men standing on a low crate holding up a crude wooden placard. “The True Line Lives” was painted in blue letters.“I want to know what that’s about.”
“Foolishness,” the old man said, taking the coin. “How long’ve you been gone?”
“Two years.”
“This doesn’t make it down south?”
“First I’ve seen it.”
The old man chuckled. “That’s comforting. The stupid hasn’t infected the rest of the country.”
“Is it dissent against the throne?”
“Against the king, not the throne, to hear those folk. Their whole point—I’m just telling you what they say, I think it’s bilge.” There was something in his tone that was a bit too apologetic, like he was telling Dayne what he thought Dayne would want to hear.
“I understand,” Dayne said. He noticed a fewmen—dockworkers, oystermen, something of that nature—moving over to the men on the crate, walking with the predatory swagger that comes with a few beers. Men who had the intention to start things. Keeping an eye on them, he nodded for the old sailor to go on.
“It’s popped up since the old king died,” the sailor said. Dayne had already left for Lacanja before King Maradaine XVII died, and his son took the throne as Maradaine XVIII. Some major news of the royal house had reached him: he knew the new king had married, and then the queen had died in childbirth. He had heard some talk about the Parliament wanting to force the king to remarry to produce an heir. “This sort of thing was even around when Seventeen first took the throne back in the day, but I think you’re a bit young for that.”
“Yes, but I read about it,” Dayne said. The dockworkers were moving in. Dayne got a count of them—eight men, all stout of arm and back. One of the drunken dockworkers had picked up a rock from the ground. Dayne put down his trunk. “One moment.”
The dockworker had wound back his arm and hurled the rock at the men on the crate. Dayne dashed across the distance, bringing up his shield. The rock clanged against it and dropped to the ground.
“Step away, gentlemen,” Dayne said. “No need for this to escalate.”
“Who are you to say what?” the main dockworker asked. He came up, puffing up his shoulders in his approach. This was a man who was clearly used to intimidating people with his height and muscles. With most people, he’d probably succeed.
With Dayne, he had to crane his neck. Dayne was at least a head taller.
“I’m the one who said ‘step away.’”
“Ayuh, what’s with this fool?” another dockworker said.“Who carries a rutting shield anymore?”
“He’s got a sword, too,” the third said. That one looked a bit nervous. “And he’s in uniform.”
“Ain’t a constable or river patrol.”
“He’s a Tarian, you dunces!” the old sailor shouted.
“Look,” the lead dockworker said, still trying to stare Dayne down. “We’re going to show these traitors we don’t like their kind on our docks.”
“They have a right,” Dayne said.
“You’re going to stand up for their disloyal sewage?” He glanced around Dayne to look at the three men on the crate. “You’ve got a thrashing coming, you do.”
“I’m going to defend their right,” Dayne said. “Even if they’re wrong.”
“Wrong to want an unsullied bloodline on the throne?” the center man on the crate snarled back. Dayne sighed a bit. He feared that was what this was about. Some people never move on.
“Shut it,” the lead dockworker said.
“Make us!”
“You aren’t helping,” Dayne muttered.
“Come on, boys,” the lead dockworker shouted to his mates. “We’ve still got numbers here.”
“No,” Dayne said firmly. “You will leave these men unmolested.”
“You’re going to stop us?” The rest of them found their courage and took a few steps forward.
“I’m a Tarian,” Dayne said. “And I will stand between them and harm.”
Dayne wasn’t being completely honest with them, but he doubted any of them were familiar enough to read the pips on his uniform collar. To truly call himself a Tarian, he’d have to have reached the rank of Adept. He was just nearing the end of the second year of his Candidacy. He might be promoted to Adept in a few days, but…
But that was definitely not why he had been recalled to Maradaine.
“You’ll get a thrashing, too, Tarian,” the dockworker scoffed. “We’ll knock you back a whole century, where you belong.”
Dayne knew he had to disable the leader in a way that would dissuade the rest from fighting. He knew he could hold off all eight of them, but not without hurting them. And that would hardly be fitting for a Tarian, especially a second-year Candidate hoping to make Adept.
As the dockworker took a swing at Dayne, Dayne crouched down, bringing his shield into the man’s chest. Rather than knocking him to theground, Dayne went up, raising his shield high with the man on top of it.
The man flailed about uselessly while Dayne held him nine feet off the ground.
“Stand down and disperse,” Dayne said firmly to the rest.“Before anyone gets hurt.”
The dockworkers scattered.
Dayne smirked. Feats of strength usually let him avoid an actual fight. He looked up at the leader. “I’m going to put you down, and you’re going to walk away, yes?”
“Yeah, yeah!”
Dayne tilted his shield and let the man slide to the ground in a crumpled heap, and then he scrambled away.
“Thank you—” the leader of the True Line started.
“It’s what I’d do for anyone,” Dayne said. “No matter how distasteful I find their views.”
He went back over to the trunk, which the old sailor was diligently guarding. “So you see what that’s about,” the old man said.
“I thought it had gone away,” Dayne said.
“Yeah, well,” the old man said. “New king, he…he’s not who his father was, you hear? Doesn’t inspire the same adulation.”
“There is a proper line of succession!” a man on the crate yelled. “You should know, Tarian, of Romaine’s Gift.”
“Shut your blight hole!” the old man shot back. Dayne had had enough of this encounter. It was well past time to make his way to the Tarian Chapterhouse.
“Thanks, sir,” Dayne said, giving him another coin.“You’ll excuse me, but I think I see a friend here for me.” The man let him go, not arguing with getting two ticks for little effort. And, indeed, on the far side of the dock, standing up on a tall crate, there appeared to be a Tarian Initiate, searching the crowds.
Grandmaster Orren had sent someone to escort him. Even if it was just an Initiate, that could not be a good sign. This was not to be a joyous homecoming.