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Empire of Night
Series: Age of Legends #2
Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Dates from Hell, Aftertaste, Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions, Visions, Deceptions, The Masked Truth, City of the Lost, Forest of Ruin, Betrayals, A Darkness Absolute.
Second in the Age of Legends fantasy series for young young adults and revolving around twin girls, the Keeper and the Seeker. The focus is on Moria, Tyrus, and Gavril.
Honor runs amuck in the Age of Legends. Some have too much, some are torn between competing honors, and others have none at all. It comes with a slight flavor of Oriental culture with its emperors and concubines and its concerns with the ancestors. It also merges with European culture with its using the ruler’s children to cement alliances.
It’s a complicated story of strategy, politics, relationships, and that difficult honor. Tyrus must step lightly to avoid drawing attention to his plans while Moria helps in the deception but refuses to allow him to participate — for her honor.
“Just heed me a little, now and then. … If only to make me feel like an equal partner.”
The emperor certainly does have a lot of balls in the air. And true to form, our protagonists want it all done NOW. It doesn’t help that the court wants the Keeper and Seeker to stay within the palace, and that the girls are not into the sorts of entertainment they’re offered.
One of the best parts of the story is Tyrus. He’s capable of being both amiable friend and strict instructor.
“Please tell me I didn’t shriek. And if I did? Remember I am of Imperial lineage. Lie to me.”
Moria and Ashyn have learned some smarts, but they still keep making some truly stupid moves. Ashyn and her whining back and forth about Ronan’s kiss, her wanting to leap out and tell the truth at the inn, to rescue Guin. Moria and her spacing out at the fiend dogs. Oy…
Guin evolves in this from the singleminded girl with the intention of marrying well to one who empathizes with her new friends. Too bad it doesn’t last.
I can sort of understand those guards taking prisoner those who had intended to sign up with Kitsune, but why take the women? Ah, never mind…that makes sense. Disgusting, but effective.
No word is coming back from Fairview, nor any spies, and Emperor Tatsu sets Prince Tyrus the task of treating with the traitor, Alvar Kitsune. He will head a mission with Moria and Ashyn. A mission that is doomed.
And there is still worse to come as the rumors circulate. Of Moria betraying the prince with her lover. Of the prince running from the field of battle…
Moria and Ashyn are twins and the Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood in the northern part of the empire. Daigo is Moria’s bond-beast, a huge black Wildcat of the Immortals. Tova is Ashyn’s bond-beast, a Hound of the Immortals.
Ronan is a casteless young man who had been imprisoned in the Forest of the Dead in Sea of Shadows, 1. Aidra and Jorn are his siblings.
The very diplomatic and clever Prince Tyrus is a bastard son of Emperor Jiro Tatsu and must be careful of his ambitions, as the legitimate sons “take care” of those who aspire. Gavril had been his friend. His religious mother, Maiko, is the emperor’s first concubine and gave her son an amulet. The emperor has four legitimate sons, two legitimate daughters, and eight or so more who were born of his concubines. Then there are the palace courtesans who can be lent out to guests without wives.
The court Seeker is Ellyn while the Keeper is her twin, Thea. Neither wants the girls in the city, let alone at court. Lysias is a sorcerer and one of the emperor’s private guard. Marshall Mujina leads the emperor’s armies.
…the town to which Prince Tyrus and his caravan travel. Simeon of Mistvale, Assistant to Katsumoto, a great scholar, is rather oblivious and vengeful. The guards include the recently married Kinuye and Reynard whose young son won his first tournament. Guin is a spirit, one of the vengeful dead, who has wandered long. And she has the most horrible story to tell.
Lord Goro Okami, a.k.a., the Gray Wolf, is a warlord with whom Prince Tyrus lived for some years. Dalain is his unthinking son. Lady Okami is court-born and not at all timid, well, she is cousin to the emperor. Sabre is the daughter of a local bandit leader, er, um, a nomadic tribal chieftain.
Penitents belong to various religions that require suffering. Ivo is of the Order of Kushin, which prefers to self-mummify.
…Moria and Ashyn’s home where, as the Keeper and Seeker, they guarded the Forest of the Dead, which is filled with spirits into which the exiled and convicted are thrust. If they survive, they are freed.
The Sultan of Nemeth and the King of Etaria, minor principalities, have been close friends of Alvar’s.
Alvar Kitsune had been a marshal of the empire before being branded a coward and exiled. Gavril Kitsune is his traitorous son. Rametta is Alvar’s old nursemaid. Barthol commands Kitsune’s army. Fyren is another of his men. Halmond is the nasty guard. Brom, another of the guards, is of the Inugami clan; Orbec was his uncle.
Warlord Jorojumo has a compound near Riverside. Lord Kuro Tanuki and his son are at the betrothal feast. Asano Bakenko is another warlord. Edwyn of Coldwall is Ashyn and Moria’s grandfather.
Serving the ancestral spirits, a Seeker puts the spirits of the dead at rest through rituals and ceremonies while the Keeper protects the ancestors and the living from evil spirits. Shadow stalkers are the spirits of the dead, animating their own bodies and killing everyone and anyone they see.
The Cover and Title
The cover is DARK! It’s a red-eyed black and smoky fiend dog racing through the misty forest deep in the night. The smoky darkness descends into total darkness at the bottom, a perfect foil for the pale gold embossed title. At the top is the author’s name in white.
The title is our dip into Alvar Kitsune’s world, his Empire of Night.