Answers to who killed her family. A trial to death. Is the truth worth the risk?
Master Mage Rielle is counting the months to her wedding when an unexpected invitation arrives from Magehold—to compete for magister. The magister’s mantle has been her dream for over a decade, but rumors accuse Magehold of shadowy deeds, among them killing families to collect promising young novices.
Piracy has been rampant along the Emaurrian coast, and Jon has his hands full with Immortals attacking, his forces spread too thin to handle it all. When Magehold announces the winner of the Magister Trials will be granted one boon, Rielle is determined to ask for an end to the piracy that threatens so many others and harmed her own family... and to investigate whether Magehold was responsible. But when she arrives, she learns that the trials have only one rule: survive.
Magehold could easily stamp out the piracy claiming countless lives, and if she wins the trials, Rielle could see it done. But with the other mages competing to kill, strangers hunting her in the shadows, and mysterious factions working behind the scenes, trying to win the test could mean the end of her life. Will the trials give her the answers she seeks and the aid Emaurria sorely needs, or will they be her end?
If you like the romance of A Court of Thorns and Roses, the epic adventure of Game of Thrones, and a heroine who never gives up, you’ll love this romantic epic fantasy series.
If dirty looks were daggers, she’d be a pincushion.
Forcing a smile, Rielle reached for her wine goblet and sipped the full-bodied red, glancing away from Duchess Caterine’s cold smile to Nora’s piercing glare across the table.
Warmth rested on her knee, Brennan’s palm, even as he remained still and entirely at ease next to her.
Just get through dinner. Get through dinner. Just dinner.
His youngest sisters, Caitlyn and Una, were better, at least. Their looks weren’t pointy, or at least pointed elsewhere. Twirling a curly lock of dark hair, Caitlyn feigned interest in her wild-mushroom soup, far preferable. Una wore a mischievous grin as her gaze slid from the duchess to Nora to Brennan.READ MORE
“An autumn wedding,” Duchess Caterina declared, her full smile in no way matching her bitter green glare. She exhaled a light breath. “It’s been a very, very, very lengthy engagement, hasn’t it?”
Nora huffed a half-laugh, staring Rielle down across the table. Somehow she made even such an ugly expression effortlessly beautiful. “Some length was needed to allow for distractions, wasn’t it?”
Brennan sighed as his eyelids lazily hooded his bored eyes. “Nora…”
A grin. “I didn’t mean yours, dear brother. Although that list is lengthy, too, isn’t it, Bren?”
More wine. Definitely more wine. Rielle tipped the goblet and eyed the half-empty decanter. Her lifeline from this torture was quickly diminishing as the meal dragged on.
Two weeks ago, Brennan had been the one with the fever, and yet she’d been the one to suggest complete madness. Maerleth Tainn. Why not? What could possibly go wrong?
“Are you enjoying the wine, Favrielle?” Duchess Caterine asked. “Should you be drinking so much of it while with child?”
Coughing, Rielle set down the goblet and drew the napkin across her mouth. Divine’s flaming fire—
“What poise,” Nora mumbled, while Una chuckled under her breath.
“W-with child?” Rielle cleared her throat. “Your Grace, I am—”
“A wedding—my son’s wedding—in but a few months,” Duchess Caterine said matter-of-factly with a disinterested sniff. “There’s no doubt—”
“She’s not with child, Mother.” Leaning back in his chair, Brennan swirled his brandy slowly, then took a drink.
Castle Tainn’s great hall was massive, its doors far, far from this dinner table. And the harpist was either hard of hearing or well practiced in letting no reaction show on his face. Did he ever consider tossing aside the harp and running as far and as fast away as his slippered feet could carry him? Rielle swallowed.
“Not with child? Why not?” Nora crossed her slender arms over her chest and raked her with a disdainful once-over. “Are you barren?”
A fireball. No, an ice spike—
“It comes as a complete surprise,” Brennan said with a yawn, “that no suitors are fighting one another for the honor of courting you, Nora. Especially when you’re so well mannered.”
Nora turned that piercing glare on her brother, then took a deep, slow sip of her wine as she slid another smug look Rielle’s way. “I’m still feeling quite contented by my last suitor, thanks.”
He didn’t seem to feel the same way about you.
But Rielle bit her tongue before the words could leave her mouth. Jon wasn’t hers to fight over. Not anymore. Some other woman no doubt claimed him now, as well as all the jealousy that went hand in hand with loving a king. These barbs didn’t matter, and if Nora and Jon so chose, they could “content” each other all they wanted.
Rielle folded her arms in her lap and turned to Duchess Caterine with a smile. “We want to marry this autumn because, as you said, Your Grace, it’s been a lengthy engagement, and we don’t want to wait longer than is necessary.” Before the duchess could reply, she continued, “I realize it’s an inconvenience, and I beg your pardon. But I ask for your sympathy in this,” she said, glancing at Brennan. At his soft hazel eyes. His long, dark lashes. His warm, subtle smile. His strong, loving arms.
She wasn’t doing this for Duchess Caterine, or Brennan’s beautiful sister with the personality of a lemon. She was doing this for him, for herself, for their future.
She turned back to the duchess. “Your son is an honest, loyal, honorable man. Strong and supportive. Loving and kind. And I don’t wish to delay the moment I become his wife. Not a month longer than necessary. Not a day.”
Duchess Caterine’s eyes widened, their ice fading to warmth as a corner of her mouth turned up.
Brennan cleared his throat. “You forgot charming.”
Rielle pursed her lips.
“And devastatingly handsome.” An amused huff.
She narrowed her eyes at him even as a grin fought its way out. “Of course, yes, I did forget something… Humble. How silly of me.”
He shrugged, his face schooled to the merest fraction of amusement as he took another drink of his brandy. “Next time you’ll remember, won’t you? For the sake of thoroughness, of course.”