Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Sasha is a healer forced to take on the role of a warrior when his clan is attacked. Trapped in his caravan, the only weapon he can lay hands on is Ryka, the legendary sword that has been in his family for generations. To Sasha’s horror, the blade takes control of his body and turns him into a ruthless killer. Worse, Ryka sets in motion an irreversible process that will bind them together for life—if Sasha can survive the bonding.
Jace is a mercenary soldier, charged with protecting his commander’s brother, Eredwyn, on a journey through the Middle Kingdoms. When Eredwyn’s sometimes-prophetic visions lead them to the dying Sasha, Eredwyn insists that they must save him.
As Sasha struggles to come to terms with Ryka and his need to avenge his clan, Jace finds himself torn between his orders to protect Eredwyn and his growing feelings for Sasha. Can Jace walk the fine line between duty and desire, or will Sasha’s plans for vengeance lead all three men to their deaths?
If you’ve read other books by this author, you will know already how intricate and richly nuanced her world-building is… I’m continually fascinated by how she ties so much together not only over the different planets in this universe but over thousands of years of time as well. Epic is the word that comes to mind.
This standalone story is set in the same universe as the author’s other series ,Guardians of the Leythe, The Wytch Kings of Skanda, and Guardians of the Pattern. It takes place on the earth-like world of Aion during the time period after the first two series but before the last.
Leythe and Mythe are used interchangeably depending on time period and culture. Both refer to the energy field that permeates the universe and from which power can be drawn by those with the ability to touch it (referred to as mythe weavers, leythari, or psions relatively).
Both Jace and Sasha can call upon this power field but in very different ways. Sasha can use its power to heal, but after an absolutely awful event leaves him no choice, he forms a bond with a blade, Ryka, with whom he can communicate through the leythe. Since healers are protected like the women of the clan, Sasha has never been allowed to use a weapon. His gift, his very nature, is to heal those in pain not cause it, to preserve life, not take it. He’s appalled at the realization that, using Ryka, he caused injury to others. Sasha struggles valiantly against the bond, against allowing something into his mind that threatens to change his very nature.
At the beginning of the book, Jace’s duty and main focus is protecting his charge, Eredwyn, but as he helps his mentor save Sasha, he finds himself drawn to and feeling a kinship to Sasha. Because Jace has also struggled with accepting his own ability to use the mythe after having inadvertently used it to kill, something that he had no idea he could do. As both men struggle with guilt and accepting/controlling a power within that can do harm to others, the bond between them grows. Together they help each other heal and learn to forgive and accept themselves.
But there isn’t just the one relationship in this book. For Sasha, once bonded to Ryka, must come to terms with that relationship as well. I thoroughly enjoyed how the relationship between Sasha and Ryka developed and grew from utter resistance to reluctant acceptance and finally trust. Ryka, though a sword, is very much a fascinating character on her own. There was another leythe blade, Blackfang, in an earlier book Human Frailties, Human Strengths. The concept intrigues me and while I admit to harboring resentment to Blackfang for an incident in which I wanted to kick him, I want to know more. The leythe blades are fascinating, and I’d very much enjoy a story in which we get to explore exactly how they all came into existence.
The cover is a graphic design by Chinchbug that captures this story wonderfully. It took me a while to look beyond the long-haired, violet-eyed hotness holding the sword, but once I noticed the androgynous face in of the blade and the fractals in the background representing the leythe… wow. Yep, it’s perfect.