Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.
Once the leader of the band of mercenaries known as the Scorpions, Adrastes is now King and a changed man. Ruler of two countries, along with his sister/wife, King Adrastes has just survived an assassination, just barely. In poor health and still recovering, Adrastes trusts no one and is determined to find the assassin and make the individual pay. Wary of everyone now, including allies and friends, King Adrastes prepares his kingdom for war against the only kingdom and ruler outside his control, the Elder of Vededrin. But not everyone supports Adrastes, including the man who loved and rescued him, Kendras.
Kendras, former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions, no longer blindly supports his king. He’s watched Adrastes change and the orders from the King are making him uneasy and reluctant to obey. And to go to war with Adrastes against Vededrin just might mean the end of the Scorpions for all time. And replacing Adrastes in Kendras’ bed and heart is Graukar, newly appointed general to the king, an event the King is not happy with. Kendras must figure out how to balance responsibilities and loyalties in a world gone increasingly complex and grey. And quickly before someone he loves is injured.
As Kendras tries to work through his thoughts and feelings, a new threat arises to King Adrastes rule. An anonymous outrider wearing a mask calling himself Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King. Ordered to find and kill the man called Death, Kendras leaves feeling unsettled, uncertain and sure of only one thing…his love for Graukar.
From the moment I read the first book in this series, Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1), I knew that Kendras and the Scorpions would lead me on a remarkable journey. It’s been a brutal, raw, and violent saga and one of the best in its genre. The life of a mercenary is a hard and savage one, unsparring in the injuries and deaths that come as part of the profession. Only the loyalty to each other and the tight rules and rich history of the Scorpions, make this band of soldiers a family. Voinov’s saga begins with Kendras, his entrance into the Scorpions, his scant memories of his childhood, and the heartbreak and pain of finding and then losing Adrastes, not to another lover, but to the kingship itself. Told from Kendras’ point of view, the character grows from a soldier with a single minded focus and goal to one floundering amongst the political seas at court. It’s a mesmerizing and arduous scramble as Kendras rises up the social scale, pulled along by Adrastes, whether he wants to go or not. Kendras must grow as a character and Voinov delivers that mental and emotional growth in spurts that come with despair along with great joy.
A Taste of Poison (Memory of Scorpions #3) finds Adrastes suffering the effects of an assassination attempt, one that profoundly changes the King’s outlook on those around him and accelerates his goal of expanding his rule to all three kingdoms. The man who rules is not the man Kendras followed and loved. That dichotomy is cause for depression, and uncertainty, along troubling thoughts of disloyalty is adding to unrest among the Scorpions and Kendras. Voinov has made Kendras a man of honor and depth and to see and feel him floundering and pulled by this faction and that both enriches this story and ups the suspense for the welfare of all involved.
Everything is heightened here in A Taste of Poison. Goals, loyalties, love, trust…the bar is now so high and the repercussions of any deviation or conflict are swift, exacting, and devastating. Voinov reveals more of Kendras’ past, unknown even to Kendras Also revealed are hidden alliances, and schemes to depose one ruler or another. There are no black and white sides, only grey as Kendras has been slow to learn. And with every startling exposition and shattering event, we are pulled deeper into the lives of all the Scorpions and their leader, Kendras.
Voinov has delivered a saga rich in character development, alive with action and battle sequences, and complete with the horrors that love and jealousy can and does inflict on all involved. Aleksandr Voinov has said that the quote from Leo Tolstoy: “The best stories don’t come from “good vs. bad” but “good vs. good.” helped shape not only the characters of Adrastes and Kendras but the stories themselves. Only a tilt of the prism or a slight change of perspective will make either character “good” or “evil”. Is it evil for Adrastes to want to solidify the 3 warring kingdoms into one for the betterment of all? At what price is that not acceptable? Is Kendras’s feelings and actions betrayal or loyalty? Whose goals are the ones that should be honored by personal sacrifice and love? That Voinov is able to bring all facets to life in each of these strong personalities is not only a marvelous achievement but makes this a series worth reading and remembering.
The Memory of Scorpions series is astonishingly inventive, beautifully crafted and fiercely passionate. From the bloody sands of battle to the lethal layers and complex rituals of court, Alexandr Voinov brings his world and characters to life word by word, page by page using vivid imagery and an attention to detail that leaves no construct of person or kingdom feeling shallow or undone. Just masterful.
I don’t know if this is the end of the Scorpions. Voinov is silent about future stories. I hope not. There is so much here I still need to know. The Black King still lives…if the prophecy is correct, who will bring him down? What is ahead and possible for Kendras and the Scorpions? This amazing story and series begs the questions. Hopefully Aleksandr Voinov will answer. Meanwhile, pick up this wondrous series and get acquainted with some of the most powerful and engaging characters around. One of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words “must reads” and highly recommended stories of 2014.
Cover art by Reese Dante. Love that cover, powerful and perfect image that speaks to the story within.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing All Romance eBooks (ARe) Amazon A Taste of Poison
alternative world, gritty fantasy, warrior mercenaries
ebook, 265 pages
Expected publication: October 13th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
seriesMemory of Scorpions #3
Books in the Memory of Scorpions series in the order they were written and should be read: