"One dress. Five rules."
'Crown of Gold' by Isabella August is a wonderful little prequel novella, Book 0 in the Faerie Lords Series, that takes place just prior to 'Crown of Frost' and gives us a glimpse of some of the characters we'll come to know there. It also gives us a little overview as to the structure of alliances and where the battle lines are drawn amongst the Lords.
Though we do see some familiar faces.. Pallid Valentine, the Lady of Illusions, Lord Blackfrost.. not everyone is quite the way they'll become yet.
This story focuses on the Lady's Warlock, Ezra, and a human investigator named Nicole. Ezra, known in fae circles simply as Wraith, strikes a deal with Nicole in hopes of getting her help to steal a valuable prisoner from the Lord of Coins during a dangerous ball in his neighboring realm. If they succeed, the soul he sold to the Lady years before, will be his once more.. freeing him to live an untethered mortal life again.
If they fail.. well, they'll probably both be dead and none of it will matter much at all.
As can be expected from the pair of writers who work under the single pseudonym, August's tale.. while brief, is no less vibrant.
"Breakfast is god...........
I'm here to worship."
So this is where you go on Sundays, is it?"
Ezra is a lovely character, cool on the surface.. though this seems as much to be a common survival instinct in the fae lands. Beyond that casual exterior, lies a great deal of warmth and sweetness that's as obvious in his affectations as his words. He's formal and positively adorable, but he's definitely capable of some snark and I loved every minute of it.
Nicole is on the sarcastic side. She's funny though. She's someone you can see yourself hanging out with, as long as the people you hang out with are also prone to having itchy trigger fingers and trust issues. She's very likeable and even when she's fretting about whether or not she's trusting the wrong person, she draws back from her personal experiences with them and tries to give the benefit of the doubt. Things haven't always been great, but she means well.
The protagonists, the creepy Lord of Coins and his Warlock, Midas.. are just as richly textured. Immediately, I didn't like either of them. The writer always has a way of presenting them even before you get to know them, that just raises your hackles. You're just like.. okay.. this one feels like bad news.
Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
"I suspect that list to be vanishingly short."
You can't have a fae story without some unexpected complications and August always does a fantastic job of complicating the characters' lives. I enjoyed watching Nicole work out how to handle things as they came up, she thinks well on her feet and that's a trait I have to assume she shares with the writers who shaped her.
I'm thoroughly absorbed in this world they've created. I love the idea of the Hedge which sits in the center of their world bordering the various realms, affected by each wherever it comes up against them, and with dangers all its own. I love the way each Lord's realm is distinctly different, from their magic and how it works to the look and feel of the realm itself.
Since there's a fifth book on the way, I'm going to have to hustle and get caught up. Books 2-4 await and I don't want to miss a thing!
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