"She never thought to have a lover like him. A king, even if he was one in exile. A god, even if he was one who had given up his power."
'Nightborn (The Hollow King Book 2)' by Jessica Thorne is has been one of my most eagerly awaited releases of the year. When I read the first novel in the series 'Mageborn' back in February, I had no idea the kind of need it was going to create in me for more of her world.
In hindsight, I fell absolutely in love with Bastien the moment he graced the pages. I was slower to warm to the other characters, though they're all good.. the villains included. In fact, the villains have pretty nasty tendencies indeed.. even if they don't always get to carry out their thoughts and ideas.
Prince Bastien, the Lord of Thorns, and his lover Grace Marchant fled their home for safer lands. This part of the journey picks up on those distant islands with the Valenti Dowager Queen bargaining with the throne meant for him. As heir to the throne of Larelwynn, she offers him an alliance in exchange for marrying her daughter.
Meanwhile, innocent mageborn are being corrupted and becoming nightborn once thought to be legend, growing dangerously powerful as the Deep Dark spreads. The only way to protect themselves and save the people he's sworn to protect seems to be agreeing to the price the Valenti royal family demands. Though Grace knows the sacrifice is necessary for the good of the kingdom, he's her everything.. and watching it all happen is not easy.
"Her only adornment was the warrant and a sigil threaded on a chain. She wore them like a thread.
If only she'd stop looking like she wanted to murder anyone who so much as glanced their way."
Oh the angst!
While I do miss the constantly annoyed, brooding Bastien from the first book, it's also really good to see him content and it's frustrating how short-lived his happiness always seems to be. Watching as those around his clamor for his power or his name for their own agendas is infuriating. He deserves so much more.
Thorne does such a great job of getting the reader invested because there really is always some nefarious person right around the corner with plans to use him. He's loyal, protective, and will do just about anything for those he considers 'his people' which is a huge weakness with the pit vipers surrounding him.
"Danny had always said Kurt would end up in more hot water than he could handle. Kurt had always told his little brother that he liked his water as hot as possible."
The supporting characters are wonderful. The banter is good, the dialogue is well-written, and frankly.. there's a great sense of humor that sort of permeates their little group. Sarcasm abounds.
I love Misha the Lyric who's loyalty also seems to know no bounds, of course.. he suffered awfully in book one as well and I haven't forgotten. Kurt is a wildcard, always funny, always resourceful, but you never know exactly where he's going to come down on a situation. Ellyn is as stubborn as Grace and that's saying something because I'm pretty sure if you searched the word in Webster's.. there'd just be a picture of her there.
It's definitely a quick-paced page-turner. There's plenty of action, lots of moments that swing wildly back and forth while you wait to see the outcome, and an antagonist that just never stops showing up at the worst possible moments. I despise Asher. Even more than the nasty royals, the man has no morals. He completely lacks any redeeming qualities. I guess.. I could say that for all the villains, they're clear-cut.
"I can throw him over the side, but he'd probably just control the sea and walk after us."
Though Bastien is beautiful and lovely.. he's also (to borrow a phrase from a comedian) a bit of a Princess Peach. I'm not sure I've ever read a powerful male character who gets captured quite so much. He's always being abused by some horrible person or another, manipulated and controlled.. because he does have vulnerabilities. Don't get me wrong, it makes for a great story. It just also makes me want to sweep him away and keep him safe.. which enables me to relate to Grace really easily. At least until she does the same stupid things, albeit for better.. if not good reasons.
Unless you're heartless, you're probably going to go through some tissues. I know I did. Quite a few.. and it started before I even reached the first half of the book.
If you like good fantasy stories with interesting mythos building and magic systems, this is one of my favorites. Be sure to give this series a try. Thorne really knows how to weave a tale and keep you engrossed throughout every page.