I started reading the books set in this fantasy world because I was interested in how the authors play with the biological power exchange facet. Now that I’m happily sucked into the third series, I’m almost entirely here for the worldbuilding and amazing characters and relationship they have developed. The power exchange bit is a touch of extra flavor in a solid fantasy creation that is so much more than just the spicy bits. And as if all the “present-day” worldbuilding wasn’t enough, now Foxglove dives into the truly mythological and historical facets of Iperios. I think readers can come to this book fresh, but it ties closely to The Last Flight of Marius Chastain (A Starian Tale) and Summer of the Wanderer (Seasons of the Lukoi #3) and is a bit spoilery for both, but not in a way that would diminish enjoyment of either.
As always, the stories that turn to myth are much simpler than reality. This book presents the background that leads to the creation of modern-day Lukos and Arktos, from the perspectives of Nyx, a soldier inextricably tied to political events, and Azaiah, the avatar of Death who is drawn to him. Nyx’s story kicks off with a tragedy that already made my heart hurt for him, and despite the good moments that accompany his romantic dance with Death, it only gets harder for him from there. Have tissues handy if you’re prone to tears—the angst is real in this book. The authors lean into the tarot definition of death representing change, and both Nyx and Azaiah make their share of changes throughout this story. These changes are certainly dark, but they are not necessarily bad, and ultimately show how tragedy and pain can corrupt even the best intentions.
The redemption arc for both characters that follows is painful but necessary. Love may cause the initial rift that occurs between them, but it also plays a strong role in healing it. I especially adored the “flashbacks” that we get for contemporary characters from alternative perspectives. Whether Foxglove planned out the multiple layers of story in advance is irrelevant, because reading how everything ties together here is incredibly satisfying and impressive either way.
I was curious why the authors chose Death as the god to kick off this new series about the more mythological side of their amazing fantasy world. In this book, we get his entire story along with fantastic teases of the rest of his godly cohort, and despite all the problems he has along the way, it turns out Azaiah/Death might be the most sorted of them all. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and follow up with so many fascinating secondary characters.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the authors.