Technically the second book in the series, but doesn’t have any of the first book’s characters.

Publication year: 1995
Format: print
Page count: 416
Publisher: Daw

Vree and Bannon are sister and brother. They’re also the best assassins in the Havakeen Empire’s army. When the Emperor needs to get rid of rebel leaders or traitors, the generals send Vree and Bannon. But when they’re sent to kill rebelling Governor Aralt, something goes wrong. Vree discovers Bannon in an old man’s body – Aralt’s body. It seems impossible but Vree knows her brother. Aralt is dying and the only way to save Bannon’s spirit is for his consciousness to leap into Vree’s body. Vree allows it and together they agree to go after Bannon’s body which is now occupied by Aralt’s spirit. Unfortunately, that makes them deserters and if someone in the army realizes that Vree and Bannon have “deserted their duty”, assassins will be on their tail.

Meanwhile, two bards from Shkoder are invited guests in the capital. There are no bards in the Halvakeen and the nature spirits, the kigh, are alien to them. However, the two bards realize that kigh are terrified of being captured. The bards have no idea what is going on but investigate. Also, the youngest royal prince has a crush on one the bards, Karlene, and she tries to convince him that she isn’t the right person for him.

The book has an intriguing concept with Vree and Bannon in the same body. They’re always been close but quite soon this much closeness becomes too much. They’re both determined to get Bannon’s body back but soon they’re forced to work with the body stealer. Enemies forced to work together is a troupe I’ve always enjoyed and I really liked it here, too. However, I didn’t care for the romance aspect at all but it didn’t overwhelm the story. Also, there’s an incestuous vibe with the siblings and I didn’t care for that, either. Vree is apparently sexually attracted to her brother and Bannon wants to keep Vree dependent on her. So, not the healthiest relationship to begin with.

In this book, too, Huff uses a lot of quick point-of-view shifts but they weren’t as disorienting as in the first book. Karlene is a bard in her thirties: she’s inquisitive like all bards and determined to do her duty. We get to know the backstory of the body stealer and I suppose we should sympathize with him. But I don’t. Because he usually kills the spirit of the person whose body he takes over. He left Bannon alive only because his former body was poisoned and dying.

While Havakeen isn’t the same place culturally as Shkoder, bisexuality and same-sex partners are just as approved here as in the first book. Women in the army or as guards are also completely normal. They have several apparently competing religions but we’re not told much about them. Bannon and Vree follow the goddess of war, Jiir, but they aren’t ardent followers, more out of necessity.

Once again we have a lot of point-of-view characters. The actual bad guy is surprisingly sympathetic and at the same time chilling and creepy, which was great. He and Karlene were my favorites in this book.

The ending isn’t a cliffhanger but it leaves a lot of things open. I don’t have the next book, though.

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