by Grace Draven
Book 2 in the Wraith Kings series
In a bid for more power, the Shadow Queen of Haradis has unleashed a malignant force into the world.
Her son Brishen, younger prince of the Kai royal house, suddenly finds himself ruler of a kingdom blighted by a diseased darkness and on the brink of war. His human wife Ildiko must decide if she will give up the man she loves in order to secure his throne.
Three enemy kingdoms must unite to save each other, and a one-eyed, reluctant king must raise an army of the dead to defeat an army of the damned.
A tale of alliance and sacrifice.
Eidolon is the second novel in Grace Draven's Wraith King's series. It once again centers on Ildiko, human, and duchess to the Kai kingdom, and her husband Brishen, the youngest prince in the Kai royal family. Brishen and Ildiko are blissfully happy in their small corner of the kingdom, and no pressures from the royal court. Until they get word that demons have been unleashed into the capitol, and are consuming any in their path - and they know that Brishen's mother, the Queen, is responsible for its doing, in her quest for more power. After learning that his siblings, and their children have all died, Brishen finds himself in the role he never wanted: King of the Kai. Brishen knows he needs to figure out a way to send the demons back to their world, and save the world from being consumed. But while he makes his plans, Ildiko knows that while the Kai tolerated a human woman married to the spare, there was no way they would be okay with a human queen - even if she could provide an heir. Duty vs Love. Ildiko needs to figure out which is more important: sacrificing her marriage to secure Brishen's throne, or dooming the Kai to a civil war. And will it even matter, if they can't send the demon's back to their world?
Eidolon was enjoyable for me. It definitely focuses more on the fantasy and story than the romance. But that is okay. As I said in my review of Radiance, Grace Draven writes some of the most unique fantasy I have encountered, which made it unpredictable, and interesting. I mean, this isn't the first fantasy I have read with other worlds/dimensions, and one of them being demons, but with the combination of the human/kai world, and who the demons target and why (wanting/needing to consume magic), it was just interesting. But what made it truly unique and enthralling was the solution to getting rid of the demons. I've never read anything like that. As for the romance, well, if you like romance that is filled with heartbreaking tension, its in this book. I don't even know how many times I cried. Being in love with someone so truly and desperately, but knowing you will need to step aside for the good of your people? Knowing that if you want to remain in his life, you will be demoted from wife to mistress? All because of what you are, and your inability to provide a child? Ugh. I felt for both Ildiko and Brishen here. Ildiko, and her pain, while trying to remain dutiful and take care of a kingdom that only tolerates her presence, and Brishen, who is willing to throw everything away to keep his wife. Just heart wrenching - especially when you know there is more to the story they don't know yet.
Eidolon is a rich fantasy read, with a dash of romance, with some intense emotional moments. Did I love it as much as Radiance? No. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I love every moment we get of Ildiko and Brishen.
Ildiko slid her thumb along the grouping below his collapsed eyelid.
Ildiko: “I know you’ve said they don’t hurt, but it’s hard to imagine you no longer feel the pain.”
Brishen captured her hand and brought her thumb to his lips for a brief kiss.
Brishen: “They would only hurt if you thought me hideous because of them.”
Ildiko: “That will never happen,”
Brishen: “Then they will never hurt.”
She spread her fingers across his soft mouth.
Ildiko: “Come to bed. I’ll massage you, then take advantage of your body while you’re too relaxed to protest.”
His eyebrows shot up.
Brishen: “Threat or a promise?”
he murmured under her hand. Ildiko gave him a coy smile.
Ildiko: “Does it matter?”
He grabbed her hand and tugged her toward the bed.
Brishen: "Not at all." She was human and far more fragile than a Kai woman, at least physically. If her physical strength equaled that of her character, she could carry a loaded wagon on her back up a mountainside and never break a sweat. Brishen: “Do you love me, Ildiko?”
He forced the words from a throat closed tight. She halted and gripped his hand harder, the crescents of her fingernails digging into his palm.
Ildiko: “With everything I am, Brishen,”
she said in a soft, fervent voice.
Ildiko: “And for as long as I live. You must never doubt it.” Ildiko: "I’ll have my chamber prepared for your use.”
The old woman rose from her chair, shrugging off her masods’ help.
Elsod: “That isn’t necessary, Your Majesty.”
Ildiko: “It is my privilege. I’ll simply share with my husband.”
Brishen edged closer and murmured close to Ildiko’s ear.
Brishen: “You steal the blankets.”
A small smile cracked her grim mask.
Ildiko: “And you always tuck your cold feet under my legs,”
she countered. He caressed her back with one hand. Leave it to his wife to lift his mood. Brishen: “It’s an honor to serve with you, sha-Anhuset. My trust in you is absolute.”
Her eyes narrowed to sulfuric slits.
Anhuset: “If that was some kind of botched up final goodbye, I will knock your teeth down your throat.” Brishen: “Answer my question, Ildiko. Do you want me to renounce you?”
Ildiko: “No! Never.”
She massaged her aching throat where more sobs gathered to choke her words.
Ildiko: “I also don’t want you to suffer through that ritual or fight galla. But you will because you must. And you must renounce me.”
He snatched a goblet from the table next to him and hurled it against the door.
Brishen: “I am king!”
he roared, the thin veneer of calm burned away by rage.
Brishen: “I will do as I wish, and I will keep my wife!”
Ildiko ventured to touch him, a light glide of fingertips on his arm. He shivered but didn’t move away. He breathed hard, as if winded from a long run across the plains. Sorrow warred with pity to see her valiant husband struggle under the yoke of kingship.
Ildiko: “Privilege, gives the crown its shine. Duty gives it its weight. It’s because you are now king that you can’t do as you wish. The person you are—honorable, brave—will do what’s required.” Brishen: “I will not give you up. I will suffer the ritual, gladly. Let it rip me apart and put me back together again. I will rob my people of their magic and fight the galla. I will not renounce my wife.”
He shook against her, burying his face in her neck.
Brishen: “Don’t leave me, Ildiko. The burden is only bearable because you’re here.” Brishen: “You are my queen. And my queen you will remain.”
She replied with a slurred
Ildiko: “I love you, Brishen,”
and he exerted all his willpower not to crush her to him, meld her into his skin. Keep her safe. Keep her close. Anhuset: “Do human women truly find him handsome?”
Anhuset’s voice lacked its customary sarcasm. Her question held only disbelieving curiosity. Ildiko chuckled.
Ildiko: “I imagine so. He’s blessed with good looks, a fine form and good character.”
Brishen’s eye narrowed. Her praise seemed excessive.
Ildiko: “And I imagine they don’t call him the Beladine Stallion for nothing.”
He scowled. Anhuset snorted and turned back to hoist a horse blanket over one shoulder.
Anhuset: “Nothing but a bunch of bluster if you ask me. I’d want proof to believe that nonsense.”
Serovek; “Any time, any place, fair Anhuset.”
Serovek’s sudden appearance out of seeming thin air made Ildiko jump and Anhuset snarl. He closed the distance between himself and the Kai woman until there was only a hand’s length of space between them. Brishen feared the margrave courted imminent disemboweling.
Serovek: “Name it, and I’ll be happy to prove the title is more than bluster.”
Ildiko eyes rounded. Anhuset didn’t step back. Her eyes shone bright, even in the afternoon light. Quick as a striking snake, she cupped Serovek between his legs and pushed upward. He inhaled a sharp breath and went up on his toes, gaze drifting slowly down to where her claws caged his genitals. Her wide, pointy grin guaranteed most human males would piss themselves at the sight.
Anhuset: “You wouldn’t survive me, horse lord.”
Serovek wasn’t most human males. After the first shock of surprise wore off, he relaxed into her palm and quirked a smile.
Serovek: “But I would die happy, and you’d regret killing me.”
Her mouth slackened, and for a moment, her hand glided down the front of Serovek’s trousers and back up again in a slow stroke before she snatched it away. Her low growl vibrated with outrage, and she stalked off without another word. Serovek wasn’t as unruffled as he wanted to appear. His knees sagged for a moment, and he wiped his brow with his forearm before focusing on Ildiko. She crossed her arms and shook her head.
Ildiko: “You risk more than your family line by teasing her like that.”
He clasped a hand to his chest and blew out a gusty breath.
Serovek: “I can’t help it. She is magnificent. And prickly.” Brishen: “I don’t care what that crone spouts! I refuse to accept such a fate! It’s defeat, and I won’t be defeated. Not by galla, not by politics nor the machinations of ambitious court parasites.”
He clenched his fists and strove for calm.
Brishen: “I will save my kingdom. And my reward will be my wife at my side.”
Slender fingers curled around his wrist and squeezed. Ildiko’s eyes were glossy in the darkness.
Ildiko: “Promise you’ll return to me, alive and whole.”
Brishen: “Promise you’ll be here for me to return to,”
Ildiko: “I swear it.”
He rested one knee on the bed and bent to place his hands on either side of her.
Brishen: “I’m not desperate for a child, Ildiko. I’m desperate for my wife. That’s it. No matter what you believe, you aren’t lesser. Not to me. You are all.” Ildiko: “You won’t fail,”
she declared, staunch in her belief.
Ildiko: “And you will be revered. The great Kai king who saved a kingdom and possibly an entire world.”
He sighed and hugged her, careful not to clutch too hard. If he held her as hard as he wanted, he’d break her. She settled into him and was soon slumbering, breath ghosting warmly across his chest.
Brishen: “I would have been content to live my life as just Brishen,”
he whispered into her hair.
Brishen: “Who was loved by Ildiko.” Ildiko: “He’s enchanted with you, I think.”
Anhuset: “He’s annoying. And human.”
As if nothing could be more repulsive.
Ildiko: “I’m human.”
Ildiko pressed her lips together to hold back her laughter at the glare she received.
Anhuset: “You aren’t winking at me or staring at my arse every time I walk past.”
Ildiko: “Oh ho, you noticed that, did you?”
Ildiko chose not to mention that she’d caught Anhuset eyeing Serovek’s admittedly attractive backside more than a few times in return. Anhuset gave a disgusted snort.
Anhuset: “Brishen with both eyes patched would notice. His Lordship isn’t exactly subtle.” Brishen: “I recall you standing in the sunlight, pale as a bleached fish bone and this hair gleaming red. I thought your head was on fire.”
Ildiko: “And I was sure someone had set loose a two-legged wolf in the garden, teeth and claws and yellow eyes. I think my heart stopped for a moment when you slid back your hood.”
Brishen: “That’s because I’m breathtakingly handsome,”
he bragged in smirking tones. Ildiko nipped his shoulder this time, making him twitch.
Ildiko: “And obviously vain.” Ildiko: “You left me too soon this morning,”
he said. He straightened and pulled her against him.
Brishen: “Had I choice, I wouldn’t leave you at all.”
His lips brushed hers.
Brishen: “Grow old with me,”
he whispered. Her fingers dug into the hard shell of his brigandine.
Ildiko: “Come back to me and I will.” Ildiko: “Prince of night, come back and grow old with me.”
His mouth drooped at the corners. He glanced at the Elsod, then back to her.
Brishen: “I can’t if you refuse to remain my wife. Will we not sacrifice enough for duty when this is done, Ildiko?”
He was right. Here on this high place built by a vanished race who had left their magic and their malice behind them, she finally understood something profound. While duty was the price of privilege, duty nobly fulfilled deserved requital. For what her husband was about to do, he had earned the right to keep the wife he wanted. She cupped his face and pulled him down for a hard kiss. The brass studs on his brigandine pressed into her breasts and stomach as he held her tight and kissed her back, always passionate, always careful. They ended the kiss on a shared gasp. Ildiko stared into his face, once frightening, now beloved.
Ildiko: “It’s more than enough. I will challenge anyone, Elsods and Kai matriarchs alike, for the right to remain your wife. Even you, should you change your mind.”
She squeaked when he lifted her off her feet, arms tight around her back, and buried his face in her neck. He said nothing, simply inhaled and exhaled slow, deep breaths while she stroked his hair. He finally put her down, bowed low over her hand and kissed her fingers.
Brishen: “Woman of day, you have made me formidable again,” He approached Anhuset who leveled a scowl on him.
he said with a half smile and offered her his sword.
Serovek: “You know you want to, sha-Anhuset.”
Anhuset: “You know no such thing,”
she spat and stepped back. He lost the smile but didn’t retract the offer.
Serovek: “I would be honored if you did.”
She glanced at Brishen who only watched her with a radiant blue eye.
Anhuset: “Very well,”
she said, and Ildiko sobbed quietly at the furious torment in her voice. The Kai woman grasped the sword grip with a gauntleted hand and centered the tip on Serovek’s torso. Her lips curled back, revealing the sharp points of her teeth, and she glared at him with eyes hot enough to immolate him on the spot.
Anhuset: “You would punish me for the kindness of your healing. What do you want from me, human?”
Serovek pinched the blade’s tip between thumb and fingers, positioning it against an unprotected space where lacing created a gap between the armor.
Serovek: “Everything, sha-Anhuset,”
he replied with a faint smile and stared into her eyes. He pressed lightly until the blade tip indented his hauberk.
Serovek: “Here. The weakest spot.”
Anhuset: “I doubt it, though I don’t think cutting off your head or your prick will help you become a Wraith King.”
Were this a less awful scenario, Ildiko might have laughed. His mischievous grin promised a retort to put Anhuset’s back up, and he delivered.
Serovek: “When I return, you’ll share my bed, warrior woman, and be very grateful you didn’t slice off my prick.”
Anhuset snarled and rammed the sword through armor, through flesh and muscle and the gods only knew what internal organs. Serovek bellowed and instinctively swatted at his attacker with a gauntleted fist. She dodged the blow and jerked the sword free. It fell to the ground, blazing bright, as she embraced Serovek. Ildiko: “And how is our poor mayor recovering?”
Anhuset downed her drink in one swallow.
Anhuset: “I have no idea. Nor do I care.”
Ildiko: “I didn’t expect you to drown him.”
Anhuset: “I almost drowned him. There’s a difference.”
Anhuset lifted one shoulder in a half shrug.
Anhuset: “Besides, it was good soup.” Ildiko: “I’ve never killed anyone before. I had to. I know this, but it doesn’t make it easier to accept.”
She returned Anhuset’s slight smile with a bleak one of her own.
Ildiko: “I am not a warrior.”
Anhuset: “You were when you needed to be.” Serovek: “Are you sure you don’t want us to ride with you to Saggara? It isn’t that much of a detour.”
Serovek, looking not at all troubled by his tenure as a Wraith King, wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Serovek: “I’ll take any excuse to see the fair Anhuset again.”
Brishen: “You just saw her a day ago.”
Serovek: “That doesn’t count. I was playing nanny to the dead and was too far away to work my charm on her.”
Brishen: “Your charm will get you killed.” She was life and hope and strength, and he drew on all three as he bent his head to kiss her deeply. Brishen: “I take it you missed me then,”
he teased gently. She hiccupped again and smacked him on the arm.
Ildiko: “Only a little, and don’t let that puff up your pride.” Brishen; “I only have one regret,”
he said. A faint frown line stitched her brow.
Ildiko: “What’s that?”
Brishen: “I’ll never be able to call you Queen Ildiko. It has a nice ring to it.”
Ildiko resisted the urge to turn and instead gripped his hand in hers. She stared at his beloved, scarred face, the black eye patch and yellow eye, the toothy smile behind the lovely mouth that drove her to distraction.
Ildiko: “No. Nothing so grand. I’m content to live my life as just Ildiko,”
she said softly, repeating words similar to those he once whispered in her hair when he thought her asleep.
Ildiko: “Who is loved by Brishen .”