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House of Flame and Shadow by Sarah J. Maas


House of Flame and Shadow

by Sarah J. Maas

Published by Bloomsbury

Book 3 in the Crescent City Series


Bryce Quinlan never expected to see a world other than Midgard, but now that she has, all she wants is to get back.


Everything she loves is in Midgard: her family, her friends, her mate. Stranded in a strange new world, she's going to need all her wits about her to get home again. And that's no easy feat when she has no idea who to trust.


Hunt Athalar has found himself in some deep holes in his life, but this one might be the deepest of all. After a few brief months with everything he ever wanted, he's in the Asteri's dungeons again, stripped of his freedom and without a clue as to Bryce's fate. He's desperate to help her, but until he can escape the Asteri's leash, his hands are quite literally tied.


In this sexy, breathtaking sequel to the #1 bestsellers House of Earth and Blood and House of Sky and Breath, Sarah J. Maas's Crescent City series reaches new heights as Bryce and Hunt's world is brought to the brink of collapse-with its future resting on their shoulders.



Genre


Triggers

Violence, Death, Graphic Torture


 

Before I being, I need to warn you.

This spewing of thoughts is full of spoilers. If you want my review minus the spoilers - click here.

Not just for this book, and the whole series. But also for Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses.

So don't read on unless you have read everything.

I'm serious.

Go read them, then come back and let me know your thoughts as well. Also, come back, and read why I'm changing my glowing 5-star review to a 4-star.



I'm not going to get to much into my thoughts on the story arc, romance, character arcs, etc ...

I already did that in my spoiler free review.

  • If you don't want to read it, or have and forget it, here is the short version: I loved it so much that I couldn't put it down. I finished it in 48 hours and endured headaches and sore eyes.

  • It was fast-paced and entertaining

  • Despite the amount of information we get, it's weaved organically into the story

  • Loved the character arcs, because not one person was perfect, and they were all complicated in their own ways

  • A little cheesy at the end, but well deserved.

  • Enough plot lines tied up, and just enough to make me want more

  • I just know that one of these days someone is going to make a figurine of Cthona giving birth to Midguard and that shit will be on my bookshelf one day LOL


There is so much in this book that I need to do this by characters, couples, etc ...

Too many thoughts for my ADHD brain to handle without a list.

So here goes.


The CROSSOVER Anyone else mentally scream when Bryce describes Azriel's wings as touching each tide of the tunnel? Biggest wingspan indeed.

I both loved, and was let down by the crossover. I loved it, because the "maasverse" coming together is everything I want. I'm one of those fans that would love an ultimate crossover. I was let down because I didn't get enough.

I get why, but damn.

This is Crescent City. They are at the climax of a war. Bryce is in a panic to get back home and save Hunt, Ruhn, and Baxion. To get reinforcements. I get why she couldn't stay in Velaris and have all the moments I wanted her to have with our ACOTAR characters. Sarah made the right decision in regards to not spending too much time there. I just wanted more.

I loved the ... not friendship, but understanding, and respect that built between Bryce and Nesta and Azriel. You know - before Bryce deceived them. While I wanted more of Rhysand and Amren - wanted the others - I loved Sarah's choice of pairing ACOTAR's most complicated characters with Bryce. It was an unexpected trio, but I truly enjoyed it. It hinted a little of what is to come in the ACOTAR world, and that Nesta's story, while complete, isn't truly finished. She is still healing, and coming to terms with her life now. She still needs answers. Answers that she would have never had the possibility of one day answering without Bryce. And Az ... well, I'm pretty sure the next book is about him. I love that we get a little bit more of Az's personality and dry humor. I loved how effortlessly he worked with Nesta. Their friendship and partnership didn't feel like it was forced on either end because of her relationship with Cassian. It felt like mutual respect and trust.

And who else loved the parts where Bryce was explaining how certain technologies worked in her world? Nesta admitting that trying to figure out how her phone worked was driving them all nuts ... it made me giggle.


Magic

It's not something I fully took note of, but was aware of just the same. The fact that the fae in Crescent City were not as gifted as Sarah's other worlds, and were growing weaker generation by generation. The scientific element of the Asteri adding a parasite to the planets water was interesting and not at all what I was expecting. The characters who got to experience the difference of potency of their magic really showcases just how much the Asteri took from these people, and just how powerful every fae in all the worlds are.


Bryce

Bryce had some insane, kick ass moments in this book.

I didn't think Sarah could write a moment that was quite as badass as Bryce killing Micah and vacuuming up his ashes, but Bryce had a couple of them in this book, and they were so much fun to read. The only thing I didn't quite understand, was her overall character arc. Her arc throughout House of Earth and Blood and House of Sky and Breath was intriguing and wonderful to read. She went from a carefree party girl, to someone in the tight grip of grief and depression, to someone who decided to live - to heal. And while she immersed herself in the rebellion, her choices made sense to her personality. But in this book ... while the bones of her character were the same, she seemed to be channeling Aelin from Throne of Glass more than being herself, which was frustrating. Bryce also seems to have lost a bit of her humanity, which is ironic, considering how much she clings to that part of herself. By the end of the book, I felt like we got old Bryce back, but if Sarah wanted a conflict between Hunt and Bryce, she picked the wrong one. The Bryce we know and love would never, ever, tell Hunt to get over his incredibly traumatic experiences - even for the greater good.

I'm not saying it's wrong for her to be frustrated.

I'm not saying her desire to defeat the powers that are literally consuming their magic and causing so much horror is wrong.

But how dare she diminish Hunt's pain and fears? Bryce from the first two books would have never done that - and nothing that happened in Velaris would have caused that personality shift.

It just felt ... wrong.

Aside the rage that brought to me, I enjoyed Bryce. I love her feisty personality and inner-strength. I love that she will do anything for those she loves. I love that she sent her parents to Velaris, trusting Nesta to keep them safe despite how she betrayed them. Her sarcastic humor was a highlight in this book, and needed to balance out the darkness.


Hunt

Who else felt sick over the torture? I mean, I knew it was going to be bad. But it was bad. I'm no stranger to reading torture in books - which is so odd considering I read romance - but the love and connection I have to these characters made it so much worse. Their immortality, and the amount of damage they could endure without death, made it worse.

I need to admit something though. I can't decide if I am upset about the lack of development for his character in this book. I love Hunt's character, and I wanted more for him in this book. Wanted more layers. I just didn't feel like we got that. If I really think about it, Hunt's major character arc happened in House of Earth and Blood, and since then, he has been more of a prop.

The mate.

The battery charger.

The warrior.

I'm not saying he has had it easy. He is one of the characters that is punished relentlessly in this series.

It's just since the first book, his character has seemed very one-layered. The revelations we get on his power, and who his father is, while interesting, don't change anything. Even the halo that Regulus put on his brow doesn't really lead to anything, other than being an inconvenience he is able to shuck off himself, and rather easily. Considering the horror and trauma of having it placed on him once again, it just felt very lacking.


Bryce & Hunt

When you look back to House of Earth and Blood, the tension, and these two healing one another from their traumas, this couple has done a complete 180.

I'm not trashing on them, or this book.

I loved this book.

I just didn't like some of the thinks Bryce did in this book - especially with Hunt.

As much as I love my fiery, strong Bryce, I didn't love how much she took Hunt for granted. How did Sarah write Bryce from the woman who washed and held Hunt in the shower after he was once again forced to be the "Umbra Mortis", to brushing off his very legitimate fears.

Of course Bryce has the power to save her world. Eliminate the Asteri. I get the bigger picture, absolutely. But she didn't want to take a pause and listen. Listen to the person who was tortured for so long before he even met her, and this time was tortured beside people he cared about.

It bothers me.

And while in the end Bryce felt like Bryce again, and they both get a happy ending - it's sad that a couple that was probably my favorite of the three main mated couples - Aelin + Rowan, Feyre + Rhysand and Bryce + Hunt - I just didn't love their overall arc in the romantic sense of this book.


Lidia & Ruhn

Lidia and Ruhn's overall arc is one of my favorites of the book. Not just because of the tension, or unpredictable nature of their match, but because of them both as individuals. Ruhn's overall character arc was mostly complete by time this book began, so it made sense that Ruhn's journey was mostly within himself. Could he get over Lidia's past? How would it work if could?

But not just that.

Ruhn facing his father for a final time with his sister - him doing the killing blow - and passing over the torch to Bryce and supporting her ending the royal lines, was a great, overall conclusion to his character's story. No more pressure, no more abuse, just a happily ever after with his mate.

And while I love Ruhn, I absolutely love Lidia.

She did terrible things. She was raised to only know hate and violence.

But she changed. She discovered what love was in the purest form, and changed her way of thinking.

Motherhood does that.

That was not a twist I saw coming. I never came across a single theory that Lidia had children. And while I tend to not love tropes involving children/pregnancy, I loved Lidia's story. Her absolute love and devotion to her sons, the pain of striking the deal with the Ocean Queen - protection for them and she will continue her role as the Hind as a spy - it was just heart wrenching.

And Lidia's anger towards Ruhn - absolutely justified. Her anger at him for not taking a moment to listen to her. To talk to her. What a powerful moment for her.

But honestly, even learning of the twins didn't blow me away like chapter 94 did.

Now, I know there have been theories about Lidia's heritage and it's ties to Throne of Glass. It didn't escape some devoted SJM readers that not only are Lidia and Aelin's physical descriptions a match, but the ring that Lidia wears on her finger is a match to Rowan's wedding band, and Lidia is a deer shifter - and a stag is the symbol of Terrasen. I knew this was a possibility going in.

But chapter 94.

Her running on the battle field and releasing her fire magic?

Holy fuck.

It's been a week and a half since I finished reading the book, and I'm still mentally SCREAMING.

The touch of her naming her son after Brannon, and thinking how she comes from an old line of fae - screaming. Absolutely feral screaming.

I'm actually surprised that Lidia and Ruhn's story ends in this book. That they end up together and happy in the end of this book. I honestly thought that Sarah would have them angry and hurting until the next book. But I'm glad she didn't wait.

Ruhn needed a win.

And before I wrap this up - how kick ass was it when Lidia killed The Hawk during the escape?

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

And who else started BAWLING when Lidia nuzzles Ruhn before running, knowing that it might be the last time she see's or smells him. Just writing about it hurts.


Starsword & Truth Teller

Interesting. The prophecy could be interpreted in different ways, and I do think Bryce's assessment was closer to the truth of it, besides the literal explanation of the fae learning each other from different planets. I just find it interesting that two weapons in combination with starlight can become such a massive weapon. Black holes are no joke. I'm curious, now that Bryce has returned Truth Teller to Nesta and given her the Starsword, what more will be discovered in ACOTAR. Because, as Bryce said, there is more to learn.


Ithan

Who was expecting that storyline? I certainly wasn't.

I mean, it's been heavily hinted that Ithan has alpha blood, and just chooses to not step up. That they both backed Danika. But I honestly thought that Ithan's need to save *********** from the Astronomer was because she was his mate, and they would lead together.

But nope. And I don't hate it. It definitely seems like there is a possibility that the sweet and artistic wolf - *********** - just may be his mate, considering he keeps seeing something in her that he didn't see before, and that she isn't an omega.

I'm excited to see where this goes!


Tharion and Sathia Tharion is an interesting character in this series, because while he was loved in the first book when we didn't know a whole lot about him, the general consensus by the end of House of Sky and Breath was people were not jiving with him. And I get it. Hell, by the end of the second book, I wasn't a Tharion fan. I understood why he did the things he did, but I wasn't invested enough in his character to get on board with his morally grey personality.

After House of Flame and Shadow ... I'm interested.

I like that he is flawed. Like ... really flawed.

He is selfish, but has enough goodness in him that he was willing to help during this war. Enough goodness that he married Flynn's sister, not knowing her at all, to save her from being wed to some horrible fae. And didn't expect anything in return. And I like Sathia, which is surprising considering the bad things Flynn has hinted about with his family. I like the dynamic between her and Tharion. It's fun and a bit exciting, and by the end of the book, I was invested enough in them to want to know the rest of the story.

I really am intrigued with where his story is going, because it's obvious there is much more to his overall arc.


Hypaxia

Obviously, we are going to get way more of a story with her in the next book, as a lot of story happens behind the scenes in this book. She shows up a little before 50% into the book - way longer than I expected - and announces that she has been dethroned by the witches, and to protect herself from execution, she swears allegiance to the House of Flame and Shadow. She had a weird part in this book. She is so important to the book, coming up with a cure for the parasite, but it felt like she was cast aside. And I get it. It's a big book with a lot of characters, but it would have been nice to see more of her.


Jesiba Anyone else fall in love with her in this book? I did.

I loved learning who she was, and why she was the way she was. I mean - I think after 15,000 years of enduring a curse, with the sole purpose of protecting the books, we would all get a little bit sharper around the edges. But how she finally got to end her existence was perfect - and I love that Bryce gets to carry on her legacy of protecting the books and knowledge they have. That she trusted Bryce would do it. After all, she said she wasn't willing to age out and pass until she knew the books were in a world where they would be kept safe, and she saw that Bryce would make sure that world would come to pass.


Baxian

I'm a little bummed that his role was so small in this book. One of the captured at the beginning, but after the rescue, completely pushed to the side as a side character. Danika's mate. And now that it's been revealed, his arc is done. I hope we get more from him in the next book. We haven't encountered a character who had a mate and lost them yet, and it would be interesting to read an arc where he can find happiness again. I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Baxion looking over towards Bryce, Juniper and Fury and wincing, knowing that Danika's best friends would be relentless in their pursuit to learn more about him, and embrace him into their group. Knowing the pain Danika put herself through, keeping him at a distance for most of their relationship, I bet she loved that the people she loved the most coming together like that.

I am thoroughly enjoyed Hunt and him becoming best friends though. While Ruhn and Hunt are a great pair, Ruhn said in this book that Bryce is his best friend. Hunt needs someone separate, that gets what he has been through, has lived a similar life, as a best friend.


The Princes of Hel

If Sarah J Maas doesn't write a series about the 7 brothers, I will fucking riot.

RIOT!

That hint that their other brother's are on another world helping them with a problem?

I need all the stories. For every brother.


Avallen

I'm so curious about this land. There is a lot about it that SCREAMED Throne of Glass to me, and it could be a coincidence, but are there coincidence's in the maasverse? Not that I know of. The white boat that drifts to them as they "ring the bell" to Avallen, has had it's prow carved into a Stag's head, with lanterns hanging from his mighty horns. It's not just the white stag that makes me think of the Lord of the North from Throne of Glass. The lanterns also remind me that the Lord of the North has flaming antlers. It was just a little too one the nose for me.

There is also Morven's throne itself, crafted from a single set of antlers, a beast so large that Bryce knew that it didn't come from Midgard. That is interesting ... and worrying. I mean, I hope it's not the Lord of the North. But he is described as massive. I have a theory on this. But put a pin in that for another post.


Rigelus

Tell me you don't picture the teen leader of the skins on Roswell whenever you see Rigelus on page.

I can't not picture him any other way.

Thankfully, he is now dead and gone, and we never have to hear from him again ... because this dude sucks.



Irithys

We finally get to meet the sprite queen! I really liked her. She ended up embodying everything the sprites said about her - and I love that the sprites were able to help in the final battle against the Asteri and their captors.


Ariadne

We didn't get a lot of her in this book. But am I still absolutely intrigued with her character? Hell yes. There is so much mystery surrounding her, I need so, so much more.


Einar (The Autumn King)

Ding dong the bastard is dead. And I'm glad for it, his ending was delicious to read, especially because it was both his children doing the deed, but I am going to miss the smart ass quips Bryce always had for him.

I do wonder - did he know about Hunt's parentage? When he says that Hunt complicates his desire to marry Bryce off to another fae and strengthen the fae more than Bryce knows, it makes me think he does. Which makes me wonder - how? He knew things others did. He knew there were other worlds - other worlds with fae. How did he know all this? Something I will think on later.

Gotta say ... I love what Bryce did with all his properties and money. A last fuck you to her dad.


Morven

Aren't you glad this dumb fuck is dead too? I sure am!

I find the shadow magic ... very interesting. I know it's not unheard of in the maasverse. Ruhn has it. Rhysand and Azriel have it. But Morven's seemed ... darker. Described as snakelike, and his crown made from them. When Bryce pissed him off, his shadows were so dark behind his throne that it looked like a void. It just seemed very ... Valg-like to me. And it wasn't the only thing that reminded me of the Valg.


Viper Queen

I hate that I can't like her anymore. I liked how unusual and terrible her character was. How street smart she is. I just can't like her anymore after when she did so many of the characters in this book.


Ocean Queen

I don't like her. I was hoping that she would be someone better, considering she was against the Asteri, but she is definitely in the grey area morally. Only providing safety for Lidia's boys if she gave them up, and continued to serve the Asteri as the Hind? So fucking cruel. Not only the pain of giving up your babies that you have raised for the first year of their lives, but to go back and do things that disgust you?

Nope, she is just as bad.


River Queen

As much as I don't like the River Queen, I respected her in this book. She not only agreed to take Crescent City's citizens under the water to protect them from the Asteri and their army, but when Tharion was willing to divorce Sathia to marry her bratty daughter in exchange for the people's citizens, she refused. I mean, she wasn't overly nice about it, but I agreed with her sentiment. She wanted more for her daughter than that, and that was it. I don't think we are done with underwater politics, and I am interested to see how it plays out.


Randall & Ember

I love these two. Ember and Bryce's relationship is so on the nose a typically mother-daughter relationship between two women who are exactly alike and feisty. One of my favorite parts of this book was Bryce telling the Autumn King how Randall fell in love with her mother, and how he picked up a gun and did something he vowed never to do again to protect them. That Randall, despite not being her blood, was her true father, and that Ember and him taught her to fight to the death for those you love.

My. Heart.

And while I didn't love how Bryce went about it, I loved that Bryce sent her parents to Velaris for protection. That despite how she left Nesta and Azriel, she knew their intent, that they were good people, and left them there. I loved that Nesta, despite being the badass she was, softened her heart to Bryce, understanding this sacrifice. That even if she wouldn't lend the mask to her, she still wanted her parents there and safe. I loved Ember's motherly embrace for Nesta as well. Us ACOTAR readers know that Nesta had a complicated relationship with her mother, and how much she craved unconditional love. It was a sweet moment that I appreciated.


The Prime

What a sad end for someone who has stood behind Danika and Bryce ... and Ithan. It was a great moment to disinherit Sabine - too late, of course - but a great moment nonetheless.


Connor

My freaking heart. Issac needed that final goodbye with his brother, and Connor and the others needed to help in the only way they could. It was a beautiful goodbye to Bryce too. Just because Bryce is alive, and has a mate ... Connor died loving her. That won't change. It was perfect, and turned out well for those who died. Obviously, the Asteri and the Valg Under-King was somehow able to trap the souls, keeping them from truly passing on. Proved when even after the souls turned themselves to secondlight, and the infused bullet was used, AND after Danika gave the last of her soul/secondlight to help Bryce during her drop, they were all together in the afterlife. There was an after for them, despite their sacrifices.

Which I find very interesting. I don't know what I think about it yet. I think I will have to mull on it a bit more.


Urd - or better known as Wyrd

How fucking cool was this? That the Goddess that birthed the other Gods and Goddesses Midgard believe in, is connected to Throne of Glass's world? That she isn't a goddess at all, but the force that created everything. I just loved how blended it was, and loved the juxtaposition of the real world, and religion. How bastardized things can become after knowledge is shared through the centuries.


Pollux

I wish his death was more drawn out. But I loved that Lidia is the one who did it, and I loved how she did it. Glad that piece of shit is dead and gone.

I also hate that when he picked up Ruhn's hand that Baxion had just bite off, and made it give them all the middle finger, I snorted.

I'm a terrible person. I think I was just shocked to read that in an SJM book, honestly.


Pegasus

THEY ARE ALIVE!!!!!


Midgard

I will be interested in whether or not electricity will continue to be a part of this world.

I hope so.

One of the things I loved about this world was how unique it was to Sarah's other worlds. I'm curious how they will go about it. And the politics. Because you just know it's going to be a mess.


Well, that is it. For now.

I will have a couple posts coming up involving this book. One with links to all the extra chapters - which were great, by the way - and another with my theories for the future for this series, and Sarah's other series'. I have lots of thoughts. Too many to post here. So for now ... enjoy by thoughts on the book itself!



 



 


Polux: “Wake up,”

the Hammer sneered.

Polux: “It’s a beautiful day.”

Athalar’s swollen eyes cracked open. Hate blazed in their dark depths. The halo inked anew upon his brow seemed darker than the shadows of the dungeon. His battered mouth parted in a feral smile, revealing bloodstained teeth.

Hunt: “Morning, sunshine.”


Let them think her rambling. An idiot. The party girl most of Midgard had labeled her, that Micah had believed her to be, until she was vacuuming up his fucking ashes.


Rhysand: “We will not torture it from you, nor will I pry it from your mind. If you choose not to talk, it is indeed your choice. Precisely as it will be my choice to keep you down here until you decide otherwise.”

Bryce couldn’t stop herself from coolly surveying the room, her attention lingering on the grate and the hissing that drifted up from it.

Bryce: “I’ll be sure to recommend it to my friends as a vacation spot.”


Ariadne halted at a sink a few feet away, surveying the angles of her face in the mirror as she washed her hands.

Tharion: “Still as pretty as ever,”

Tharion managed to tease. That earned him a sidelong assessment.

Ariadne: “You look like shit.” '

Tharion: “Nice to see you, too,”

he drawled, the healing potion tingling through him. Her nostrils flared delicately. It wasn’t wise to taunt a dragon. But he’d been on a hot streak of making stupid decisions lately, so why stop now?

Ariadne: “You have a hole in your shoulder,”

she said without taking her gaze from his. Tharion peered at the ghastly wound, even as his skin knitted closed, the sensation like spiders crawling over the area.

Tharion: “Builds character.”


The Viper Queen lounged against a filthy wall, cigarette smoldering between her fingers, her white jumpsuit glowing like the moon in the flickering firstlight from the lampposts. Her eyes dropped to Sabine’s body. Her purple-painted lips curved upward as her gaze lifted to Ithan’s.

Viper Queen: “Bad dog,”


Hunt would tell her she was out of her mind. Ruhn would tell her to try to spin some more bullshit, try to win her captors over. But Danika …

Danika would have jumped.

Danika had jumped—down into the depths of the Drop with Bryce. Knowing there’d be no return trip for her.


Bryce: “You might be bluffing.”

She could have sworn silver fire danced in Nesta’s eyes.

Nesta: “Do you want to find out?”

Bryce held her stare. Clearly, they didn’t want her dead, if they’d sent someone to retrieve her, not hunt her down. But if she returned to that cell, how long would they keep her there? Even hours could make a difference for Hunt and Ruhn—

Bryce: “I’m always up for a day of discovery,”


Bryce: “Who’d you piss off to get sent to retrieve me, anyway?”

She could have sworn Nesta’s lips curved into a smile.

Nesta: “On a good day, too many people to count. But today … I volunteered.”

Bryce arched a brow.

Bryce: “Why?”

That silvery flame flashed in Nesta’s eyes. A shiver slithered along Bryce’s spine. Fae and yet … not.

Nesta: “Call it intuition,”

Nesta said, and stepped onto the bridge.


Nesta: “If we encounter something that wants to eat us again, don’t stare at it like a startled deer. Either run, or fight.”


Apollion: “What a sorry state you’re in,”

the Prince of the Pit purred.

He remained hidden in the shifting shadows. The demon prince inhaled, as if tasting the air.

Apollion: “What delicious pain you feel.”

Hunt: “I’d be happy to share.”


Apollion: “We must leave.”

Hunt: “Then what was the point of all this watching me from the shadows?”

Apollion: “To ensure that we can continue to rely on you when the time comes.”

Hunt: “To do what?”

Apollion: “What you were born to do—to accomplish the task for which your father brought you into existence,”

Apollion said before fading into nothing, leaving Aidas standing alone before the prisoners.


But Flynn asked her, brow arching,

Flynn: “And you’re an authority on the Vipe now?”

Ariadne: “I’m an authority on assholes,”

Ari countered smoothly, giving Flynn a look as if to indicate that he was included on that list.


Nesta peered at the writing beneath the image.

Nesta: “That’s all it says?”

Bryce shrugged.

Bryce: “Old-school Fae. Lots of fancy titles and lineage. You know how they liked to preen.”

Nesta’s lips quirked upward.


Bryce: “And Rhysand is … your king?”

Nesta snorted.

Nesta: “He’d like to be. But no. He’s the High Lord of the Night Court.”


Declan: “Guessed? Or someone sold us out?”

Lidia: “Don’t flatter yourself,”

the Hind said, crossing her arms.

Lidia: “You’re extremely predictable.”


Lidia: “I would never hurt him. Everything I’ve done recently, everything I’m doing now, has been to keep Ruhn alive. Do you know how hard it is to keep Pollux at bay? To convince him to go slow? Do you have any idea what that’s like?”

She screamed the last part at Flynn, who backed away a step. The Hind heaved a breath, shaking.

Lidia: “I need to get him out. If you don’t help me, then his death is on you. And I will destroy you, Tristan Flynn.”


Rithi: “She is noble, and brave—”

Lidia: “Is she trustworthy?”

Rithi ducked behind Flynn’s ear again, but Sasa snapped,

Sasa: “She is our queen. She is honor itself.”

Lidia looked coolly at the sprite.

Lidia: “I know plenty of rulers who don’t embody that virtue one bit.”


Bryce: “High Fae? As opposed to … normal Fae?”

Nesta shrugged.

Nesta: “They use the High part to make themselves sound more important than they are.”

Bryce’s mouth twitched upward.

Bryce: “Sounds like the Fae in my world.”


Bryce peered over a shoulder at the male, trying to calm her shivers.

Bryce: “Those were your shadows against my light earlier?”

Azriel: “Yes,”

Nesta chuckled.

Nesta: “And he’s probably been put out about it ever since.”

Azriel: “Seeing you go into that freezing river helped,”

Azriel said mildly, and Bryce could have sworn she caught a hint of a smile gracing his beautiful face.


Bryce: “So Rhysand is Illyrian, too? He’s got the wings.”

Nesta: “Half. Half High Fae, half Illyrian.”

Azriel cleared his throat as if to warn her to stop talking so much, and Nesta added sharply,

Nesta: “And with the combined arrogance of both.”

Azriel really cleared his throat then, and Bryce couldn’t help her smile, despite her clacking teeth.


Nesta: “I’m sorry about your brother’s suffering.”

The words steadied Bryce, focused her.

Bryce: “I’ll make sure my sire pays for it one day.”

Nesta: “Good”

was all Nesta said. “Good.”


Nesta: “I had a tattoo on my back—recently. A magical one, now gone. But it was of an eight-pointed star.”

Bryce: “And?”

Nesta: “And the magic, the power of the bargain that caused the tattoo to appear … it chose the design. The star meant nothing to me. I thought maybe it was related to my training, but its shape was identical to the scar on your chest.”

Bryce: “So we’re obviously destined to be best friends,”


Solas burn her. Randall would kill her for being so stupid.

Bryce: “You lured me here.”

Nesta nodded to Azriel, who withdrew his blade but kept a hand on Bryce’s shoulder, either to prevent her from moving or to hold her steady in the river’s current.

Nesta: “You saved me from the traps in the walls. It only made sense that you’d have a guilty conscience to go with that soft heart.”

Scratch that: her mother would kill her for being so stupid.


Bryce: “We need to help her,”

Bryce panted to Azriel.

Azriel: “I promise you, she’s fine,”

Azriel countered, urging them further into the tunnel.


Lidia: "...it has him worried.”

Ruhn: “I don’t see how it could make any difference.”

Lidia: “Then you underestimate your sister.”

Ruhn: “Fuck you,”

Lidia: “Rigelus isn’t underestimating Bryce for one moment,”

she went on, tone sharpening.

Lidia: “One thousand mystics, Ruhn—all looking for her. Do you know how many tasks he usually has them doing? But they are all focused on finding her. That tells me he’s very, very scared.”


Azriel: “Give me a reason to believe you won’t winnow out of here and leave us.”

Bryce: “I can’t. You’ll have to trust me.”

Azriel: “After what you just pulled?”

Bryce: “Remember that I’ll be trusting you not to blast a hole through my heart.”

She tapped the star.

Bryce: “Aim right there.”

Azriel: “I told you already: we don’t want to kill you.”

Bryce: “Then aim carefully.”


Bryce: “Hit the star.”

Azriel: “How much power?”

Gods, this was potentially a really bad idea. Experimenting with power she didn’t know or understand—

Bryce: “A little. Just make sure you don’t deep-fry me.”

After the shit with the Wyrm, he’d probably like nothing more than to do exactly that. But Azriel’s lips tugged upward.

Azriel: “I’ll try my best.”


Nesta: “When we stop again … can you show me how that contraption works?”

Bryce: “The phone?”

The word couldn’t be translated into their language, and it sounded outright silly in their accent. But Nesta nodded, her eyes fixed on the tunnel ahead.

Nesta: “Trying to figure out what it does has been driving us all crazy.”


Flynn: “She’ll try to distract you,”

Flynn said from beside him, staring at the empty ring.

Flynn: “But get around her flames, and I think you can take her.”

Declan: “I thought you had the hots for the dragon. No pun intended.”

Flynn: “Not when she’s about to toast my friend.”

Ithan tried and failed to smile.


Hunt: “I’m not biting off your fucking hand,”

Hunt managed to say.

Ruhn: “It’s the only way I’ll reach it. It’ll grow back.”

Baxian: “This is insane,”

Ruhn nodded to Hunt.

Ruhn: “We need you to be the Umbra Mortis. He’s a badass—he wouldn’t hesitate.”

Hunt: “A badass, not a cannibal.”

Ruhn: “Desperate times,”

Ruhn said, meeting Hunt’s stare.


Silene: It was not enough for my mother. Possessing all she had ever wanted was not enough.

Bryce: “Classic stage mom,”


Silene: To leave this account for one whose blood will summon it, child of my child, heir of my heir. To you—I leave my story, your story. To you, in this very stone, I leave the inheritance and the burden that my own mother passed to me.

The image blurred, and there she was again. That old, weary face.

Silene: I hope the Mother will forgive me,

Silene said, and the hologram dissolved.

Bryce: “Well, I fucking don’t,”

Bryce spat, and flipped off the place where Silene had stood.


Bryce: “I don’t want to fight you,”

Bryce said, voice oddly hollow, like the surge of magic she’d taken from Silene’s store had emptied out her soul.

Bryce: “I’m not your enemy.”

Nesta: “Then let us bring you back to our High Lord,”

Ataraxia flashed in answer.

Bryce: “To do what? Lock me up? Cut the Horn out of my skin?”

Nesta: “If that’s what’s necessary,”

Nesta said coldly, knees bending, readying to strike.

Nesta: “If that’s what it takes to keep our world safe.”

Bryce bared her teeth in a feral grin. More spikes of rock shot up from the ground, angling toward Nesta and Azriel.

Bryce: “Then come and take it.”


Lidia: “Can I trust you?”

Irithys began to glow white again—white-hot.

Irithys: “You don’t have any other choice now, do you?”

Lidia extended her arm once more.

Lidia: “Make it hurt, Your Majesty.”


Nesta: “You’re as much of a monster as they are,”

Bryce knew. She’d always known.

Bryce: “Love will do that to you.”


Einar: "If I were to guess, you managed to reach a place I have long desired to go.”

He glanced up at the orrery.

Bryce: “You might want to reconsider before packing your bags. They don’t take kindly to assholes.”

Einar: “Your journey hasn’t impacted that smart mouth of yours, I see.”

She smiled with saccharine sweetness.

Bryce: “You’re still an absolute bastard, I see.”


Bryce: “He’s your son, for fuck’s sake.”

Einar: “I can have others.”

Bryce: “Not if I kill you first.”


Einar: “I once asked your brother to provide me with a seed of his starlight.”

Bryce: “Gross. Don’t call it that.”


He arched a brow.

Einar: “Your imagination does run rampant.”

Bryce: “Oh, totally. But you took zero interest in me as a kid. And now suddenly, once I revealed my magic light, you want me to be part of your fucked-up little family.”

Einar: “My only interest in you lies in the bloodline you stand to pass on.”

Bryce: “Too bad Hunt complicates that.”

Einar: “More than you know.”


The Autumn King smiled. It was a thing of nightmarish beauty.

Einar: “You truly are my child. More so than Ruhn ever was.”

Bryce: “That’s not a compliment.”


Bryce: “Let’s talk about how we can add another notch to my Magical Starborn Princess belt: I united the sword and knife. Prophecy fulfilled.”

Einar: “You don’t know anything about that prophecy,”

the Autumn King said, and returned to his work. She asked sweetly,

Bryce: “So my interpretation is wrong? When knife and sword are reunited, so shall our people be. Well, I went to our old world. Met some people. Reminded them we exist. Came back here. Thus, two people reunited.”


Einar: “Ruhn doesn’t possess the raw power to handle such a thing correctly.”

Bryce: “But I do?”

she asked innocently.

Bryce: “Is that why I’m here? We’re going to cooperate in some kind of training montage so I can take down the Asteri for you?”


Einar: “Does it matter who is in power, so long as the Fae survive?”

Bryce: “Um, yeah. One option is a parasitic blight upon this world. Let’s not go with that choice.”


Einar: “So all the water on Midgard is contaminated.”

Bryce: “I don’t think a filter’s gonna help you, if that’s what you’re planning.”


Bryce: “Maybe that sword and dagger can cleanse the parasite, though.”

She hummed again, as if thinking it over.

Bryce: “Maybe you should let me impale you with them and we can see what happens.”


Hunt squinted as he lowered his wing and met the shithead’s eyes.

Hunt: “Fuck you.”

Like Hel would these assholes make him beg and grovel—either for his own life or Ruhn’s. Lidia said mildly,

Lidia: “I couldn’t have said it better myself, Athalar.”

Hunt looked, but not fast enough. The Hawk certainly didn’t look fast enough. And Hunt knew he’d treasure this moment forever: the moment when Lidia Cervos pulled out her gun and fired it right between the Hawk’s eyes.


Jesiba: “That big crate marked Lasivus needs unpacking and cataloging. There’s an extra laptop on the credenza over there. Password JellyJubilee. Both words capitalized, no spaces. Don’t give me that look, Holstrom. Quinlan set it.”


Einar: “What is there to get? I am a king. Kings do not need to explain themselves.”

Bryce: “Fathers do.”


Einar: “It is on Avallen, and females are not allowed beyond the lobby of the archives.”

Bryce: “Yeah, our periods would probably get all over the books.”


Flynn: “Ruhn, buddy—you gotta sleep.”

Flynn finally stepped into the room, dropping into the chair beside his.

Flynn: “If she gets up, I’ll call you. If she even moves, I will call you.”

Ruhn just stared at the too-pale female on the bed.

Flynn: "Ruhn.”

Ruhn: “The last thing I said to her was that she was dead to me.”

Flynn blew out a breath.

Flynn: “I’m sure she knew you didn’t mean it.”

Ruhn: “I did mean it.”

His friend swallowed.

Flynn: “I didn’t realize things between you guys had become so … intense.”

Ruhn: “She did all this to save me anyway,”


He wished Bryce were with him. Not just to sleep beside him, and to remind him that he’d made it out, but … he needed his best friend.


Jesiba: “A great civilization lived on Midgard long before the Asteri conquered it.”

He could have sworn she sounded sad.

Jesiba: “One that prized knowledge in all its forms. So much so that a hundred thousand humans marched at Parthos to save these books from the Asteri and Vanir who came to burn them.”

She shook her head, face distant.

Jesiba: “A world where people loved and valued books and learning so much that they were willing to die for them. Can you imagine what such a civilization was like? A hundred thousand men and women marched to defend a library—it sounds like a bad joke these days.”

Her eyes blazed.

Jesiba: “But they fought, and they died. All to buy the library priestesses enough time to smuggle the books out on ships."


Ithan: “Do you want to … start aging again?”

It was a dangerously personal question, but to his surprise, she answered.

Jesiba: “Not yet,”

Jesiba said a shade quietly.

Jesiba: “Not until it’s time.”

Ithan: “For what?”

She looked over a shoulder at the small library, at the feisty book that had at last simmered down, as if sulking.

Jesiba: “For a world to emerge where these books will be truly safe at last.”


Bryce: “Randall hadn’t picked up a gun in years. Not since he’d gotten home from the front and vowed he’d never use one again. He was on the verge of swearing his vows to Solas when he got the request from the High Priest to go help a single mom and her three-year-old daughter get away from you. And that night your loser guards caught up with us … that was the first time Randall picked up a gun again. He put a bullet right through your chief security officer’s head. Randall hated every single fucking second of it. But he did it. Because in that moment, even after only three days on the run, he knew that he was already in love with my mom. And that there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her.”

The Autumn King’s nose crinkled with annoyance.

Einar: “Is there a point to this story?”

Bryce: “My point,”

she said, leaning closer to her father,

Bryce: “is that I didn’t just learn about love from my mom. I learned about it from my dad, too. My true dad. My weak human dad who you’re so jealous of that you can’t stand it. He taught me to fight like Hel for the people I love.”


Pure death loomed in his eyes.

Einar: “The Asteri will kill you.”

Bryce: “Maybe. But you’re not going to help them by telling them about this.”

She extended the Starsword toward his face. He didn’t dare move as she bopped him on the nose with its tip.


The Autumn King growled as he backed into the closet,

Einar: “I will kill you and your bitch mother for this.”

She motioned him further inside.

Bryce: “I’ll pencil you in for tomorrow.”


Ocean Queen: “Tharion Ketos.”

She spoke his name like it left a foul taste in her mouth.

Ocean Queen: “How is it that you have not one, but two queens demanding your head?”

He winced and put forth his brightest charm—his first and best line of defense.

Tharion: “I tend to have that effect on females?”


Ocean Queen: “The River Queen and Viper Queen only want you. I would like one good reason why I shouldn’t hand you over—let them squabble over your carcass.”

He scrambled for some way to disarm the moment, to win her, but came up empty. His unnaturally deep pool of luck had finally and officially run dry—

Bryce: “You hand him over,”

a female voice drawled from the open doorway,

Bryce: “and you’ll have a third queen pissed at you.”

Tharion’s stomach bottomed out. Bryce Quinlan swept through the doorway and winked at the Ocean Queen.

Bryce: “Tharion serves me.”


Ocean Queen: “Does your father the Autumn King still draw breath?”

Bryce smiled slowly.

Bryce: “For the time being.”

The Ocean Queen weighed the words—then answered Bryce’s smile with her own, revealing all those hooked shark’s teeth.

Ocean Queen: “I don’t recall inviting you onto this ship.”

Bryce checked her nails—it was such a thoroughly Bryce movement that Hunt’s chest tightened.

Bryce: “Well, someone sent me an e-vite.”


Ocean Queen: “You are young. And idealistic. And inexperienced.”

Bryce: “Don’t forget ill qualified and always inappropriately dressed.”


Hunt: “What the fuck—”