What Lurks Between the Fates
by Harper L. Woods
Book 3 in the Of Flesh & Bone Series
Once, I'd chosen my mate instead of freedom.
For weeks, we retraced our steps back to Mistfell and the lingering shadow of the Veil at the boundary between realms. Traveling through the kingdom, I denied the evidence in front of me, unable to fathom that I wasn't the lost princess of Faerie. Instead, it is Fallon who must fear the consequences of her heritage. Which leaves me with a single, unanswered question.
Then, I awoke, caged high above the throne of the Queen of Air & Darkness. Mab is the Queen who keeps all of Alfheimr held squirming within her clawed grasp. She uses the children of Faerie to sustain the magic granted to her by the cursed gem atop her crown, which has carved her from the girl she once was into a dark vessel, obsessed with power. She thrives on cruelty, and wields our love as an instrument for pain.
Now, I'll play the games of the Fae.
I'm a curiosity, my presence an enigma that was never foreseen. I may not be Mab's daughter, yet she still keeps me close, as she forges me into a weapon against humans and Fae alike. Mab may not own me yet, but she controls the life of the man I love. There is nothing I wouldn't do to see him freed.
Even if I have to become the villain to do it.
Religious purity culture, Verbal and physical abuse (NOT the male lead), References to grooming behavior & assault of a minor by an authority figure (NOT the male lead), Ritualistic Sacrifice, Suicidal thoughts & ideation, Graphic violence, Graphic sexual content including kinks, GRAPHIC TORTURE, On page attempted sexual assault (NOT by the male lead), Flesh-eating creatures
Woah. That's a lot of triggers.
But you know what ... it tracks. It also was really the only place this story was heading after the conclusion of the second book.
What Lurks Between the Fates came out March of this year, so I know this review is a long time coming. I promise I didn't forget about the series.
I really enjoyed the first book, and I liked the second book.
It's just time got away from me, and I have a lot of arcs this year.
I just happened to find a moment in time where I had no arcs lined up, and I just finished a book on my tbr, and I decided to go back and look at series' I started but haven't finished yet, and saw that this book was released!
Of course, 25% in, I was sent two arcs that meant I had to put it down, but I did so reluctantly.
Because What Lurks Between the Fates was good!
If you remember, I didn't love the second book. There was a lot of travelling, and her denying her feelings, which was annoying. Luckily, she has come to terms with how she feels for Caldris, so we are over that annoying plotline. Now, we are in the danger zone. Caldris has warned her over and over about Mab and the extent of her evil, and Harper doesn't hold back on Mab's evilness. Sure, she felt like a cliché villain at times, but she definitely lived up for Caldris's warnings.
While this book is darker than the past two books, one thing didn't change, and that was the love between these two characters. Even in the most dire of circumstances, I could feel the love between them. It's almost jarring, when you consider the turmoil their relationship was in in the last book, but there is an understanding between them that carries through to the reader easily, and not in an unbelievable way. Their banter was superb, as it has been the last two books, and whenever they could get a moment with one another, the steamy scenes were great! We definitely don't get as much as we did the last couple of books, but that makes sense, considering we are in the meat of the story now. While there were a few scenes that made me cringe because of how brutal and/or gross they were, there were also some great moments where Estrella really stands up for herself, whether it's verbally, or physically, that is so satisfying to read.
What is frustrating is we still don't know what Estrella is. We know she isn't Mab's daughter, thankfully, but as to what she is, we still don't know. And I was sure we would learn that this book. I definitely have my theories. I suspect she is a goddess of some sort. God, I can't remember what Harper call them in this series. Caldris is a god, but there is something stronger than that, that has never been seen, and I think that is her, or at least the child of them.
After the cliffhanger, I can't see me waiting so long after release to read the next book. Things were pretty dire, and I am hoping that Estrella will finally get answers to what she is, and come back with a plan to save Caldris and herself, and destroy Mab for good. Because, damn, these two need a break.
Caldris: “That’s hardly sanitary. You never know what he’s crawled through,”
Estrella: “Snakes don’t crawl,”
I returned, pretending that I hadn’t just wondered if they had necks.
Estrella: “Besides, I never know where you’ve been, and somehow I still like you.”
Caldris said with a laugh that defied the circumstances surrounding us.
Caldris: “I haven’t been anywhere in centuries.” Estrella: “I need to know what they did to you so that I know how much to make them suffer when I'm given the opportunity.”
He grinned in response, his love for my violence showing even in the darkness that surrounded us and the fate that seemed impossible for us to escape.
Caldris: “This hardly seems like an appropriate place for foreplay, my star,” Playing with the body of a rat was a new low, and it forced me to look over at where Lozu watched me like I was his next meal.
Estrella: “You could eat him too, you know?”
I said, nodding my head toward Caldris.
Lozu: “Too tough. You just soft enough not to get stuck in my teeth,”
Lozu said, not even bothering to look over at Caldris as the words rolled off his tongue. My mate, for his part, seemed unbothered by Lozu’s half-assed threats. I was nearly certain that we both knew the gnome had grown fond of me during our time in that cell, that his affections would at least give him some pause before he consumed my flesh.
Monos: “We've had this conversation,”
Monos said, a sigh leaving her lungs.
Monos: “You do not need to tell her you're planning to eat her. Just do it once she is already dead and gone.”
Her casualness made me rethink my assurance that my friendship with the shades had changed anything. Perhaps they, better than anyone, knew how to separate the flesh from the soul. My body was but a vessel, useless to me once I abandoned it in favor of the Void.
Estrella: “That's very reassuring, Monos. Thank you for that wonderful endorsement,”
I said, rolling my eyes. Estrella: “I don't know how I will ever recover from such a grave insult to my character. That one stung right in the place where I do not care.” She wanted to know if I saw myself as the hero of my story, but I didn't. I only saw myself as the villain of hers. Estrella: “The Fae can't lie,”
I said, adding another rule to her list. I supposed that must have applied to me now, leaving me incapable of muttering untruths.
Mab: “But they can dance around the truth in ways you may never realize until it is too late. Less is more. As you cannot lie, try not to speak at all. A hardship for you, I know,”
she said with a little smile. I didn't care if Estrella was more powerful. I didn't care if she ruled over me, and I was the figurehead at her side. All I wanted was to stand beside her in all her glory. All I wanted was to love her for eternity. Caldris: “If you suffer, I suffer too. If you bleed, I bleed as well. If you die, then I will follow,”
I murmured, dropping my forehead to hers. Estrella: “You're afraid of me,”
she murmured finally, blinking away the creature that had risen to the surface. Her head straightened as she crossed her arms over her chest, looking far too vulnerable all over again.
Caldris: “Never, min asteren,”
I murmured, putting all the warmth I felt for her into the bond between us. Her bottom lip trembled as she nodded slightly, but there was no confidence in it.
Caldris: “I could never fear the other half of myself.”
Estrella: “Why not? I fear myself. What I am. What I might be capable of,”
she said, glancing down at her shackled hands. I could practically hear the loud thoughts echoing through her mind. Her questioning if the shackles were for her own benefit as well.
Caldris: “Whatever you were born, you are not a monster now,” Estrella: “You and half the realm, it seems. But it is me who will share his bed for the rest of his days. You are one of countless others who will never again know the way his body feels, and you never knew the truth of him. He lives within me, his soul as much a part of me as mine,”
I said, pausing as I delivered the final blow to her confidence. I might not have done it if I hadn't known she would already be my enemy, but nothing I could say or do would change my fate where her jealousy was concerned. I smiled sadly, my eyes filling with pity.
Estrella: “You are nothing to him, whereas I am his entire world. Dressed up pig or not.” Caldris: “Because Estrella is living proof that you can be both powerful and kind. She is your reminder that you didn’t need to sacrifice your soul to be granted the power you have. After ruling for centuries, Estrella is your penance. She has the potential to be everything you have fought to become, everything you have clawed your way through life to achieve. She has been given that for merely existing, and where your people hate you for what you have forced yourself to become…”
I paused, watching as Mab’s eye twitched. It was the subtlest sign that I’d struck a nerve, that I’d been correct in my assumption. No matter how many centuries Mab had lived, everyone held onto the insecurities that plagued them as a child. Mab remembered how it felt to be second best, to be the dark child to her brother’s golden light. Just. Like. Estrella.
Caldris: “They will love her until their dying breath,”
I finished, watching a shudder work through her body. As if the chill of my words crept up her neck, forcing her to acknowledge the truth of them. Mab: “You are my greatest failure. I hope you know that,”
Mab snapped. I grinned at the reality that she’d been unable to break me the way she had so many others. That I hadn’t changed to suit her purposes.
Caldris: “I take great pride in that,” Soren waved a hand, unbothered by Malachi’s impatience, as he stepped away from Caldris’s side.
Soren: “Mab would like you to know that the blight are observing your every move and will report to her far faster than you can make any attempt to save your mate’s life, should you decide to misbehave. You are not to leave Malachi’s nor my sight while aiding Caldris with the task given to you to assist in the preparations for the Solstice,”
he said, glancing over my shoulder to Malachi.
Soren: “Did I get everything? I covered the usual doom and gloom, yes?” This was the mate I’d waited centuries for. A queen of death and carnage. Malachi: “One of these days, she'll allow me to tear you limb from limb. I greatly look forward to the way you'll scream. That is the only use I have for your mouth.”
Estrella: “And one of these days, I'll cut off your cock and feed it to you, Malachi. I have no interest in your screams,”
I said, tilting my head to stare up at him through my lashes as I smiled sweetly.
Estrella: “Only your silence.” And I would die before I allowed that to happen.
I started, wincing back from the glare he aimed at me as we came to a stop outside the door to my chambers.
Caldris: “Say it, and I will bend you over and fuck you until you forget how to speak, min asteren. Don’t even think it,”
he growled, his voice a warning. I had a feeling the fucking would only be the beginning of my punishment if I dared to disobey him.
Caldris: “Don’t ever think to ask that of me.”
I swallowed, nodding. Even though I knew he was wrong. Estrella: “It is offensive that you think I would just walk away from here and leave you to suffer. Is that what you think of me?”
I asked, scoffing as my own anger rose.
Caldris: “You tried to kill me in my sleep,”
he said shortly, the words drifting into a chuckle at the end.
Estrella: “So dramatic,”
I purred, smiling as my gaze slid down his body. He raised a brow at me, as if to remind me that was exactly what happened.
Estrella: “I didn’t do it.”
I rolled my eyes to the side, pursing my lips as I fought my own rising laughter at the incredulous look on his face.
Caldris: “You didn’t do it,”
he said, his nostrils flaring as his chest shook with silent laughter.
Estrella: “How could I kill you when you whispered such pretty words to me?”
I asked, my words far lighter than I felt inside. Caldris: “You are my reason for every breath. The reason every day I have spent as a prisoner has been worth it. Because it brought me to you.” Caldris: “They thought it was me who could rise up to fight Mab, but it isn’t. If it hasn’t happened for centuries, it isn’t going to now. You are Alfheimr’s only hope for salvation—”
Estrella: “Then let it burn!”
I snapped, whirling around to glare at him. My chest heaved with my heavy breaths as his shocked stare met mine. Never before had I spoken the traitorous thoughts in my head; had I told him just how much I was willing to ruin my soul for him.
Estrella: “What good is it if it doesn’t have you?”
He blinked at me rapidly, as if he couldn’t quite believe the words I’d spoken. I’d always wanted to save every life. To protect the weak from those who sought to break them.
Caldris: “You don’t mean that,”
he said finally, raising his brows as he shook his head subtly.
Estrella: “I didn’t understand when you said you would let the world die if it meant I could survive the wreckage. I hadn’t let myself love you… not like this,”
I explained, stepping toward him slowly. My bottom lip trembled, this confession feeling different from all the others.
Estrella: “But I do now.”
I reached up, cupping his cheek as he stared down at me.
Estrella: “I would sacrifice everyone if it meant I had you,”
I said, pulling his face down so that I could brush my lips against his.
Estrella: “So do not ever ask me to leave you. Never again.” My jaw clenched as Rheaghan touched my face, turning my gaze back to his.
Rheaghan: “Long game, Estrella. You know nothing of Caldris’s deal. Dance,”
he murmured, guiding me through the motions.
Estrella: “Why should I pretend I know nothing and allow it to continue?”
I asked, my fury rising all over again as Malazan took Caldris by the hand and guided him to the middle of the dance floor. My mate kept her at a distance, scowling as their hands touched, and searched for me. I turned my attention away from him, focusing on Rheaghan even though I wanted nothing more than to kill Malazan where she stood.
Rheaghan: “Because if you do not know, no one will suspect you when she turns up dead. I look forward to playing the game with you, Princess.” Estrella: “Would you shut up and fuck me already?”
I growled, looking at Caldris over my shoulder. My mate laughed, but finally slid that hand lower on my body. His fingers trailed through me, brushing against my clit so softly that my hips jolted forward.
Caldris: “Oh no, my star. I have all night to fuck you.”
His free hand wrapped around my front, grasping my breast in his hand and pinching the nipple as he worked the flesh. His other moved between my thighs, sliding first one finger inside of me and working it slowly. Too slowly
Caldris: “By the end of the night, you’ll be so full of cum that it drips down your thighs,”
he said, and the creature inside of me purred.
Caldris: “I’m going to make a fucking mess of you. So before you get my cock, you’re going to come on my fingers, and then you’re going to ride my tongue.” Malazan: “You’re as much a monster as me,”
she mumbled, the words barely audible.
Estrella: “For him, I will be.” Estrella: “Why am I wearing this?”
Nila: “Mab wants you to dress as she wills. She wants to bathe you in shadows to call attention to your similarities. But you are not the Queen of Air and Darkness, Estrella,”
Nila explained, resting a hand upon each of my biceps as Caldris threw open the door. Estrella: “This feels like playing the short-term game,”
I muttered as Caldris knelt at Malachi’s side. His attention turned to me, the motion slow and furious as he met my stare.
he said, baring his teeth.
Caldris: “Have been spending far too much time with Rheaghan, my star.” Estrella: “I’m going to save him,”
I whispered, the vulnerable words feeling torn from my soul. I didn’t know how or when I’d remove Mab’s serpent from where it wrapped around his heart. Only that I would.
Twyla: “And who will save you?”
Twyla asked, shaking her head.
Estrella: “The same person who always has,”
I answered, glancing down at the golden marks on my skin as my nerves threatened to tear me in two.
Estrella: “I’m going to save myself.”