THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE
Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.
THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.
Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.
Wow. Just wow. I’m so glad that Kaynan urged me to read this RIGHT NOW. This is an incredibly good book, and I had a really hard time putting it down to deal with (very necessary) tasks, like: getting kids ready for school, helping with homework, making dinner, bedtime routines, and playing with the kids…Oops.
The very best part of this book is the two main characters, Brishen and Ildiko (how the hell do you pronounce her name?? Every time I see it in the text I took 5 seconds to try to reason it out before moving on. I’m quite sure I’m saying it wrong in my head).
Brishen is the spare prince of the Kai. Ildiko is the niece of the Gauri king. Both are unimportant in their respective kingdoms. Left aside to be used as pawns in some negotiation or another. A negotiation, it turns out, that finds them wed to each other.
I don’t think there’s anything particularly spectacular about either character alone. They’re both nice, kind, honorable people. They face life rather than bemoaning their circumstances. They don’t take their frustrations out on those that are undeserving of them, and the genuinely try to be good. In fact, it’s kind of hard to find a flaw with either of them. But that’s okay. Because the true love that I have here is them together.
Together, Brishen and Ildiko are amazing. They are one-hundred-percent honest with each other. Their love is built on friendship and mutual care and respect, not attraction and the desire to have sex at every other turn. They learn each other, they are honest with each other, and – to start – they find each other hideous.
“You find me ugly, don’t you?”
Brishen had faced abominations on the battlefield without flinching, leapt into the thick of the fighting against creatures born from the nightmares of lesser demons. Not once had he been tempted to run away in fear. Now, his leg muscles rippled with the urge to flee. He clenched his teeth instead, prayed he wouldn’t start a war with their newest ally and answered honestly.
“Hideous,” he said. “A hag of a woman.”
Another peal of laughter met his words. Brishen wilted, relieved she took no insult in him so bluntly validating her assumption. He didn’t even know her name, but he liked her and didn’t wish to hurt her. Assured she wasn’t planning to flounce off and send a pack of offended relatives after him, he turned the same question on her.
“And you,” he said. “You don’t think me a handsome man?”
She shrugged. “I’ve only seen your hands and eyes. For all I know, you’re hiding the face of a sun spirit in that hood.”
Brishen scoffed at the idea. “Hardly.” He’d never lacked female company, and his people thought him well-favored. Certainly nothing as wretched as a sun spirit. He slid the hood back to his shoulders.
The woman’s eyes rounded. She inhaled a harsh breath and clasped one hand to her chest. Her mollusk skin went a far more attractive shade of ash. She remained silent and stared at him until he raised a hand in question. “Well?”
She exhaled slowly. The space between her eyebrows stitched into a single vertical frown line. “Had you crawled out from under my bed when I was a child, I would have bludgeoned you to death with my father’s mace.”
How could I *not* love them after that meet-cute??
Because their marriage is to secure and alliance there’s obviously some other machinations going on in the book, but really this is the story about Brishen and Ildiko growing to love each other. Two outcasts that find true love and companionship in each other.
The slow burn of their budding relationship was so refreshing. Without attraction and sexual desire mucking up the works, they form their relationship organically – on friendship and respect. Who’d have thought that could work so well? Don’t get me wrong, I love the attraction and sexual tension as much as anyone (and you get some of that here too, don’t worry), but can’t there be a time and place? Can’t our characters have something more to fall back on than … well, their backs?
This book says, emphatically, YES!
I said that this is really the story of Brishen and Ildiko’s falling in love, and that’s probably where my only real complaint lies, too. I love their story. A LOT. But I do wish that we’d gotten more of the world, more of the threatening war, more of the politics, more of the cultures of both peoples.
And then we get to the ending. After such a sweet moment between our heroes, that epilogue hit me over the head and shocked the hell out of me! What? Where did that come from?? Things just got real!
I NEED to see what happens next. Eidolon, please. Gimme.