Real love has no limitations.
Kidnapped by slavers, Lizzie Petrule was dragged in chains across the Great Sea to the corrupt empire of Meridal. There beneath a floating citadel and an ocean of golden sand, lies a pleasure den for gladiators-and a prison for the maidens forced to slake their carnal thirst.
Despite impossible odds, against imponderable magic, three men have vowed Lizzie’s return: Justin, her suitor; Leon, her father; and Ril, the shape-shifting but war-weary battler. Together, this broken band can save her, but only with a word that must remain unsaid, a foe that is a friend, and a betrayal that is, at heart, an act of love.
This is the second book in the Sylph series by L.J Mcdonald. Ever since I found out that Ril would be the hero of the second book, I have been anticipating his story. The book starts off a few years after the events from The Battle Sylph where the inhabitants of the free sylphs and humans have built up their settlement. However, the tranquillity does not last long when Lizzie – during a trip at a local trading port – gets kidnapped by slavers and is transported to a desert kingdom to become a sex slave for enslaved Battle Sylphs. Ril – the Battle Sylph who was hurt badly and permanently damaged in the last book – goes with Lizzie’s father Leon, and Lizzie’s wannabe suitor Justin across the great ocean to follow and save her from the slavers. But they all end up changing things irrevocably.
I loved Ril’s character from The Battle Sylph and I found that this book was even better than the first. I felt it was tighter in plot and even though the pace was slower, it concentrated more on the development of the romance which was something that the first book didn’t focus on enough for me. It was also good to explore the wider world and the new setting which was a stark contrast of the Sylph and human settlement. And the rich and exotic land of Meridel was a perfect contrast to the small valley human/Sylphs settlement. I especially loved the Gladiator type setting, and how different the Sylphs were treated in this environment compared to other kingdoms. It showed how torturous and twisted it was for the sylphs and human slaves, and in many ways it was a harsher life compared to what the Battle Sylphs in the previous book faced – since this was for entertainment purposes. It also felt more epic in scope and the aftermath I feel will definitely have repercussions for future generations as well as neighbouring kingdoms.
I thought that Lizzie’s character was slightly more developed than Solie, and that helped to strengthen and establish the romance between her and Ril. I also loved that Ril wasn’t fully healed from the previous events in the first book, and it was a permanent thing which was interesting to see because I half expected that he would be somehow healed. And again, L.J Mcdonald again surpasses tropes and expectations which I was happy to see because it gave Ril’s character more depth. Shattered in mind and in body from the previous book, Ril did not think he was worthy of Lizzie – even though he imprinted himself on her as a child. Although I am not a fan of the imprinting/Soul Mates trope, L.J Mcdonald’s take does work and fits into the world-building and it did not appear icky or forced in any way. It was also a good point to have her other potential suitor Justin as a contrast and rival to Ril’s imprinting – although Lizzie never had any strong feelings for him, but I found that this trope was well done.
My only gripe is Justin’s character. I found his character pretty whiny and annoying. His role in the latter part of the book became redundant – especially since a lot of focus was set on him in the story, but towards the end of the plot it fizzled out and was ignored. I was kind of disappointed because it felt the tension and hate he had with Ril was leading up to something, but nothing happened and it was anti-climatic. Maybe this plot point might be resolved or explored in the next book.