An alchemist and her mad prophet sister, a woman blessed — or cursed — with the attention of five gods, and the court mage who can see into the memories and dreams of those around her. These four women may be all that stands between the violence of war and the complex, delicate web of peace that King Yudai is trying to weave. From different nations, from different backgrounds, and yet united in their desire to do what’s right, these four women may well change the world.
The Loyal Whispers is the third book in the Life Siphon series and, while you don’t need to have read the first two books to enjoy this one, it would help add context to the events of the story. To briefly summarize, King Yudai of Runion, a man who — as a prince — was tortured and drugged by his own father, became a magical weapon of great power and cruelty. Saved by the love of Tatsu, the one man who saw past the rank, the madness, or the magic to the man beneath, Yudai is struggling to recover his sanity even as he struggles to hold onto his throne, entering into peace negotiations with the kingdoms who waged war against him and his people.
At his side is Mirai, a gentle hearted, compassionate, and self-deprecating mage who has the ability to see into the dreams of others, to relive their memories and gain a better insight into their motivations, their lies, and what Yudai can do to make them agree to his terms. It’s a gift she struggles with, often finding herself caught in Yudai’s memories as he relives his father’s betrayal, or his captivity at the hands of the Chaydian Queen who even now works against his effort at peace. Mirai tries to help, but the best she can seem to offer is friendship, understanding, and support to her beleaguered king.
Across the ocean Ravee, a five-touched who hears the gods — and sees them, sometimes — is on a voyage to sell her family’s trade goods, only to be called upon for her meager gifts of healing when the ship finds a wreck with a handful of survivors, only two of whom she is able to save. The strange man and woman are peace envoys sent from the kingdoms of Chayd, Runion, Rad-em, and Joesar, journeying to Dusset to secure an alliance, only to have been attacked by the Dusset navy. Now they and all of those on the ship have to race homeward, hoping to stay ahead of the navy about to wage war on the combined kingdoms.
Alesh has always done whatever it took to survive, and to ensure the survival of her younger sister whose prophetic gifts stole her sanity. Ever since the war between Runion and Chayd ended, Alesh thought she could put the past behind her … but it’s never that easy. Cahn, a man who knows her past all too well, and knows both how fragile Ral is and how much Alesh loves her, blackmails her into yet one more task: make a sword forged of mage blood and iron. Alesh has no choice but to agree, but Cahn doesn’t know the woman she’s become. She’ll make his weapon, but she said nothing about letting him keep it.
I very much enjoyed the first two Life Siphon books (the second one more than the first), and the author’s writing and story telling has only improved. While we see some events from earlier books in Marai’s shared dreams with Yudai and the Chaydian Queen, it’s filtered through her compassionate eyes. When we see Tatsu, Yudai’s lover and lifeline, we see his determination and focus through Ravee’s more uncertain and timorous point of view, and watch as his courage inspires hers. And then Alesh, who was always a bit of a dark horse — from dealing drugs to stealing, lying, and selling Yudai to the Queen — she hasn’t always been on the right side. Here, however, she is asked to pick a side, for good or for bad. No more dithering, no more standing in the middle, she has to choose who she will be.
The focus in this book isn’t entirely on the romance; it feels more like the first book in a new duology (or trilogy, maybe) with the focus on these women. I certainly hope so, at least, because I’ve been quite enjoying this world and its magic systems and I very much want to see more. It was also interesting to see characters I knew and was fond of from the previous stories reinterpreted through new eyes; even so, I do hope there’s more Yudai and Tatsu in the following books.