Rating: 4.25 stars
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When Dallin, the God of Order, got tired of the people of the shatterlands waging war, he forged four crowns for four courts: Love. Justice. Pain. War. The courts were supposed to work together to prosper and, while Dallin watched, they succeeded. But when Dallin disappeared, the courts fell into chaos once again.
Lark is best known as the jester in the Court of Love. His purpose is to entertain, and he does that with his magnetic personality as he dances and performs magic both in and out of the bedroom. The king is not a fan of Lark, the queen would like to get under him, and Lark hasn’t seen the prince since he first arrived at the court four years ago.
Lark knows everyone’s secrets and they are the life blood that keeps him alive. Lark may be a liar, but he’s no fool and his duplicitous nature is about to bring down the court. But behind Lark’s smiles is a dark past. A past that will never set him free. Even if the elusive and handsome prince has promised to keep him safe.
A new book from Ariana Nash can be described as my happy place. I barely had to know what this book was about before reading it and, given the nature of this story, that worked out for the best. With fantasy books, it sometimes takes me a little while to get into the book, as I need time to figure out the world. And while I did need time to adjust to this world, I needed no time to fall for the characters.
Lark is the star of the court every night. His sole job is to entertain in any capacity that is called for. He does like being the center of attention and he likes his time at the Court of Love, for where he comes from there is no love at all—only pain. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Lark is a favorite in the court with both men and women. It also doesn’t take long to figure out that there is a whole lot more to Lark—maybe most importantly is where he came from before arriving at the Court of Love.
This book is dark and a bit twisty and highlights some of Nash’s best writing traits. Lark’s love interest at first is a little uncertain and the morality of the characters ranges from murky to all out sinister. Yet, you will root for Lark, and you will root for him and Prince Arin to find their way to each other. Lark has suffered his entire life and it’s time for him to see the sun. But Nash never makes it easy for her characters and Lark will find only pain before his journey is complete.
The world here came together more for me as I read further into the book, but there was little explanation for some things and I wondered if there were any people that lived outside of the four courts and what the people actually did outside of the castle. There are servants in the court of course, but there is no reference to anything else and it made the world too insular and more difficult to come into focus for me.
Everyone here has a motive and a second motive on top of that one. The tale gets darker and uncomfortable and violent as it goes on, but that is what makes a Nash book so special. At the heart of the story is Lark, a man with a troubled and difficult past trying to find something besides pain. Lark’s pain continues through to the end of the book (I did wish some of their plans were thought through a little better), and the story says its farewell on a “to be continued” note and I am certainly ready for the next installment. If you are familiar with this author, definitely pick this one up, and if you’re not and you like the darker side, it would be time to get acquainted with Ariana Nash.