Valentino’s quiet moment with Brand is ruined by King Lykanos’ guards. Instead of curling up in bed with the man he loves, Valentino is thrown into a dungeon, with a collar around his neck that blocks his magic and the man he loves walking away. Heartbroken, furious, and unable to use his magic, all Valentino can do is fume. It’s not like he can expect his family to save him; the only thing they’d do if they got their hands on him is give him back to the Duchess. All he can do is wait. And burn.
It broke Brand’s heart to walk away from Valentino, but it had to be done. His father is powerful, cruel, and clever. If Brand wants to keep the man he loves alive and unharmed, he’ll have to think of something, and quick. The only idea he can come up with is to brag about Valentino’s magic, trying to convince his father that Val is worth more alive and unharmed, but even if his father is willing to listen … will Val?
Picking up on the heels of Moonlight and the Magician, the first book in the Moonlight Curse series, this book does everything I wanted it to do. In the first volume, I felt that the characters were too flat, too static and undeveloped. Here, both Brand and Valentino — perhaps because they have something to work against rather than a road to walk on — perk up and do something.
Brand has to be clever, but it’s hard when his father always seems one step ahead of him. With his back against the wall, however, Brand shows his best colors. He’s assertive, resourceful, and adaptable. He’s willing to use his sister, an ex-lover, even Val himself to get what he wants. Climbing through sewers, walking along roofs, biting back his temper … he feels like more of a person. Flawed, but focused. This Brand is honestly charming, and even when things go wrong, he’s bouncing back up and trying again, this time harder.
Val is still in a passive role, as a prisoner in a jail cell, or a prisoner in a slightly better room. That doesn’t stop him from having opinions, or from suffering the sting of betrayal. When asked to play nice, Val smiles and gives lip service … only to play, just not nicely. Val can and does lash out, ruthless and cruel. But when given the chance to lash out at Brand, he doesn’t. There’s still forgiveness to be earned, but Val can’t lie to himself about what he feels for Brand:
“[…] every mistake we made led us to each other, so I suppose I don’t mind a few new scars.”
The writing and the world building is stronger here than in the first book. The curse, the demonic transformation Brand suffers, is still unsolved, as the book ends on a cliffhanger, but there are more details about the first mage and the first king to be cursed. I’m interested in seeing more of Brand’s sister, who has a strong showing in this book. If you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll enjoy this one even more, and I know that I’m looking forward to book three.