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Breathless by Sarah Sanders

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Short, sweet and sexy – we loved this book. Lara is a movie star whose career has crashed and burnt. She is in the throes o...

The Empress of Xytae (Tales of Inthya, #4) by Effie Calvin

⭐⭐⭐☆★

Interfering Gods, magical powers, sibling jealousy, succession drama – this is a complete fantasy entertainer.

The royal family of Xytae and many of its citizens have been claimed for her own by Reygmadra, Goddess of Warfare resulting in anger and bloodlust in the kingdom. Thanks to Reygmadra’s blessing, the Emperor Ionnes has been at war with Masim for years. The Goddess is waiting for the heir to be born but is distracted by Dayluue, Goddess of Love, so when the child is born, Reygmadra is pipped to the blessing post by her brother Iolar, God of Law. Thus Crown Princess Ioanna of Xytae is an anomaly in her family since she lacks bloodlust, is interested in knowledge and most damaging (as far as her parents are concerned), is a Truthsayer, which means she can detect lies.

Ioanna grows up trying to be as quiet and invisible as possible especially since her younger sister, Netheia, is not only blessed by Reygmadra, but is jealous, ambitious and brutal. When Ionnes is killed, Netheia is determined to become Empress and barges into Ioanna’s rooms to kill Ioanna. As it happens a houseguest, Princess Vitaliya of Vesolda, a rather flighty floater who has run away from home to punish her father for choosing to get married just six years after Vitaliya’s mother’s death, is with Ioanna at that time having arrived to warn Ioanna of Netheia’s intentions.

Ioanna and Vitaliya escape from Netheia and set off towards Ioanna’s grandmother’s house to find safety. Shy and sheltered Ioanna is hardly suited for the travel and Vitaliya is a strong support. However, when Ioanna’s grandmother advises Ioanna to raise her own army and stake her claim on the throne, Netheia realises Vitaliya is Ioanna’s weakness and makes her move on the perceived weak link.

The story is interesting and entertaining. The world and descriptions are rather Xena-esque in the descriptions of the villages, people, countryside, Gods (their interfering, inter-wars and appearances) but engaging, nevertheless. The one flaw in the narrative is that there is not enough relationship-building between Ioanna and Vitaliya. Their involvement starts rather abruptly. Considering that the relationship is the main driver for the climax, deeper relationship-building between the two would have made it more plausible.

Ioanna is a great character. Her trajectory from being a second-class citizen in her own family to becoming a leader that people rally behind to becoming an irresistible force who out-fights her sister is excellent. Vitaliya is not very convincing, being a tad too flighty and showing just flashes of worthiness. Her sudden volte face to changing from not wanting to be ‘bound’ to wanting forever is too abrupt – but as die-hard, hopeless romantics we won’t complain about Ioanna getting her HEA.

On the whole is a not-too-long, entertaining read. 

⭐⭐⭐☆★

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