Two thieves want answers. Riyria is born. . .
For more than a year Royce Melborn has tried to forget Gwen DeLancy, the woman who saved him and his partner Hadrian Blackwater from certain death. Unable to get her out of his mind, Royce returns to Medford with Hadrian but the two receive a very different reception -- Gwen refuses to see them. The victim of abuse by a powerful noble, she suspects that Royce will ignore any danger in his desire for revenge. By turning the thieves away, Gwen hopes to once more protect them. What she doesn't realize is what the two are capable of -- but she's about to find out.
Sullivan's second Riyria Chronicles novel (after The Crown Tower) continues exploring events that set the stage for the Riyria Revelations series. Returning heroes Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater are honorable thieves for hire. Refreshingly, rather than an urge for glory, it is concern for two lower-class women that leads them to get involved in some deadly court intrigue. Royce cares deeply about Gwen DeLancey, a madam who has become collateral damage to an attempted coup. Rose, a young woman who works at Gwen's brothel, was a witness to the plot, and now she's hunted by powerful forces on both sides. Relatable characters and a fast-paced story are hampered by a few missteps. For example, the loving attention to Princess Arista's womanly beauty is disconcerting, since she is 12 years old, and Royce seems rather dim not to foresee that public revenge on a powerful noble will end in tears. Still, Riyria fans will appreciate this look into their heroes' history.