See Melissa’s review here.
About the book – from Goodreads: In the sand-covered queendom of Cavan, the goddess once saved a young Kaliope’s life, preventing the mercury her father attempted to hide in her blood from reaching her heart. Now, a cybernetic clamp filters it, but the silver streaks swirling faintly beneath her skin are a constant reminder that she’s different.
When nineteen-year-old Kaliope is chosen as head of the Nactue Guard, she becomes the sworn protector to her empress. In the midst of an invasion on a neighboring land, Kaliope is placed in charge of guarding Prince Caben, the last heir to his kingdom. But when they’re attacked by the feared Otherworlders, Caben and Kaliope are abducted and taken below to a realm where they must fight for their life in a caged arena.
Kaliope struggles to protect her princely charge, keeping him and herself alive while battling inhumanly opponents, and trying to save the stolen, sacred relic that will restore her empress’s life force and all of Cavan. And if she can somehow awaken the goddess within her, she may save what’s most important.
New Adult Dark Fantasy: Intended for readers 17 years of age and older.
I drag my gaze away from Caben and look at Cannon as he moves to the center of the Cage. His biceps bulge, like two cannon balls have been implanted beneath his skin. For all I know, they have been. The rings leaders are sick enough to do just that.
He roars and smacks his fist into his palm. Then he barrels toward me.
His face shifts back and forth quickly as he runs, shaking in my line of vision. Suddenly his face is my father’s. It flashes before me in an instant, followed by an image of Van falling to the ground. Willa’s lifeless form. Lilly. My mother. Caben. The images seize my mind and a deep laugh rolls inside of my head.
I shake my head and lunge out of Cannon’s path. He swipes the air. Rolling out of range of his stomp, I get to my knees and latch on to his ankle. I twist, and he falls backward. He hits the ground hard, the dirt kicking up around him.
I tamp down the throaty voice in my head urging me to end his life. I thought it was the madness of the Otherworld invading my senses, but I know the truth. I’m standing atop Bale’s grave. The conduit running through my veins calls to her. I can hear her; feel her presence—her darkness. She’s not entered my mind; not able to hear my thoughts—the dark priest would have shut down our scheme if so—but I’m tired of hearing her voice. Tired of her madness pressing me.
The rage drumming though me after watching yet another of my Nactue die desires to end this beast trying to kill me now, but I have to remember who I am.
What I vowed.
To protect and serve those I care for.
Not to end lives for a blood sport—a dark goddess.
Cannon wraps his hulking arms around my midsection and lifts me off the ground. He squeezes, and a cry rips from my throat. The mercury pumps faster, scorching my insides. I pull my head back and snap it forward, knocking Cannon in the face.
His nose explodes. Blood sprays my face.
He drops me and swipes the air, his vision blurred. Sickened, I wipe at the blood. It smears over my skin—and I stop—allow it to hide the mercury rising to the surface. Jumping back into action, I kick his legs from beneath him and round his large form. Coming up behind him, I angle my arm around his thick neck and tighten until I see his eyes bulge. Their deep brown irises darken as he gasps for air.
I can knock him out. Anger the ring leaders and the dark priest. They can come out here and kill us themselves to bleed their sacrifices for their goddess. I won’t do it. Lena had no choice, I understand that. But she also tried to use her kill to prep me for my fight. I think of her face as I squeeze Cannon’s neck tighter.
The horn sounds, and I look up. Weapons descend from the top of the Cage.
Before Cannon loses consciousness, he gets a handle on my wrist and kicks off the ground. His booted foot connects with my face.
I try to bring him with me as I’m knocked backward, but he scrambles sideways and breaks my hold. He takes off for the closest weapon dangling from the chains.
He yanks the flail free and swings the spiked ball above his head. The crowd stomps harder and faster as he builds momentum. The whom whom of the spikes slicing the air cuts through my eardrums.
Behind him, illuminated by the projected full moon, is a long sword. I bound to my feet and run.
The flail swipes the air and I just dive out of Cannon’s reach as the spiked ball slams the ground. He roars and jerks his weapon free of the black dirt. I turn and leap backward as the flail flies toward me again. It snags my tunic. The bottom of my shirt tears as I struggle free and sprint.
I hear the pad of Cannon’s bare feet thumping the ground behind me. Before he launches his weapon, I spring up and grab the sword. Dropping down next to him, I arc my blade against his flail. Our weapons meet with a metallic clang.
Cannon’s eyes widen, his sockets enlarging to deliver a crazed glare. He laughs a deep, adrenaline-filled chuckle. “It’s over, protector,” he roars. “I’m going to smash your bones to dust, just like I’ll do to little Red over there when I get to her.”
Spinning and blocking his blow, I glance at Krewl’s chamber, to where Lilly watches my battle wide-eyed. I knock Cannon’s chin with the hilt of my sword. Lilly lost Willa. She suffered through her death. I won’t let her witness my death, too.
I won’t give Cannon the chance to touch her.
As Cannon groans and swipes the flail at my stomach, I turn and dive. I have to get that flail; use the chain to choke him unconscious. I can spare Lilly and defy the ring leaders at the same time. I just have to—
A spike drives into my thigh and I scream.
I hit the ground hard, and Cannon yanks the spiked ball from my leg. I hear the sickening squish as it leaves my skin. He towers over me, a deranged look on his giant features. I feel the static pull of the electrified cage bars behind me. It tugs on the fabric of my clothes, my hair.
Cannon has me closed off. He swings the flail one final time above his head as he prepares to bring it down on my head. The ball descends, the whoosh filling my ears as the Cage zaps behind me.
I thrust my sword toward the flail.
The chain circles my blade, and I yank back and throw the sword behind my head. The sword connects with the Cage. A current travels through the spiked ball and chain to Cannon’s flesh.
His body sparks. His eyes illuminate like the moon above, and his body convulses. He sinks to the ground, still holding the flail as the current continues to drain his life.
I drop my head to the dirt.
The cheers of the crowd surround me, and the announcer’s voice shouts over the chaos. I’ve won.
My eyes seek Lilly. She slips her hand through the bars of her chamber and flattens her palm, her fingers crossed. Tears brim in my eyes.
We’re still us—she’s still with me.
The announcer waves me to my feet, and I push off the ground. As I slink my way toward Bax’s chamber, I keep my gaze on Caben. I don’t know if he would’ve defeated Cannon in the final battle, but now I don’t have to worry. It’s over.
Goddesses, forgive me.
Of Darkness and Crowns (The Goddess Wars #2)
written by Trisha Wolfe
published by Trisha Wolfe
About the book – from Goodreads: The moon goddess has taken up residency within Prince Caben, darkening his mind and soul. Now he hunts the very women he sacrificed his life to save, his conflicting desires for love and power raging a battle within him. Kaliope possesses the key to setting Bale free, and Caben will stop at nothing to see his goddess restored. Even if that means destroying the kingdom he’s sworn to protect, and the infuriating woman who torments his thoughts.
Kaliope, now the leader to the newly formed Nactue Guard, has vowed to save Caben. But with a traitor lurking among her people, and powers she’s unable to fully control, Kaliope’s mission becomes shrouded with doubt. Her new role as watcher over Caben’s kingdom brings a burden she’s unable to bear alone, and appointing the right person in charge of the prince’s affairs has turned a kingdom against the Nactue leader. Saving her stubborn, willful prince from the darkness overtaking him will be the battle of her life, and she needs people she can trust by her side. But bad blood between members of the Nactue obscure Kaliope’s journey, while her feelings for Caben cloud her judgment.
When the time comes to do what she must to destroy the goddess of chaos, will she be able to if it means losing Caben forever?
Book two of the Goddess Wars is told in dual point of view from Kaliope and Caben. New Adult Dark Fantasy, intended for readers 17 years of age and older.
Caben’s POV Excerpt
The Crusher grinds to a halt. I’m propelled forward, and my head smacks the low-hanging ceiling of the front compartment.
“Damn, you fool!” I palm my throbbing forehead, eyeing the driver of the Crusher—the machines I now call by their Otherworlder name.
“Sorry, my liege,” he says, backing against his seat, farther away from the glowing ribbons circling my fingers.
Ignoring him, I study the luminous white—like the surface of the moon—crawling beneath my skin, and marvel at the power. My power. Had I possessed it that day the Cavan Army forced me from my home, they never could have done so easily. But then, I never would have obtained this power. Ironic.
“Just drive,” I tell him. I take a seat on the front bench, away from the foul stench emanating from the back compartment—our diversion tactic that will gain me entry into my palace, where I know she’s being kept.
The glow beneath my skin illuminates brighter, reminding me of her skin. I curl my fingers into a tight ball.
The battle up ahead is only part of my plan, one that I know Kaliope will fall for. I need the reserves away from the palace. My back molars clamp down hard at the thought of her—a mix of something like fire and nausea invading my stomach.
At one time, I felt things for the black-haired beauty. I chuckle to myself. Well, at least my groin did. Just thinking of her body makes me ache, and I have to adjust myself. But that was when I was weak, when I only thought and felt with that weakness. As much as I hated my father for thinking me too feeble to rule, he was right. I was pathetic.
Bale freed me. Released the part of me that I kept buried, locked away deep down, and I no longer fear anything. I think of everything that once made me shudder or quake with dread and laugh. It’s so simple.
Without fear, there is only freedom.
And if I free Bale completely, releasing her from within my being and making her corporeal, she’ll bestow me with even more power. I don’t care what the dark goddess does or where she goes once I restore Empress Iana’s relic. I don’t give a damn what happens to the maggoty Otherworlders or their realm.
I just want her out of my mind. And I want the power.
Then I’ll set my sights on Perinya, and on gaining what’s mine.
A deep cackle fills my head, deep and sultry.
“Quiet, woman.” I roll my eyes. We’ve come to a compromise, the goddess and I, that she may remain within my mind, but she’s to keep silent. I got tired of her constant lectures and angry rants about her sisters. She doesn’t speak too much…for the most part. But the sooner I get her out of my head, the better.
Having a woman fill your thoughts is a weakness in itself. A sudden flash of a smiling, laughing Kal blurs my vision, and I shake my head.
There’s only one way to rid my thoughts of that woman.
“Burrow, leach,” I command the driver. “We’re coming up on the battle. Go underground.”
“Yes, my liege.”
Tonight, I invade. Find a way into the capital of Perinya and into my home. And then take back what’s mine. The goddess can have what she wants. I’m only interested in claiming what belongs to me.
No one will ever take anything away from me again.
Stay away, Kal.
I shake my head harder, trying to quiet the pesky thoughts that always spring up when I think of her. Something left over from before—a residual feeling, an effect she has on me.
It won’t be there much longer. I smile, and Bale laughs.
About the author: From an early age, Trisha Wolfe dreamed up fantasy worlds and characters and was accused of talking to herself. Today, she lives in South Carolina with her family and writes full time, using her fantasy worlds as an excuse to continue talking to herself.