55014228._sx318_Some games are played for mortal stakes.

Gwenna, heir to Ésparias, is summoned by the Empress of Casil to compete for the hand of her son. Offered power and influence far beyond what her own small land can give her, Gwenna’s strategy seems clear – except she loves someone else.

Nineteen years earlier, the Empress outplayed Cillian in diplomacy and intrigue. Alone, his only living daughter has little chance to counter the Empress’s experience and skill. Aging and torn by grief and worry, Cillian insists on accompanying Gwenna to Casil.

Risking a charge of treason, faced with a choice he does not want to make, Cillian must convince Gwenna her future is more important than his – while Gwenna plans her moves to keep her father safe. Both are playing a dangerous game. Which one will concede – or sacrifice?

Source Format Pages Publisher Genre Publication Date
author eARC 444 Arboretum Press Historical Fantasy August 30th, 2021

Here we are, at book number 6 of the Empire’s Legacy series. Wow. Just wow. I have been with these books since the series started and it is with my hand on my heart that I can honestly say- this series is simply consistently amazing from start up to this point and I have zero things I dislike, a thousands things I love; and as a reader who loves political intrigue and freshness and compelling characters – it just doesn’t get any better than that! It’s the absolute, ultimate alternative history/cal fiction.

Book #6. Naturally I can’t be telling you about things that might spoiler the previous books for you. I am bloody sad I can’t because yet again Marian managed to get my heart racing, my palms sweating and my anxiety (at all the possibilities) all time high. The absolute paradox here though is, that, Marian doesn’t add twists for shock factor, she doesn’t make her characters jump at each others’ throats just to keep the drama levels topped up. Your beloved characters are beloved and they are true to themselves. And THAT is a wicked skill! Yes, of course, there are twists in the story – of course there are some crafty characters who would want to see the main character(s) fall, but it’s never executed with over the top, from left field shockers. It’s all solid, logical progression of a story and it works miracles! Truly, this type of writing and execution is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.

Whilst in this title the focus is on Gwenna, I love how Cillian, Lena, Druise and Sorley are even now paramount to the story. There are of course more characters – more, way more – I mean, Empress and he son, am I right? – and to make all of these pieces fit together in the storyboard with an overarching political intrigue is no small task. Marian has, of course, built up her characters over the course of the preceding books. For me, reading about these characters, it’s like meeting up with old friends. I simply know them; I simply know what to expect from them…. No, sorry, let me rephrase; I know I can trust them, but I don’t know what to expect from them and they surprise me in positive ways everytime I meet them in one of these books. A long time may have passed since I last had the pleasure of their company but I had no issue at all in recognizing them the minute their name appeared in front of my eyes.

Gwenna – well, you can just tell by her character that she is the daughter of Cillian and Lena. She has had the luck to keep her free will in personal matters, whilst harvesting a wealth of strategic knowledge from her father and inheriting a respectable dose of loyalty from her mother. It was incredibly interesting to see her find her feet because going from humble Ésparias to the amazing Casil is like going from student to professional in international matters, no training wheels.

Lena and Cillian, throughout having to make sure they do right by Gwenna (as well as their son Colm), are dealing with a tremendous loss of their own. The whole family is. However, from the perspectives of Lena and Cillian especially, this brings a whole new layer to the book, a side plot if you will, and whilst the intrigue around Gwenna was brimming with excitement, Lena and Cillian’s story in this book was, again, the one thing that was keeping me solid at the egde of my seat. And, even though it is a heartbreaking addition to the story, Marian deals with the difficult subject, like always, with grace, respect and common sense.

Aside from the world-changing political intrigue, and the numerous internal conflicts our characters battle, it also needs to be mentioned, that LGBT representation is present and has always been throughout the books. It’s such a normal part of the whole world and story that you can’t imagine it being any other way. If you’re looking for steamy romps, however, you won’t get it in these books. You get hints of intimacy which feel somehow more significant.

So, without giving anything more away… this is what you get! Mind-blowingly incredible world building, exceptionally formed characters, solid, consistent and progressive plots. I dread the day Marian will be finished writing in this series, because it will leave a black hole in literature, a spot honourably reserved for just this particular story!