*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, Bookouture and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Like deep dark water, it pulls them down. The faint fire of magic within them flickers and dies. Their eyes turn black as night. They are nightborn now.
Grace Marchant has been many things: streetwise orphan, rebellious servant, and now beloved companion of Prince Bastien, heir to the throne of Larelwynn. But their sunlit happiness is not destined to last. The golden magic which brought them together in purest passion is threatened by strange and ancient forces. Innocent people are becoming nightborn – cruel, deadly, unrecognisable to their loved ones – and these two young lovers are the only ones with power enough to stop it.
In times of peace, striking a deal with their closest enemy would be unthinkable, but now their only hope is to ally with the neighbouring Valenti royal family: manipulative, cunning, and always with an eye on the Larelwynn throne. The partnership comes at a devastating price… if Grace wants to defeat the nightborn, she must watch Bastien marry a Valenti princess.
Grace knows she must make this heart-wrenching sacrifice for the good of the whole kingdom – but she also fears the magic in her veins, usually so warm and bright, is turning cold as deepest midnight. A beguiling darkness whispers to her from within. Is Grace herself becoming nightborn?
Time is running out. With Bastien promised to another, and a stony distance growing between them, will Grace find the source of the nightborn curse before every last soul is consumed by the darkness?
Combining sizzling romance, courtly intrigue, and heart-in-your-mouth action, this dark and addictive fantasy series is perfect for fans of Graceling and Emily R. King.
Nightborn is the second in the Hollow King series, and you really do need to read Mageborn first, as this book picks up the plot running from where the previous book left off.
This is a fantasy / romance adventure in which tempestuous couple Grace (warrior and reluctant mage) and Bastien (reluctant prince and even more reluctant mage) have to fight political pressures, hordes of evil, and their own inner demons, to be with each other and save the kingdom that they have both devoted their lives to serving.
There is plenty of action and intrigue in the plot here, with the return of the nightborn – kind of like magical zombies, consumed by dark power – and the Deep Dark attempting to claim Grace for its own, and Bastien being pressured to wed a fellow noble to retain (and save) his kingdom. Other familiar characters like Danny, Ellyn, Misha and Kurt return, and some familiar villains too, which is great because they add real depth to the main storyline.
There is less focus on Bastien and Grace’s love life in this instalment, as they seem more mature and willing to focus more on what needs to be done than on their own desires, but there was still lots of repetitive bickering about whose duty should take precedence; I’ve never seen two characters so keen to throw themselves under a bus in the other’s best interests!
For the most part, though, this is a compelling fantasy adventure and the ending felt satisfying, with the door ever so slightly ajar for a return if necessary, but most of the plot points resolved. I do hope that there is a Book 3, if only to catch up with some of my side-character favourites… the team dynamic had me hooked more than the two main players!
Once upon a time a terrible plague known as the nightborn descended on the kingdom. Their magic was wild and dangerous, and nothing could control them. But legend had it there was a cure. So the three princes of the kingdom determined to go on a quest to find that cure.
– Jessica Thorne, Nightborn