The second book in the Sylph series, published April 2010.
Kidnapped by slavers, Lizzie Petrule was dragged in chains across the Great Sea to the corrupt empire of Meridal. There beneath a floating citadel and an ocean of golden sand, lies a pleasure den for gladiators-and a prison for the maidens forced to slake their carnal thirst.
Real love has no limitations.
Despite impossible odds, against imponderable magic, three men have vowed Lizzie’s return: Justin, her suitor; Leon, her father; and Ril, the shape-shifting but war-weary battler. Together, this broken band can save her, but only with a word that must remain unsaid, a foe that is a friend, and a betrayal that is, at heart, an act of love.
Six years have passed since book 1. The Community has grown with the help of all those Sylphs and they prosper. Their little Queendom is called The Valley of the Sylphs. The neighbouring kingdoms are keeping their distance, as they don’t have as many Battle Sylphs to fight their war for them. Solie has made some treaties, trade agreements, and there is some commerce between them.
Lizzie, the oldest daughter of Leon, the master of Ril, who was damaged in the last big fight, is 18. She still loves Ril, although he seems to have lost all interest in her. So she starts looking at Justin, the oldest son of the trapper who brought Solie and Heyou back together. Justin thinks he is in love with Lizzie, and he wants to marry her. But it is a selfish love, with no regard for her feelings or who she is, and he is a coward who deserts her in the face of danger.
Lizzie and her friend Loren, the young girl with the water Sylph Shore, have come to Para Dubh with a trade caravan. They run of to explore the strange city, and when Shore wants to sea the ocean, they head for the docks. Loren, who is a very loose girl, starts flirting with a tattooed sailor, and tells where they are from. Her Sylph quickly takes her into the water with her, to keep her safe, but Lizzie gets kidnapped. Those girls know the secrets of the Battle Sylphs, and as the men are slavers, she is worth a lot of gold! So Lizzie gets carted of to the other side of the world, to Meridal. The Sylphs and poor humans who live there are abused. The nobility lives in a floating island, kept in the sky by air Sylphs, the poor humans live in a hot city, and the earth and water Sylphs have the task to keep the desert fertile enough to feed all those people. But in the shadow of the floating city, nothing lives for long.
All people who commit some kind of crime, or misdemeanour, are taken by the Battle Sylphs to the Arena, where they battle each other and the Battle Sylphs for the pleasure of the Emperor and his court. Of course the humans stand no chance at all, but that is not important. When the Battlers are done fighting or guarding they city, they have whole harems full of human women to have sex with. The women have no choice in that, and when a battler falls in love with one of them, the poor woman is carted off to the feeding pens, where she will be bound to a lesser Sylph, air, water, fire or earth, to feed them. Of course, first their tongues are cut off, so they cannot give orders to the Sylphs they are bound to.
And this is were Lizzy is destined for. At first, they use her as bait, to trap a new battler, but he refuses to come for her. Then they throw her in the harem. Lizzy is terrified, she doesn’t want to have sex with all those battlers. Luckily, one of the woman quickly becomes a good friend. She and one of the Battlers are in love, as are several others, and they just pretend to use other women as well. Lizzy gets caught up in that routine. To the battlers, she is off limits, as she is already mated to one! Lizzy has no idea what they are talking about, yes, she is still in love with Ril, but there never was a ceremony between them. But still, they insists she is his master.
When the battle Sylphs back home cannot find her trace, they have to wait for her father Leon to come back from his latest mission for the Queen. He is horrified, and so is Ril. But Ril does know how to follow her trail, and together they set out to find her, and bring her back home. Justin wants to come as well, even though he is scared of Ril, and Ril despises him. He needs to make it up to Lizzy, for deserting her when she was in danger. So the unlikely trio sets sail after her.
Okay, a lot happens in this book, I was totally enthralled while reading it. A new country with new rules, and I did not see how they could ever escape from there. The battlers were all kept prisoner with such an enormous set of rules, they had even less freedom than in the first book. Even though they could fight in the Arena, and have sex in their harems. They were bound to stop their women from escaping, not allowed to care for a specific woman. And the other Sylphs had to work night and day in the jobs allotted to them, only taking a break to feed from the human prisoners.
But of course, where there is love, there is a way around the rules. They had to be really careful though, and watch out for spies and traitors as well.
I liked Lizzy in this book, she had no choice in what happened to her, but she kept fighting, and she was smart. She kept her head when they threw Ril in the harem, did not give away their secret. She kept her faith that her father would come for her. She did not care that Justin came as well, she loved Ril, and Justin betrayed her.
I love Ril and Leon, how they never gave up. Ril is caught on early though, but Leon stays free. He slowly finds out more and more about this strange country and its customs, and he comes up with the plan to free his daughter and Ril and Justin.
When Ril became damaged, only half a Sylph, not able to shift back to his own form, he thought he was not worthy of his Lizzy anymore. She deserved a whole man, be he human to give her children, or another Battle Sylph. But when she was in danger, he did not hesitate to do everything in his power to get to her, to protect her.
And Justin? Well, he was just a selfish young boy and a total wimp. He did not deserve Lizzy.
And in the end, this country has a new future as well. With their own Queen of the Sylphs, and freedom.