This is a fantasy novel by an author who usually writes romance. I hear she has some popular time travel romances out. I think I was curious to read this because I liked her voice in the The Queen in Winter anthology. There's a little half-teasing tilt to it, especially when the characters banter with one another.
So this is a straight fantasy, with a little romance (not really in your face). Adhémar, king of Neroche has suddenly lost his magic powers, his magical sword doesn't work anymore, and he's very put out by it. His youngest brother Miach, who is also the archmage, suggests that he travel to the most unlikely place to find someone who can wield the sword. At the same time, a mercenary named Morgan who has been asked to bring a magical dagger to the king. They cross paths but Adhémar can't reveal his identity or the reason for his quest and Miach can't reveal why she's going towards the palace or that's where she's headed. Miach pops in to check on his brother and starts tagging along because he's interested in Morgan even though he's supposed to be monitoring the kingdom's borders. There's some light banter between the brothers (king – grumpy, archmage – deflecting grumpiness with practiced ease), and also humor from Morgan's belief that the king is a huge jackass who should keep his mouth shut. She proclaims this any chance she gets. The conflict here is that Morgan loathes magic but Miach is a mage so he worries about what she thinks when she finds out. At the same time Morgan is very troubled by her quest and about learning that she has an affinity for magic.
The book started out amusing – I really liked the beginning, but after a while it went into the usual fantasy quest route and I started to lose interest. There wasn't anything very urgent or compelling going on that would keep me glued to the page, the pacing was quite relaxed. Perhaps too relaxed. I almost walked away from this book even though I only had 50 pages left, I just wanted to skim the end and had to make myself read it (and that's where more interesting things started to happen). I'd recommend this for readers who don't generally read fantasy and want something light and wholesome to read. I also had the random thought that this story lends itself to being easy to read out loud. I was thinking – "I bet my grandmother could read this out and it would be ok, because this book has nothing really dirty in it". Maybe some cursing and graphic violence would give it some pizzaz, but I don't think that's the author's thing, and it wouldn't fit into the rest of the story anyway. Oh well – it wasn't a bad read, but to me, a bit tame after what else I've been reading lately. This is the first book of a trilogy; the second book is The Mage's Daughter and continues this story.
P.S. My fiance didn't like this cover. Hmmph! I ignored him. The only thing I have to say about the cover is – she should be wearing pants. She's supposed to be a mercenary.