I finished this book in two days because I was so excited to read more of Kell and Lila's story. They've been apart for four months when this installment opens, and the trouble that's found Lila is Captain Alucard Emery, a dashing privateer who takes her on as his ship's thief. He's teacher, ally and possibly crush, but throughout she can't stop thinking about Kell, who can't stop thinking about her. As for the other Antari, Holland did not die in Black London as Kell had thought, but revived to find the source of the black magic that plagued Kell's Red London. Holland makes a terrible choice, but does so in order to revive his nearly dead White London.

Prince Rhy, meanwhile, can't stand to see his foster brother Kell punished by their parents for what happened with the black magic (and his near death) because he knows that he's just as much to blame. To make it up to him, he secretly enrolls him in the magic tournament between their empire Arnes and their neighbors, Vesk and Arnes. It's unfair for an Antari to compete against ordinary magicians, but Rhy knows that Kell needs to step out of the royal shadow, if only for a few hours. And Kell isn't the only one who's bending the rules: Lila decides that she'll be in the contest too, even if that means that she has to assume an identity (how hard can that be for a thief?). And while Alucard qualified fair and square, his return to London is a violation of a royal order--Kell's--and his family isn't happy to see him back either. But why is Rhy keen to see him back?

While Kell and Lila keep missing each other in Red London, Holland and his new knight Ojka are trying to find a way to free him from the black magic entity he took on while in Black London. Too bad the only bodies strong enough to hold it are Antari, but how convenient that Holland knows just where to find one...

It's hard to introduce a major character mid-series, but Alucard becomes a favorite almost immediately. And while we've met Holland in the last book, his motivations become clearer and more sympathetic. I enjoyed the magical duels, but admittedly some of the setup around the tournament felt like an extended device to keep Lila and Kell apart until their dramatic reunion. The ending was breath taking, and I couldn't wait to begin reading the final installment right after.

dnk's rating:
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