by Carol Berg

Reviewed by Ruby

Ever since the Ezzarians were conquered by the Derzhi Empire Seyonne has been a slave. He used to be a powerful sorcerer, a guardian against demons, fighting a secret war that no one outside of Ezzaria knew about. Sixteen years later he was now bought by Prince Aleksander, heir to the Derzhi Empire.

Seyonne is trying to survive the young man's fierce temper while performing his duties as a scribe for the prince, when he discovers a demon in the body of a Khelid. They were a race of people who fled before the Derzhi armies only to return a few years later, surrendering their king to the Emperor in return for no blood shed.  Seyonne's powers had been stripped from him on the day of his capture and he has no way to fight the demon, but his oath as a Warden all those years ago prevents him from doing nothing, especially when Aleksander starts acting like he is under a hex. Ignoring all his common sense he frees the prince from the spell and then prevents a second one from being placed on him. Unfortunately he cannot prevent a third and Zander is bewitched and turns into a large wild cat every time he touches a sword.

Zander is declared mad right before his coronation to become the rightful heir to the Empire and Seyonne sees the plot unfold. The Khelid, when they vanished, made a pact with the demons and they let their bodies become vessels. After they returned and surrendered to the Derzhi they have been slowly worming their way into powerful positions. The only position more powerful is Emperor. They plan on taking  Zander away to 'heal' him, but will infect him with the Demon Lord so when he returns cured, it will be the demons who control the Empire.

Risking everything Seyonne spirits Aleksander away and finds the last free Ezzarians, living in hiding, knowing only their magic can cure Zander of his infliction. Unfortunately, now that Seyonne has been a slave he is corrupt in the eyes of his people and they look right through him. They also have made a pact with the demons and will not help Zander. Seyonne also discovers that his wife is now married to his best friend and it was Rhys, his best friend, that betrayed him to the Derzhi.

With nothing left to lose, Seyonne works with his old teacher and discovers there is away for him to get his powers back.  Even with them back, it is going to be next to impossible to free Zander and defeat the Khelid.

I loved this book at the beginning, but it lost something as it got near the end. The characters were great and I loved the interaction between Zander and Seyonne. I've read some reviews and there are those that think Zander's transformation from spoiled and cruel to you know, not spoiled and cruel was unbelievable, but I don't agree. I mean Zander is a warrior and respects courage and strength. Well, if Zander respects anything at all. And then this slave risks everything to help him for absolutely no reason. He breaks enchantments and brings him back to his own people, people that Zander's people have enslaved. Seyonne places a huge amount of trust  in Zander, not only for his life, but the lives of all those Ezzarians. I don't think anyone has placed trust like that in Zander before.  And then Seyonne risks his life a few more times to save Zander. He travels to places where he can be enslaved again to help Zander. How can you still be cruel to someone who does all that? So I believe that the transformation makes sense.

What I didn't like was the end. This final battle for Zander's soul, or whatever, was a little rushed and not worth the wait. That wasn't technically the end, there was still getting Zander's father to anoint him as heir, but that part wasn't that bad. It just never reached the greatness it was at the beginning.

Grade: B