Title: Shadows of Asphodel
Author: Karen Kincy
Release Date: September 2013
Series?: Shadows of Asphodel #1
Genre: New Adult, Dieselpunk, Romance
Source: CBB Book Promotions
When Ardis discovers a man bleeding to death on the battlefield, she knows she has to walk away.
1913. In her work as a mercenary for Austria-Hungary, Ardis has killed many men without hesitation. One more man shouldn’t matter, even if he manages to be a charming bastard while he stands dying in the snow.
But when he raises the dead to fight for him, she realizes she must save his life.
If a necromancer like Wendel dies, he will return as a monster—or so the rumors say. Ardis decides to play it safe and rescues him. What she doesn’t expect is Wendel falling to one knee and swearing fealty. Ardis never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer, but it’s too late now.
Ardis and Wendel forge an uneasy alliance underscored with sexual tension. Together, they confront rebels, assassins, and a conspiracy involving a military secret: robotically-enhanced soldiers for a world on the brink of war. But as Ardis starts to fall for Wendel, she realizes the scars from his past run more deeply than she ever imagined. Can Ardis stop Wendel before his thirst for revenge destroys him and everyone else around him?
It’s 1913, and Ardis is a young female mercenary working for the archmages of Austira-Hungary. She left her mother behind in America after killing a man in self-defense, and she carries her father’s sword, Chun Yi. It is the only thing left of him that she has, along with a lifetime of questions about why he never stayed, why he wouldn’t be a father to her. All she knows of him is that he called himself Leo and he has a distinct tattoo on the back of his neck.
The archmages work together to keep the world at peace. They are trying to keep the world from a war, but they are on a limited track of time. They have created this barrier in certain parts of the world called the Hex. This part of the world building was not very developed, but from what I could grasp about the Hex is that he can become damaged and have “holes” in it, just like we have holes in the Ozone. The Hex is a magical protection, wherein some types of deaths cannot occur. If you try to shoot someone with a gun, the Hex impedes that from happening. A bullet will never leave the muzzle.
Ardis is just returning from a mission, and stumbles into Wendel, dying in the snow. When she realizes he is a necromancer and can raise the dead, which could cause monstrous proportions, she does everything she possibly can to save him. In turn, he grants fealty to her for saving his life…if only the short train ride to Vienna.
Wendel reached into his coat and drew the black dagger, With a hissing whisper, tendrils of smoke crawled from Amarant and curled around his arm, his body, his face. His outline faded to nothing more than a shadow. Ardis’s breath snagged in her throat.
Also on their train is an archmage, Konstantin. The archmages are known for their disgust and near-hatred of necromancers. Despite Ardis’s attempts to keep Wendel out of Konstantin’s sight, it all comes out eventually…and when they return to Vienna, Ardis must answer to an archmage about why she took on a necromancer. At that point, I thought Konstantin nothing but a snooty little tattletell with a stick up his butt impeding his brain from realizing he wasn’t as important ans he thought he was. But I was so very, very wrong, yet again.
On this journey, Ardis learns that Wendel is a member of the Order of the Asphodel, a secret society that operates in parallel to the archmages, who have vowed never to officially interfere in Asphodel business. Throughout the book I never got a clear distinction of how the Asphodel formed, or for what purpose, but I did clearly feel they were not to be messed with.
“The truth of my life,” he said, “will die with me, as it does with us all. And my memories will fade as my bones grow old, and I will live on only in the memories of those who cared that I should not be forgotten.”
That’s where Wendel sits in the big wide world of 1913 – running from the Asphodel, and now Ardis is swept up into his escape…but the Asphodel reach far and wide, and they are bent on sticking together.
The relationship that Wendel and Ardis form is one that at first is beyond comprehension but grows and develops as Ardis peels layers away and discovers more and more about Wendel and his past life. He is a man who is stuck in a very dangerous situation, between a rock and a hard spot. He knows exactly who Ardis is after she reveals what little she knows of her father, but Ardis knows so very little about Wendel, except that he will kill all of the Asphodel, even up to the head honcho the Grandmaster.
“Ardis,” he said, “somebody always has to die.”
Ardis learns that Wendel comes from a house of royalty, although he never divulges which house or family. Ardis and Wendel work with Konstantin and discover so much more about the archmages and the military plans that are developing. Konstantin send them on a mission to create a diversion at a ball and obtain the blueprints he needs, and things go horribly wrong. Arids discovers Wendel’s lineage (squee!) and must fight to save him…in a ballgown…with no sword.
No matter what happens, Ardis sticks by Wendel’s side, even if it is in detriment to her working relationship and friendship with Konstantin and puts them all in danger. It’s made clear over and over that she will follow him anywhere, and she will die for him from the situations she puts herself in.
This was bizarre — teatime at two o’clock in the morning, with a necromancer and an archmage.
At some point in the book, I had an epiphany. This book and the two main characters parallel one of my absolute favorite’s – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – in so many ways in the most basic sense. The plot, the time period, the magic, is different, of course, but these two characters – even the way they meet – and their journey together is so very similar to the journey that Claire and Jamie experience in Outlander. I was blown away by this realization, and even though they are similar in those regards – I LOVED this book.
What we crave to know as readers come bit by bit throughout Shadows of Asphodel, and we learn exactly what the Asphodel has done to Wendel, and who the Grandmaster is. It is a book filled with twists and turns as Ardis and Wendel fight to stay steps ahead of the Asphodel, and what they learn about the archmages and Wendel’s life as a necromancer.
The book ended with a perfect set-up for the next book, and I am so curious to see how that will play out. I am also imagining all manner of scenarios about Ardis and Wendel’s relationship in context of his royal lineage, and what role that will take in the next book.
To sum it all up: this will be a series that I purchase, and will go on the bookshelf with my most favorite books, to have to read and re-read for years to come. Ardis and Wendel are a journey that will never grow old or tiring.
*****About the Author*****
Karen Kincy (Redmond, Washington) can be found lurking in her writing cave, though sunshine will lure her outside. When not writing, she stays busy gardening, tinkering with aquariums, or running just one more mile. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College.