This crafty historical fantasy leaves you spellbound, windswept and blood-spattered.
The Forbidden City, the second book in the Rogue Elegance Trilogy, leads us down a winding and treacherous path of prophecy, piracy, love and magic. Although there is an equal cast of male and female characters, I can’t help feeling that the heroines steal the stage.
Emerala the Rogue turns her back on the gypsy way of life and battles the waves in a new life of piracy as she sails the seas. Her companions are Captain Alexander, striving to honor his father’s legacy, and Evander the Hawk, searching for the key to unlock the mysteries of a bound map written in a dead language. Unsure which of the two men she can trust to not follow a hidden agenda, she develops an unexpected friendship with Lachlan the Lethan, a convicted murderer the ship picked up along the way. What Emerala discovers is shocking and leaves her temporarily disillusioned, but ultimately emboldened enough to follow her destiny. Coming full circle, she ends up right back where she began but now armed with knowledge about her bloodline and the Cairan people.
Meanwhile, back in Chancey, Nerani the Elegant, restless and unable to follow orders, embarks on a wild escape down the tunnels and out of the Forbidden City. Her capture by the Gold Guard throws Nerani into the arms of love, all the while defying the control of her cousin Roberts the Valiant, walking a fine line with the Cairan King Topan, and resisting the pull of General James Byron.
As always, Dowling paints vivid pictures and weaves intricate plots of love, loyalty, treachery and betrayal. But this story isn’t complete yet, and we need to read The Winding Maze to discover how it all ends.