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Leif Asgard looked up when the blood slave slipped into the crowded council chamber. Hidden in the back of the mob, the slight figure blended with the shadows in a black sweatshirt. A few blue bangs stuck out from beneath the hood. Leif could pinpoint the kid with his eyes closed. No one else noticed. But Leif did, because he felt the ring on his finger softly thrum. It was his brother's ring, and Leif couldn't figure out how to get the damned thing off.
One more thing to curse Sven for. Worse, his brother had the balls to die and leave Leif to this madness. Six months since the Unraveling. Six months since the world turned upside down. Six months since all hell had broken loose, literally, and brought down the civilization he had come to depend on.
Six months since Sven had died and left Leif shackled at the reins of this runaway circus train.
From his seat at the defendant's gate, Leif watched Admiral Jameson ranting across the room. In his mind he turned the sound off like an old silent movie. He was tired of listening, tired of having to defend himself and his kind, tired of having to prove his right to exist when some moments he didn't even know if he believed it himself.
Admiral Jameson wore his navy uniform like a shield. Frayed about the collar and threadbare in some places, it was a nostalgic symbol of authority in the once great United States of America. The fallen government had few spokesmen left. Those who chose to fill the void were frightened, bullheaded, and incredibly paranoid. Jameson pointed his gavel at Leif, and Leif tuned back in. "—let me remind you, sir, that you are under oath. Do you mean to say you have never killed?"
Leif didn't think anyone could survive two hundred years without shedding blood, but the human admiral was having difficulty wrapping his head around the idea of immortality. There was any number of honorable reasons for killing in the course of his two centuries. There had been revolutions, riots, duels. Insults that couldn't be borne. Revenge. Justice. But Leif refused to be tried for past deeds in this laughable shoestring mockery of a court, judged by a mob of terrified mortals.
He wouldn't die for his brother's sins either.
"Dragons are not killers," Leif said, "any more than the lion on the Serengeti is a killer. A predator, yes, but man is also at the top of the food chain."
"Humans don't harvest souls!" Jameson shouted, and the mob in the council audience murmured its agreement. Leif could almost imagine them with pitchforks, right out of Shelley's tale. Time might progress, but humans stayed as ignorant and xenophobic as ever. Zetian had promised him this would be an easy council meeting, but it had turned into a trial.
"But you kill to eat," Leif said. "The imbibing of souls doesn't require the death of the donor. Think of it as a blood transfusion."
"Our donors are willing." At least his were. "And this really isn't the point of contention, is it? Humans could choose to be vegetarians, but most of you don't. For a Dreki to choose not to eat souls would be suicide."
Tiamat blight him. He'd told Zetian this was a mistake. She sat on one side of the long council bench separated from the Kivati by Jameson and his fellow human representatives. It made a pretty tableau: two shape-shifting races forced to play nice beneath the terrified watch of the humans. Everyone had pulled together to help put the world back to rights after the Unraveling. Leif had left the political wrangling to Zetian, because she was experienced in this bullshit. Astrid Zetian had served Sven's interests on the Seattle City Council for four decades, right here in this room beneath the blithely ignorant noses of the humans. Since the Unraveling, she'd stopped dying her hair grey. She wasn't pretending to be human anymore. None of them were.
Leif didn't have Sven's silver tongue or Zetian's slippery morals. He shouldn't be here debating his people's right to live when he could be doing real work in his laboratory. He was a scientist, not a politician, and he was a damned good one. The Unraveling had unleashed a massive electromagnetic pulse from the Land of the Dead, which had fried the Aether. The Aether could no longer hold an electric charge. There were people dying in the streets. People cold and hungry without jobs, without the skills needed to live in a world without electricity, without shelter from the wraiths. Leif could help those people, but not here. He needed to get back to work inventing tools that could make a difference.
"Your kind put us into this situation," Jameson accused.
"Not my kind. Not the Drekar." Sven might have set up the fall of the Gate, but a Kivati man pulled the trigger. "Please stop lumping all supernatural races into the same group—"
"You are all killers!" Jameson shouted.
"Please." Emory Corbette, the leader of the Kivati, was elegant in a coal-black three-piece suit, silver rings in his ears. His ebony hair brushed his straight shoulders. A thin circle of violet—the tell of all Kivati shape-shifters—ringed his jet-black eyes. A vein ticked in his temple. His people were an ancient race who could shift into a totem animal: Thunderbird, Crow, Wolf, Bear, Fox, and the like. Corbette's totem was the Raven, and his sharp beak of a nose gave him away. He raised his hand, and a silent wave of Aether licked through the room, quieting tempers, easing the rabid murmurs of the crowd. "This is unproductive. We are all here to help rebuild civilization. We have the same goal. The new Regent is not his brother."
Thank Tiamat for that, Leif thought. But what if he was? He'd felt the darkness swirling in the empty space where his soul should have been. He could easily follow it down and get lost somewhere between despair and madness. It happened to all Drekar eventually. But Sven had always seemed so sane.
Corbette rapped his silver-tipped cane on the banister. Since the Unraveling, everything about the Kivati leader was sharper, crueler. "As a scientist, Leif Asgard was building steam and coal-powered technology in its heyday. He is an invaluable resource for reviving our technological capabilities and building a new world. Even if the Drekar deserve to be exterminated"—and his tone said they did—"we can't afford to lose his skills."
Leif granted Corbette a tight smile. After more than a century of bloodshed between their two races, he was hesitant to trust Corbette. Leif didn't want to be the Regent, and he had good reason. His people still needed a wartime leader, and it would never be him. Dragons might have survived the apocalypse better than most, given their thick hides and imperviousness to fire, but how many would want to live on in this barren new world? Their treasure hoards lay beneath miles of collapsed rubble and dirt. Their once-clear skies were constantly grey with thick volcanic ash. They needed someone to rally behind. A Machiavellian leader who could wield fear to keep them in line.
Zetian finally decided to intervene. About damned time. She rose. With her black hair undyed, she didn't look a day over twenty-five, though she'd seen the fall of Genghis Khan.
Act charming and a little clueless, the elder Dreki had coached him. Humans don't trust anyone smarter than them.
She should be the one standing behind the defendant's gate answering questions, not Leif.
"Admiral, Lord Raven, gracious members of the council." Her smile caught their attention. Gorgeous like all dragon-kind, she had the cat eyes of her Mongol father and the fair skin of her Norse mother. Few could resist her charm, even before
Excerpted from Hearts of Shadow by KIRA BRADY. Copyright © 2013 by Kira Brady. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Posted May 4, 2014
I will say that I’m sorry that I took so long to read this book. It had the perfect blend of romance (though it took long for them to finally get together), action and storyline.
Grace Mercer is a woman with an incomplete past. Her parents were killed when she was young and then she was unwillingly embroiled into the paranormal world. She is now a woman with a mission; complete her contract as a blood slave and move the heck on.
Leif Asgard never wanted to be a ruler. He is a scientist and loner. After the death of his brother, he was put into a role he never wanted and responsibilities he never desired. That was until he felt the pull of certain blood slave bond. Now he has a purpose and her name is Grace.
Confusing attraction, a world sent back to the Stone Age, backstabbing dealings and a demigod on a mission will have you on the edge of your seat. Grace and Leif have a landscape of landmines to transverse and enemies to watch. It is a time when you have to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Can Grace and Leif handle everything thrown at them and get past their own barriers to heal each other’s souls?
The first story in the trilogy Hearts of Darkness was a mixed bag for me. I really loved the story telling, but I found inconsistencies that took me out of the story. It still was a great book to read. Hearts of Shadows was a home run for me. I really do wish that I would have read it sooner. I loved Grace and Leif and together, they were brilliant.
Ms. Brady has built an amazing world and wonderful characters. I truly believe that lovers of romance, paranormal and urban fantasy will equally enjoy Hearts of Shadow. It’s a breath of fresh air to the paranormal genre with its unique plot and amazing story telling. The story isn’t a standalone though. If you jumped right in on it, you wouldn’t be totally lost, but there are several references to the prior book and trust me you will want to know how “the event” occurred. In fact, the trilogy is now actually complete and you can get all three of them into your hot little hands as we speak. I’m going to start right away on the final book, Hearts of Chaos, but there were two characters that were mentioned in this book that have a prequel short story, Hearts of Fire, that I may have to read first.
Great job Ms. Brady! It is unbelievable that this is only her second book. WOW she is going to have an amazing career if she keeps this up. She writes fantastic worlds and knows how to capture a reader. Read the Deadglass Trilogy today!
Posted February 12, 2014