From the author's website: "Shield Dunleavy Mallorough and Source Shintaro Karish are summoned by the Empress and charged with the task of finding the descendents of her exiled sister. Lee and Taro recognize they are ill-suited to the task, but they are in no position to refuse. So, in search of lost royalty, they travel to the Southern Islands, where the heat is unbearable, the clothing is just short of optional, and the less-than-friendly locals couldn’t care less that Lee and Taro are working for the Empress."
Before I go anywhere with this review, I'd like to give Moore a shout out for creating a genuinely gender blind world when it comes to power and relationships. In the Lee and Taro books, homosexual and heterosexual relations are both norms and Lee never knows off hand what a person's sexual orientation is. Additionally, people in power are as likely to be women as men and being a heir is all about birth order and family rather than gender, but it's never pointed out. It just is. I realized after I read the first book and appreciated that fact, that I've never read a book like that before.
Whew, what a lot changes in this book for the characters. The Empress ships Lee and Karish off to the Southern Islands and every thing changes, and that is really for the good. The series needed a bit of a shake up and this did it splendidly. As it turns out, in my last review of the series, I was terribly incorrect. Lee and Karish do become romantically involved in this book and, oddly, it doesn't seem to be a major plot point, which is nice, because these two have a lot of other issues to worry about.
I was quite taken with the description of the culture in the Southern Islands as well as what Lee and Karish do when they realize that they have literally no money and no method to make money. While this does seem false that the Empress would fail to give them some money or at least make them aware of what would occur (did she really not know), it provided an entertaining reason for Lee to join a traveling circus as a performer. Her bench dancing skills really do allow for a lot of story telling in this series, and rightly so. Honestly, I wish they had more about bench dancing most books since it's one of the more original world building ideas that Moore describes.
The circus and the Islands provide change to the heroes since in this new world, Lee is the attractive and talented one and Karish is not. This rightly causes Karish to doubt himself quite a bit after the adulation he's received in the empire while Lee gains a bit of confidence in herself and, in many ways, realizes that she has the upper hand in their relationship. While this has been true for awhile, it's only on the Southern Islands that she accepts this and does something with it. This clearly thrills Karish, but Lee is still left doubting and one gets the feeling that it will not be smooth sailing for their working or personal relationship when they return to High Scape.
The search for the missing heir, while interesting, takes second place to the more interesting story of Lee becoming accustomed to the islands. While it is interesting, most of the time, I'm still left wishing they'd go back to the story of the circus. I think with Moore, I prefer her characterization and world building to her mystery plots.
As an aside, I will point out once again that this series is staying pretty damned interesting to me. Of course, book three is usually when I love a book series the most and everything after it all comes apart, so maybe it is good that my library doesn't have the next few books in the series? No, it's not. I'm requesting that they purchase!
Cannot wait to read the next book. I think I know what I'm loading onto my nook for my travels to Seattle!
Verdict: 8. I think the move away from High Scape and the normal parts of the Empire revitalized the series some what and changed up Lee and Karish, making it a stronger book than the immediate prequel.
Thoughts: I'm kind of sad that had to leave the Southern Islands! Also, my favorite cover so far even if I can't picture Lee wearing anything so revealing.
Lee and Taro books