Author: Raven Kennedy
Genre: Mythology, Fantasy, Romance, New Adult
What It’s About: Queen Malina recalls the way that Highbell Castle, her home, looked before her husband, King Midas, encased it in gold. She prefers the old castle because it was her home, and even though it remains the same structure, it doesn’t look the same as it used to be. With King Midas in the Fifth Kingdom, she decides that now is the time for her to make her move. Queen Malina believes that she was born to be a ruler, and can make the kingdom hers with her husband out of the way, even though she doesn’t have the one requirement to be a ruler in Orea–magic. But the Collier family has been ruling the Sixth Kingdom for generations, and she believes that there is some loyalty there to enable her to be the ruler of the kingdom.
So she subtly makes moves–first she changes her outfits from the required and gaudy gold color that Midas requires everyone to wear, to a blue and silver color that used to be the colors of the Kingdom. On top of that, she puts her mother’s pearl crown, and walks to meet with the nobles, who all gasp at her boldness, when she walks into the room. Some bring up their concerns that she may be causing treason by dressing differently, but she quickly shuts that down by saying that she is here to hear their concerns, not King Midas. Then she forbids any contact through falcons to Midas, and has all of the citizen’s concerns routed directly to her. Malina also gets the news that the Fourth Kingdom took Midas’ favored and all of his royal saddles from the Red Raids, which gives her immense pleasure because she knows that Midas and the King of the Fourth are enemies.
In the meantime, Auren travels with the Fourth Kingdom’s army towards the Fifth Kingdom. She is given a lot of freedom to wander the camp, something that she hadn’t had with Midas. She finds herself unnerved by and suspicious of Commander Rip, but does not wish to give him any information on Midas, so she continues to be snarky towards him. She shares the same tent with him, and the first night she stays up all terrified of him, before ultimately falling asleep, all because he tells her that he will find her no matter what. As the army continues to march on towards the Fifth Kingdom, Auren begins to get to know them better. She makes friends with the cook near her tent, who has a vulgar way of talking to their soldiers, and she also quickly finds out that talking bad about their King, who is known as King Rot, gets their soldiers riled up, which begins her journey of questioning everything she knew about him. She tries to sneak around the camp to find falcons to send Midas a warning that the army is coming to the Fifth Kingdom, and she also tries to find the saddles, to no avail.
Finally, she meets Lu, who asks her to help get a barrel of wine from a different section of the camp, and when they do cary it to her section of the camp, she helps Auren get in to see the saddles. At first, there’s a lot of anger on the part of the saddles, but Auren really just wants to see Rissa. The two walk around the tent, talking, and Rissa promises to keep Auren’s secret only if Auren pays her handsomely to keep it, because Rissa wants to pay off her contract to be a Royal Saddle and make her own fortune. Auren agrees to pay her off, once they reach the Fifth Kingdom, because that is when they will have more stability and peace. As Auren gets to know the army, and the people in it, she begins to feel like a traitor because she begins to feel at home, as they treat her like one of their one.
In one instance, she stumbles upon a fight circle, where she watches a young boy be thrown into the ring against a more brutal man. In anger, remembering how it was for her to survive and fight for her own scraps, she stands up to protect the boy, unaware of the rules–once you step into the fight circle you must fight. She tries to backtrack, but Commander Rip is there, and doesn’t let her to that. Instead, he sends everyone away, except his Wrath, which includes Lu, Osrik, Judd and they square off. He eggs and prods her on, asking her to admit who she is, until Auren screams that she is Fae–just like Commander Rip. When he asks her where she is from, Auren doesn’t want to answer at first, but then opens up to him to tell him that she’s actually from Annwyn–the land of the Fae–with no clue how she was transported by slave traders to Orea. The group start to do more and more of these fight circles, so that Auren continues to learn how to fight, and after once such fight, Auren asks Keg–the cook on her side of camp–if it would be possible to get a bath drawn in the camp. Instead of making it for herself, she gives it to Midas’ Royal Saddles, despite finding out that Mist (one of the royal saddles who is most vocally against Auren) is a couple of months pregnant with Midas’ baby, which makes Auren sad as Midas had always told her that he doesn’t want to risk her getting pregnant. She often thinks about Midas and how he had saved her not too far from Carinth, as well as their journey into the Sixth Kingdom.
A few nights before they reach the Fifth Kingdom’s Ranhold Castle, Auren walks over to a crowded beach and walks amongst the stones, where she finds a private place and takes in the view. On the way back, she stumbles on some ice, only to be caught by Rip. The two spend the evening watching the moon, and she recalls the time that Rip kissed her in his tent, which confused her, and continues to play on her mind. Somehow she no longer feels as if Rip is her enemy and she is grateful for everything that he’s done for her, as well as the fact that he opened up her eyes to herding in a cage of her own making, but she still wants to go back to Midas. Rip shows her the mourning moon–a phenomenon that happens every few years, which was watched by the fae in Orea, to honor the people they mourn. Rip tells her that King Ravinger will show up the next day as they are close to Ranhold, and Auren freaks out momentarily because she will have to come face to face with two kings–Midas and Ravinger–and she’s not sure who she’s more nervous about.
The next day they arrive at Ranhold Castle, and Auren helps Judd steal back the barrel of wine from Lu. When she returns to her tent, she finds Rip and senses that something is wrong immediately. Rip asks her if she wants to stay with them, because he could make it happen that she will stay with them if she doesn’t want to go back. She declines the offer because she doesn’t know exactly what he is offering–to hide her from Midas, or to make her disappear–either option is not something that she can do to Midas. Rip reminds her what she said on the beach, and Auren says that even if she does go back, she’s different now, and that she’s not willing to go back to a cage. Rip angrily tells her that she’s a fool and that Midas uses her, but Auren tells him that what Midas does is nothing compared to what she endured at the hands of the other people since arriving in Orea. Rip tells her that she needs to stop being complacent–if she fought, she could shine brighter than the sun, but she has chosen to sit back and wither instead. Auren tells him that he’s been judging her for every decision that she’d made to hide herself to survive, and Rip tells her that she wouldn’t have to do that with him. Ultimately, she chooses to return to Midas.
King Ravinger arrives with a flock of timberwings, flying beasts that look like birds without beaks but with razor sharp teeth instead. The whole camp of the Fourth Army begins to get ready for battle, at the doors of Ranhold castle, and Ravinger sends soldiers to Auren for protection. They take her back to her tent, where she ends up falling asleep, and when she wakes up, she needs to use the latrine. While she does her business, she peers around the trees, and sees that Ranhold City is absolutely surrounded by soldiers in black, ready for battle. She realizes then that the Fourth Army will decimate the city. The Soldiers take her back to her tent, when she senses a pulse, and she goes back to check it out. She senses the power leaking out of the man, knowing immediately that it is King Rot, but she is shocked by how quickly things actually start to turn brown from his power. The power makes her feel sick, and when Ravinger disappears, she goes back to her tent.
Osrik shows up and tells her that Ravinger hasn’t had a conversation with Midas yet because Midas sent an envoy, with a request–an offering to be made by the Fourth Kingdom in good faith consisting of Auren. Osrik tells her that he doesn’t know how she manages to stand Midas, but he tells her that she never did betray her king, which takes guts to do. As they ride through the Army, Auren realizes that they were honorable–she never feared for her life, and was treated fairly. She continues to be indecisive, should she go, should she stay, she can’t be sure. Rip joins Osrik and Auren as they make their way through the army, and Auren asks about the other saddles, to which Rip tells her that they will be part of the negotiation, so they will be released once that is done. Rip helps her down the saddle when they try to hand her off, even though Midas’ soldiers keep telling him not to touch her, though Rip doesn’t give a damn about the king’s orders and rules. Auren knows that this is the right thing to do because Midas will never give her up, and will do everything and anything to get her back, no matter how powerful King Rot may be. So this is the right thing to do.
In the meantime, Queen Malina makes her way down the mountain of where Highbell Castle is located and into the city itself. It’s a treacherous ride down, but she makes it down to the city, with the intention to make the people of the Sixth Kingdom love her. She knows that Midas has ignored them, choosing to focus on only the nobles, and wants to rectify that so that they can be on her side, when the time comes. She stands there in the cold to give out blankets and necessary goods alongside her advisors, but one woman with babies challenges her, asking what this is supposed to do. She laughs at Queen Malina, basically indicating that this does absolutely nothing to ease the suffering of the people, while the queen lives in her golden palace. The Queen tries to tell her that it is Midas who doesn’t care for them, but the woman tells her that she ignored her people too, and calls Malina a snow bitch pretending to care, before spitting on the ground in front of the queen. The guards drag her away, with her children, while she screams to the rest of the citizens that they shouldn’t be bribed by the queen’s gifts just so that the queen can sleep better in her bed. A mob starts as a result of this, and Queen Malina has to run away, but her carriage gets taken into an alley that is blocked by a traveling merchant on his cart. This traveling merchant uses a little bit of magic to give Malina her deepest desire, which turns out to be a map to the Seventh Kingdom, which supposedly no longer exists since the destruction of the bridge between Annwyn and Orea.
Auren goes into Ranhold Castle via a secret entrance, having forgotten that no one knew that she hasn’t traveled with Midas, but that there was a decoy in her stead. She gets taken to his study, where they are alone together for the first time in two months, and they hug it out. Immediately he thinks that someone touched her by how she stiffens, and he demands to know who touched her, but she tells him about her guards and what happened to Sail when the Red Raids took them. When Midas complains that he got a letter from King Ravinger saying that he has her, and that he doesn’t believe that his army would have been better company for Auren, Auren tells him that they treated her very well. She wants to talk about so much more, but Midas tells her that he has a gift for her, and takes her to a different room–his dressing room that he’s fitted an iron cage into for her.
Auren reacts negatively to it, especially when she sees her decoy rise from the bed, because she realizes that it was always temporary for the decoy but never for her. Midas is about to put Auren into the cage, it’s happening too quickly, and she tries to tell him that she’s no longer afraid and no longer wants the cage nor needs the cage. Midas doesn’t understand, and believes that they need the cage because of what had happened to her, and how he failed her. She wants to continue discussing it with him, but he doesn’t have the time for it because he has to meet with King Ravinger, and demands that she gets into the cage. He gets frustrated with her because she hasn’t behaved this way before, and when she tells him that she’ll just wait in his room while he goes to his meeting, he tells her that he is her king and she will do as he says. She continues to resist, and so he asks her if she betrayed him, to which she says no. He then tells her to prove it by getting into the cage. The conversation keeps going back and forth, at which point he brings up Carnith Village, when she thought she was okay too. The argument keeps going back and forth, with him trying to show her that she is a threat to herself and everyone else, while she’s saying that she’s finally being herself. When he tells her that she gave herself to him long ago, she realizes that she let him put her into a prison, and diminished herself so much that she had forgotten she even had a spine. She had been manipulated by him, and now he holds her by her own throat, avoiding her feeble attempts at fighting back. Midas then throws her into the cage, and in her fury, Auren turns the decoy into gold, while fighting back against Midas, and with the help of her ribbons, she breaks the iron doors, tossing them into Midas, who goes down alongside them.
When she realizes what she had done, he tells her that this is why he needs to keep her in a cage–to protect others from her, and her from herself. He tells her that it’s a shame that she exhausted herself with that tantrum, because he has a list of things that he needs her to make gold. Then he orders her to rest, and tells her he will fix the cage door tomorrow. As he walks away, Auren tells him that if he walks out, she is done, she will not forgive him for anything, to which he responds that he doesn’t need her forgiveness, just her power.
Midas exits the room, and despite not being able to hear her, he still sends a contingent of guards to guard the door. He doesn’t like that she’s no longer compliant–something has changed–and he had lost his temper with her, because she usually is compliant, which is what he has admired about her, and he expected her crawl back in, afraid and broken. But he will work on it, get it resolved later, make her feel better, because the nobles of Ranhold are getting impatient to see the gold. He heads to the throne room, which he had the servants prepare, for his meeting with King Ravinger, so that he can send a message. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go to plan, because King Ravinger changes the location of the meeting, after arriving late. He believes that King Ravinger doesn’t know what Auren does, and smiles at the fact that he gave back the most valuable thing in the world back to him for free. The negotiations start, and Ravinger wants something from the border of the Fifth Kingdom, because they are the ones who attacked him. Midas offers gold in exchange for Ravinger moving his army back beyond the Fifth Kingdom’s borders, but Ravinger is uninterested in the gold. Midas is surprised because most people want gold, but Ravinger asks for Deadfall instead, a strip of land at the edge of Fifth, and when asked, Ravinger tells him that it’s to appease the rumors that he’s ben encroaching on land, and as restitution for the Fifth sending their soldiers into his territory. He’ll have his army leave in exchange for the rights to Deadfall. And Ravinger also invites himself into the Fifth Kingdom’s celebration, during which the Third Kingdom is supposed to be present, by telling Midas that his army has been traveling for a while, so they need rest. Midas agrees to it.
In the meantime, Auren wallows in her cage–gold has been her identity ever since she was born, though most people think of it as wealth or a color. She wonders what her life would be like if her skin never glimmered in the sun, she didn’t have gold in her hands, and ribbons out of her back. She keeps yelling at the door, asking to be let out, because she no longer is willing to be ashamed of who she is and what she is capable of. She decides to start choosing herself. She is unable to move the door, and she hears the voices of her guards, because she gilds the door gold and they are able to see it on their side. Suddenly, the sounds stop on the other side of the door, and there’s complete silence. Suddenly the door opens, and she finds herself face to face with King Ravinger. She looks at his markings, and she finds him handsome, despite him being so terrifying. They talk some, at which point he slips up and calls her Goldfinch–a nickname that Rip came up with. She throws a coat at Ravinger, and soon realizes that she’s made a mistake–some of the lining is gold, but she hopes that Ravinger won’t notice. Except he does, and is surprised by this revelation, though now everything makes sense to him as to why Midas keeps her and hides her in a cage. Auren continues to feel ill from Ravinger’s power, though he tells her she should get used to it especially as they will be in the same room often, and reveals that he and Midas have negotiated piece and that he’s staying for a celebration that Midas is hosting.
The first thing that Auren asks is if Commander Rip is staying, to which Ravinger chuckles and says that he asked her if she knew who she was. His power pulses suddenly, and dizziness overtakes her, but as she watches him, he changes from Ravinger into Rip. They are one and the same person, and she should’ve been able to pick up on that with Ravinger’s voice and demeanor but she hadn’t. And suddenly she feels betrayed–Ravinger/ Rip has tricked her and lied about who he is. He tells her that he is one and the same, but she can call him Slade.
My Thoughts: I really love the suspense throughout the book around who Midas and Auren really are; what their relationship is, and how she is able to create Gold just like Midas. When she’s finally returned to Midas, we see from his point of view that Auren was always the one with the power of gold, not Midas, which is a very cool twist on the Myth of Midas. Further, I love the tension between Rip and Auren, and often wonder what is going through his mind, what his story is, and how come he knows or senses Auren. Did he become King of the Fourth because he was searching for Auren? Or is this an accidental crossing of the stars that brought them together and he knows more than he lets on. It is such a joy to see Auren grow and learn, reveal parts of her that are deeply hidden and that no one else knows or is aware of, but also her confusion around her feelings for Rip and Midas. I ultimately think that she will choose to follow her heart and choose Rip because he seems to have a lot more to offer her, but we shall see what happens next.
I cannot wait for it!