The Talon of the Hawk
Jeffe Kennedy concludes her Twelve Kingdoms fantasy romance series with The Talon of the Hawk. While this book didn’t quite live up to the standard set by the first in the series, The Mark of the Tala, I did enjoy it.
Since she was a very young child Ursula has trained to be her father’s heir. She knows everything from how to run the castle kitchens to how to defend against attacks from neighboring kingdoms. It is in the latter that she truly excels for Ursula is a warrior at heart. She leads her elite unit called the Hawks on all of the king’s most critical forays and handles all his most crucial military tasks. When she comes home from her latest assignment to find the walls of her home guarded by foreign mercenaries Ursula realizes that she’s been deceiving herself. Her sisters had warned her there was something wrong with her father and now she finally sees it. Once she enters the castle things get worse. Her father has allied himself to a foreign witch who practices the darkest of magics and he quite suddenly has no use for a female heir.
Surprisingly, Ursula’s truest ally at the court turns out to be the mercenary captain, Harlan. Together they set out on a desperate journey that holds the only hope of saving the kingdom. But the trail is one fraught with peril, not least of which is the danger to Ursula’s heart. She wants to let Harlan in, to become the passionate, fiery lover he desires. Yet her heart holds a dark secret she has no intention letting go of. Will she be able to share her hurt with him and finally cauterize the wound that has been paining her for so long? Or is she destined to become a lonely queen on a cold, sterile throne?
I loved the romance between Ursula and Harlan; it truly is a mating of equals. I also loved the fantasy aspect of the novel. I liked that Ursula is such a strong warrior and great strategist and yet is always open to others’ ideas and always willing to learn and adapt. But her big secret bothered me a great deal and the center portion of the book where she turned into a sort of blubbering marshmallow over it annoyed me. I’m not saying it wasn’t a big deal (it was, it really, really was) but I would have liked to have seen it handled in a way that didn’t involve such a complete meltdown on her part. Her father issues were a tad irritating as well; see him for who he truly is already! But those are minor quibbles, the series overall is wonderful fantasy romance.