Berkley, Apr 2008, $7.99
With the devastating wars apparently over (see Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy), sisters Red Gloves and Bethral seek employment as there is little work available at the moment for mercenaries. They wander into the war-ravaged Palins where they stop for a respite at a demolished farm. Also there is the despondent former Baron of Athelbryght Josiah, whose people were exterminated.
However Josiah suddenly has hopes for the few survivors amongst his people when he notices the birthmark of the Chosen One on Red. He explains she is the one who will save what is left of the Palins as she is destined to sit on the empty throne. Red assumes Josiah never recovered from the war and besides even if he is right about her birthmark, she could not care less about impoverished strangers; she just wants to survive. Even when the Priestess Evelyn validates what Josiah told her, she still prefers to find her next meal not a country’s next repast; of course each time she tells Josiah that he looks hurt, which make her feel guilty as she cannot understand why she needs him to think better of her.
This is an excellent romantic fantasy as the devastated countryside makes the story line feel genuine. Red is a fascinating lead character who has no interest in being a nation’s legendary savior as she is a mercenary to the core of her bone marrow; but Josiah makes her feel guilty with his looks of disappointment and loving devotion at the same time. Readers will enjoy Elizabeth Vaughn’s superb clever return to the desolate Warlands.