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Tainted

Tainted (Lisen of Solsta, #2)4 Stars

In Book II of the Lisen of Solsta series, Tainted by D. Hart St. Martin takes the reader back to the land of Garla and also introduces us to the dangerous land of Thristas. After overcoming a harrowing event, Lisen must develop her strength in order to fulfill her destiny: to become the Empir of Garla. With the loyal Captain Rosarel at her side, Lisen hides away in the desert lands of Thristas, growing in ways she’d never imagined. Tainted by dark impulses that threaten to destroy her, Lisen must ultimately decide which promises she’ll break and which promises she’ll keep.

After reading Fractured, the first book in the Lisen of Solsta series, I was pretty psyched to read Tainted. The book begins where the first one left off—Lisen of Solsta, the heroine of the story, is recovering from almost succumbing to madness beyond the point of no return. Once she’s fully recovered, she continues her trek with Captain Korin Rosarel to Avaret in order to face her brother, Ariel Ilazer, who is currently ruling as Empir.

In a decision to keep her safe, Korin takes Lisen to Thristas, a desert land with a unique way of life. Under the guise of two former Guards in love, they discover that Lisen must commit to cultural rituals that threaten to change their relationship. I’m always a sucker for romantic subplots in fantasy novels, and this twist creates a romantic tension that continues to develop throughout the novel, morphing into a love triangle once Nalin’s feelings become revealed.

Even with the romantic subplot, Lisen develops as a dynamic, heroic character, constantly fighting her surroundings and learning more about herself. St. Martin does an excellent job with maintaining strong values in Lisen— overcoming gender norms, Lisen fights off forces that try to weaken her, and she continually quips sassy, sarcastic remarks. It’s fun to watch Lisen adapt to different environments, especially once she discovers her true purpose in life. Even while Korin and Lisen continue with combat training, Lisen has her own plans, as she secretly trains her mind and develops her necropathic powers.

What excited me most about this sequel was how intricately St. Martin wove the other characters into the plot. My favorite example of this is in a chapter about “Evenday/Evennight,” a holiday in the land of Garla and Thristas. Ariel and Lorain, his soon-to-be spouse and the mother of his unborn child, have a drastically different Evennight than the other characters— especially Korin and Lisen, who experience Farii, a Thristan fertility ritual. Through taking various characters’ perspectives, St. Martin creates unique vantage points for the reader during such a heightened moment in the plot. There’s a few characters that I wished were featured more often, such as Bala and Titus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if those characters play a bigger role in the third book.

After weaving multiple characters’ perspectives throughout the novel, the final chapters, filled with fast-paced action and a few plot twists, bring all the characters’ paths together in a masterful way. Ending with a cliffhanger regarding the fates of Korin and Lisen, I can’t wait to see what happens next in the final book of the trilogy.

Pages: 350 | ASIN: B00GCYAYVS

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