Because of Kaderin’s hesitation to kill a vampire on the battlefield a thousand years ago, she lost her two sisters. They were born triplets, a rarity amongst Valkyrie. She felt sorry for him but he turned around and purposely found her sisters on the battlefield and killed them with an evil smile. Since then, she has hated vampires and goes out of her way to kill them.
The pain and guilt of losing her sisters was unbearable so she prayed to whatever god was listing to take it away and one of them listened. She’s been known as Kaderin the Coldhearted ever since.
A thousand years later, she’s sent out to kill a lone vampire in Estonia. She finds herself, for the second time in her life, hesitating to kill a vampire. This vampire seems to want to die and she tells herself that the reason she doesn’t want to kill him is because it would make him suffer to let him live but the truth is she is drawn to him.
Sebastian Wroth has lived a bleak life for three hundred years. He was turned into a vampire against his will by his brothers because he was dying from a wound he received while defending his home from raiders. Subsequently, he never talked to his brothers again. He lives alone and doesn’t have any friends. He won’t kill himself but he wouldn’t put up a fight if someone wanted to kill him.
When a beautiful assassin comes to kill him, he’s willing to let her except his heart starts beating and his libido returns. He hasn’t had sexual desires since he was turned. He wants her like he has never wanted anyone in his life. She is his Bride, the one female made specifically for him.
To Kaderin’s horror, she ends up making out with Sebastian but she stopped it before it went too far and ran out of his castle as fast as she could…into the sun so he couldn’t follow her.
Every two-hundred and fifty years, Kaderin competes in the Hie, a competition similar to the Amazing Race but much more bloody. She has won it the last five times. This year, the prize is something that she wants more than anything before it, Thrane’s Key. This key allows a person to go back into time and change something without completely dismantling the future’s timeline and events. She can use it twice but she only needs it once to go back and get her sisters.
Kaderin arrives at the Hie and checks out her competition. There’s no one there who she considers too much of a challenge except for Cindey, the nymph but she knows she can easily beat her in the later rounds of the game. She’s not too worried until she sees a new competitor, a Lykae named Bowen MacRieve who everyone knows lost his mate a century or so ago and who will do anything to get her back. His strength alone could be a serious challenge. This will be the first time a Lykae has ever entered the Hie.
Then Kaderin sees Sebastian in a shadowy corner. She wonders how he could have found her since this place is secret, not on a map and she knows no one in the Lore would tell a vampire where it was because vampires are deplored and shunned by the Lore. Plus, vampires can only trace to places they have been before and she is sure that he has never been there before.
Sebastian can’t stop thinking about his Bride. He doesn’t know who or what she is thanks to the Lore not ever sharing any information with vampires. He knows that he can only trace, something close to teleporting, to places he has been before but he is a man of science so he wonders if he can trace to a place then why couldn’t he trace to a person. He tries it and it works. He finds himself in what looks like a temple full of beings from the Lore. He traces around and figures out that it is for some sort of competition. He decides to enter it and win the prize for his Bride.
The rules of the Hie are that the contestants will receive a list of items or talisman with assigned point values to choose from to compete for in various parts of the world. The first person who gets the prize will hold the prize over their heart and it will disappear, going to the Riora, the goddess who hosts the Hie. Competitors can just about do anything to insure they get their prize except kill another competitor outright until the final event then all bets are off.
Kaderin thinks Sebastian entered the event so she cannot kill him but he reminds her that she really does not want to kill him. She also is unnerved that after a thousand years, her gift as she calls it, is failing her. She feels emotions around him and it is throwing her off her game.
Sebastian saves Kaderin in several events but Kaderin is bullheaded and continues to loathe him though she also has the hots for him. I was glad when Sebastian started playing the game by using the prizes to try to win her heart.
There are a lot of background stories going on in this book but one stood out. Bowen the Lykae got torn up in this book. I felt so bad for him but at the same time, he was ruthless so he kind of deserved a lot of it. He was said to have trapped or imprisoned some of the other competitors. One of them was the witch Mariketa the Awaited who cursed him to be unable to regenerate when he locked her up. He was pretty much falling apart by the end of the book. It was sad but he kept right on going.
In every book, more characters are introduced but the star of the series seems to be Nix or Nucking Futs Nix as most call her because she is a soothsayer who sometimes seems lost in all the information she carries around…so much so that the things she says seem to be nonsense but I think everything she says and does is for a reason. She’s crazy but crazy like a fox. I absolutely adore her character.
Re-reading this series has just reminded me of how much I enjoyed it the first time around. I have forgotten so much but re-reading the story gives me another perspective because I know to expect certain things and I pick up on subtle clues that I missed the first time around. It’s crazy how much I look forward to reading each book.