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The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy
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The Talon of the Hawk is the conclusion to the Twelve Kingdoms series, where we follow Ursula to determine the fate of the land. The book picks up very soon after the Tears of the Rose left off. I would not recommend trying to read these as standalones, as the story arc continued over all three books. This review may contain spoilers for the earlier books.

King Uorsin had three daughters, said to be each more beautiful than the last. Ursula is his oldest, least beautiful daughter and heir to the high king's throne. Unfortunately High King Uorsin is a depraved power-hungry lunatic. He commits cruel acts in his quest for power, and Ursula is seemingly blind to them all. She follows her king with unflagging loyalty, despite hard evidence of his unspeakable acts. Believing the king is above the law, she continues to support him even when he has committed atrocious acts against her.

I liked Ursula for the most part, it's always good when your heroine knows how to wield a sword. She earned the respect and loyalty of the men and women she commanded, known as the Hawks. She was a fierce fighter, good strategist, and a fair captain. She was a problem solver and had a huge heart, thinking of everyone else before herself.

But there were also some things I didn't like. I could not understand her blind loyalty to get tyrannical father. It seemed to go against her intelligence and leadership style. I also went a little nuts at the relationship drama that occurred toward the end. I felt that putting that big of a drama at 92% of the story really messed it up for me. I was so aggravated at Ursula, and then she didn't have the time to redeem herself for me.

Ursula's love interest is Harlan, captain of a band of mercenaries from a land we had not heard of in earlier books. I really liked Harlan. He was this big muscle-bound teddy bear that set out to win Ursula's affection from their first meeting. He was extremely patient with her, even when she didn't necessarily deserve it (especially when she had her stupid female drama at the end).

There is a subplot to this installment that carried over from the Tears of the Rose, namely the kidnapping and rescue of Amelia's daughter. So this book was not lacking in action. However I feel like the subplot took too much focus away from the main story arc, so that the culmination of events with King Uorsin seemed anti-climactic. The bit with Ilyeria seemed the same, and was a bit disjointed since it didn't connect to the prior 2 books.

Overall the series was good, the plot was well-developed, and the characters were engaging. The first two books made me pick up the next installment immediately so I wouldn't have to wait to find out what happened. 4 stars for the series as a whole, 3.5 stars for this book individually, and 3 flames across the board for the sultry factor.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Bambi_Unbridled | Mar 19, 2016 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Dark, high fantasy with erotic romance. A little slow at times but for the most part was an engaging read that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Opening Sentence: The bright pennants of Ordnung, High King Uorsin’s rampant bear topping them all, snapped in the cool breezes from the high mountain peaks.

The Review:

The Talon of the Hawk is the last novel in the Twelve Kingdoms Trilogy. It does a nice job of wrapping up the series but it spends a lot of time in the country of Annfwn solving their problems than it does at Castle Ordnung and solving the problems of an evil king and dying empire. I would highly recommend reading the previous two novels of this series in order to know the characters and what is going on. The stories really do build off of one another. Each story in this series has been told from the point of view of one of the sisters. The Talon of the Hawk is Ursula’s story.

Princess Ursula returns home to Castle Ordnung without her sister, Amelia, and her heir much to the chagrin of her father, King Uorsin. Ursula finds that a lot has changed since she has left. A foreign army or mercenaries is now guarding the castle. Her father has a foreign witch at his beck and call and important people are missing. Uorsin believes Ursula a traitor now and abuses her and locks her up.

Ursula escapes with the help of the mercenary army because the leader, Harlan, is in love with her. He swears fealty to her without breaking his contract agreement with Uorsin. Ursula goes on the run to Annfwn hoping to find both of her sisters (Andromeda & Amelia) and Amelia’s daughter who was kidnapped.

Ursula is the older sister who has always been the heir to the throne. She has been trained as a warrior since she was five. She has speed and her trusty sword to aid her in battle. Ursula has also been a protector to her two younger sisters, keeping them away from their father’s wrath. She also has no interest in men so much so that her sisters think that she is gay and the bards sing songs about her sword being her partner. The King is the only master in her mind. She takes his word for law and she tries not to fail him, even though she hasn’t been doing a good job when it comes to her sisters and what he wants.

Harlan begins to undo all the safeguards and barriers that Ursula has put up for herself. She has a lot of issues – and let me tell you, one of them is really bad. Harlan is a mercenary with a heart of gold and has no ill will towards Ursula even though that is all she can think about. I loved Harlan’s loyalty and how he manages to break down Ursula’s walls.

The Talon of the Hawk is a dark, high fantasy with erotic romance. I really enjoyed the buildup tension between Ursula and Harlan’s relationship. The writing was quite descriptive. There were a few slow spots at times but for the most part there was so much going on that the story kept me engaged and wanting to read more. The only thing I was disappointed in was how quickly everything wrapped up. There has to be more to this story and I definitely want to know what happens afterwards.

Overall, this is a series that I would recommend for those who like high fantasy with heavy romantic scenes. This story alone has some really dark George R.R. Martin undertones. This story isn’t all sunshine and roses but it was still a very engaging read.

Notable Scene:

His words stung, far more than they should have. Danu! Such a viciously targeted strike. He’d opened the way to this wound, breaking the scar tissue with his questions, flattery, and attention. A weapon so finely honed I’d never felt it going in. I’d been fine, all of that squarely in the past. Now he’d made that old injury seep with blood and pus once more. With pain. I nearly staggered from the ache. Of course that scared me. I couldn’t keep bleeding like this.

“Fine. I am afraid. You called me fearless and you were wrong about that, also.”

“Also?”

“You thought you could cozen and seduce me. It will never happen.”

“Ah. I understand. I never figured you for a coward, Ursula.”

“Think what you like. I’m not interested in having the good opinion of a mercenary.” I hauled myself back, almost regretting that last attack. A clean slice, meant to hurt enough to end this dance between us once and for all.

He absorbed the strike silently, a warrior to the end.

“Be ready to ride out in the morning.” I said, and turned to go.

“Ursula,” he called after me.

Unwilling, I stopped, looked over my shoulder into the shadows. “What?”

“Do you realize that’s the first time you’ve used my name? And you did it to break my heart.”

I steeled mine. “Then you know I mean it.” With that, I strode off to take the first watch. He would get over it soon enough.

Better now than later.

FTC Advisory: Jeffe Kennedy/Kensington provided me with a copy of The Talon of the Hawk. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Jul 20, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0758294476, Paperback)

A HEAVY CROWN

Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.

Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other—that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead…

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 13 Jul 2015 18:01:12 -0400)

Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king. Ursula s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead.… (more)

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