Reviewed by Melissa Brus
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
This is the beginning of a seven book series that covers three years in the life of Lillian, a disgraced warrior. In her world, protocol is absolute. The strictures that guide life in the Twelve Systems are unyielding. Lillian is caught in the aftermath of her father’s choices. Stripped of her honor, she is facing three years of a true trial. Failure equals her death. And there are many who wish that fate on her. Her master, Lucius Mercio is her only lifeline in this perilous journey. His reasons for buying her apprenticeship are his own and slowly are revealed in this story.
The world building in this series is absolutely phenomenal. Manetti has created a society that is both technologically advanced and firmly entrenched in an iron-clad caste system. There is a distinct separation between physical desire and emotional commitment. Marriage and subsequent children are more often politically influenced rather than love driven decisions. In this society, indentured servitude/apprenticeship is a path for non warrior class members to earn their way up. In these apprenticeships, there is no individual will, only the will of the master. The apprentice has to be available to meet whatever need the master requires, including sexually.
This bundle covers the first year of Lillian’s service to Lucius Mercio. Through her eyes we learn about the society and how her role will be different. It is hard to “watch” at times. The pace is slow in the first few chapters and feels like it drags. A lot of that is probably due to the formality of the language, as well as having to learn the customs of this world. But as Lillian begins to interact with others in her new role as an apprentice, the reader is pulled into a story that is truly riveting. Lillian is brilliant. She is fierce and smart and vulnerable and endearing. She has an inner resolve that is enviable. Her confusion about her feelings for her Monsignor is so relatable and real. I am well and truly invested in her. This is described as a romance. Because of her societal position, there are some that might not agree that Lillian is truly in a romance. Based on the world that Manetti has built, it is also in doubt. But there is no doubt that there is a warmth of feeling between these two that goes beyond their caste designators. I, for one, am very willing to keep reading to find out what perils will face Lillian in her next two years of servitude.