Rating: R for sex, language, and violence
Sex: multiple scenes
Language: 3 F words, multiple taking their Gods' names in vain
Violence: torture, imprisonment, battles
Would I read more of the series: yes
This author takes the fated mate trope, and turns it on its head. Vail and Rosalind are bonded because they need the nourishment and healing from each other's blood. They don't know each other. So this book is about them being bonded early on and then gradually falling in love after learning to trust each other and let go of past horror. The character development was excellent. This author understands guilt and shame over past acts, whether inflicted by self (she chose to fight in war) or by another (he was forced through magic to kill). The plot was character-driven and the pacing was excellent.
Vail is wandering Hell, and gets caught by demons from the Fifth Kingdom (just defeated by Thorne and allies, including Vail and Loren). They put him in the dungeon and send Rosalind (witch, also captive) to heal him. She works hard, but doesn't finish in time, and is taken away to be whipped. Vail explodes because he has recognized her as his ki'ara, gets hurt again, and she's brought back in. He has her drink his blood, calls her Ki'ara. She's upset he said another woman's name during an arousing experience. He doesn't remember the episode at all, but another prisoner, Fenix, verifies it. He gets questioned and tortured by the king. 3 days later, he's still not healed. She comes in, and he tells her to give him blood while clearing up what ki'ara means. They are now bonded yet afraid of each other. Vail and Fenix, the incubus whose mate has just been reborn, plan to get out.
Vail plays buddy to the demon king, who then grants him private time with Rosalind for sex. Instead, he breaks his hand to get out of the manacle. The pain drives him to darkness, he almost kills her when she tries to heal him, but he doesn't remember when the darkness lifts. She doesn't remind him. He gets the keys, frees himself, frees Fenix, but not Rosalind from her manacles. They teleport in short jumps, but it weakens him, making him see her as a witch, and he tries to kill her. Then he has Fenix teleport her, but is jealous as soon as Fenix touches risking, and tries to kill him. Vail gets frustrated, and walks into the main courtyard and starts a battle. They get away from the castle, Vail teleports her some of his shoes and he cries for all he's lost, he has an episode wherein Kordula melds with Rosalind, they battle more demons, and Fenix separates from the group.
Vail takes them to a forest. She makes a cake of numbing ingredients. She bathes and gets her clothes clean; he bathes, too. They have sex, but he has to be completely in control because Kordula raped him for millenia, using magic to subdue him. At the end, he teleports away, which hurts Rosalind. They talk about it over dinner, and she's convinced he only acts kindly, made love to her, because of the bond, not because he likes *her*. She decides to leave, and casts a spell that locks him in a tree, unable to teleport. He yells her name in agony, and she in unable to ignore him. She goes back, casts more spells to get looking and feeling pretty, and an armchair. She tells him what she believes, he says he's a monster, and she learns enough of his history. She reassures him she doesn't see him as a monster.
They keep walking through the lovely forest. He withholds the cake she made because he doesn't want her to go down the path of darkness. She confesses her guilt over killing, he helps her find a way to peace without numbness. They spend weeks walking through the forest toward Thorne's kingdom. Then the Fifth Realm's king attacks. Rosalind uses magic without Vail going crazy, but she gets mortally wounded protecting him. He begs nature to take his life in exchange for hers, and it does but doesn't take his. He teleports them into his room in the elf castle, then rushes to find Loren and Olivia. It's their wedding day, and Vail almost gets attacked, but he grabs Olivia and teleports back to Rosalind. Olivia and Loren help Vail heal her completely, and Rosalind opens her home to Vail while Loren works to get Vail immunity so he can come home.