Jahn and Alix Beckyt are twins. Up until 6 years ago they were known as Devlyn and Trystan Arndell, poor sons of a lost fisherman and a seamstress. Now, they were known as Emperor Jahn and his brother Alix. Alix was the calm, steady brother who supported his occasionally emotional and reckless brother in his success. Alix wanted nothing of Jahn's.
In Alix, there is a struggle. It's as though there are two people in one body. Deep inside him is a dark force that wants to get out. This dark force would kill his brother, Jahn, and make himself emperor.
On the first night of the Spring Festival, Jahn is pressured by his ministers to take a wife. They offer up 5 choices but Jahn does not know any of them and requests that they come to his court by the first night of the Summer Festival so he can choose. While the ministers think this approach is a bit cold they agree and 5 groups are sent out to collect the potential brides.
Alix is leading the group going to Tryfan to collect the Princess Edlyn. Edlyn is a spoiled bratty girl who doesn't want to be going to Jahn's court. However, given her choices from her father, it is the least bad one. Edlyn's father also sends Jahn a gift, a young woman from Agnese called Sanura. Sanura is painted blue and anyone who touches her that is not her master will be killed. Sanura can see what is in a person or a person's soul. She sees that Alix has a dark force in him that if he doesn't deal with will either take over him or drive him crazy. Edlyn does not like to even see Sanura. Could it be because Sanura can see the real Edlyn?
Lady Verity is the only daughter of a wealthy merchant in the Northern Providence. A group was sent to collect her. She is sure that Emperor Jahn will pick her and is full of joy. In the group sent for her is a very good looking sentinel, Laris. Lady Verity is drawn to Laris but she is going to be the empress, isn't she?
Along both groups' treks back to Jahn's court, the young girls are threatened with assassination as well as the normal perils of travel. Which members of the groups are responsible and who is behind these attacks? No one is sure and everyone is suspect.
I liked the basic story line of Jahn needing a wife and sending for the 5 choices. Two of the choices' stories were in this book. While I got a good idea about all the characters and situations, I feel that I would have enjoyed it more if each group had its own book. I didn't feel as though the characters had been developed as well as they could have been. While we're told Alix is having struggles with his dark side, we aren't given any real insight to that struggle. After his dark side takes over, we aren't really given a good feel to the conflict he is feeling as the lighter side tries to come back. Laris is charged with escorting Lady Verity to his Emperor yet we don't really know his inner struggles or if he had any as he is drawn to Lady Verity. While we had some knowledge of the characters, I don't think they were as developed as they could have been if they had their own book.
I also was having some problems matching up the time lines with both stories. While this isn't really important I always seem to wonder, did both attacks happen on the same day? When Alix returned to court was Lady Verity also in town or was she still traveling? An illusion was made that another potential bride had made it to the city, so who is she and when did she arrive?
Of course, as we've only gotten the first two potential brides' stories, this book will have a sequel. Even though I had some issues with this book, I will look for the next one as I really am interested in how this story finishes.
A cause for celebration: a new series from the author of the Prince trilogy. For the Emperor of Colymbyana, no bride can compare to Sanura, an exotic slave with the power to see into men’s souls. To touch her brings incredible pleasure—and certain death. Even for his brother, who loves her ardently. This is their story.