Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, July 13, 2018

a turn even its maker didn’t expect... Queen of Thorns and Roses (Black Rose Sorceress #4) by Connie Suttle

Such a fantastic addition to the series
Great sequel
Such a great book!
Loved it


Published: July 5th, 2018

“You thought you could walk right into Az-ca, take over where you left off centuries ago, and everybody would just fall in with your plans. Is that it?”

“I didn’t count on her—never saw her in all my divinations.”

He meant Sherra. An unseeable. He’d divined Thorn II, just not his Queen and partner. “So. You wanted to take over after practically destroying their current King—who was a very good King, and before that, an excellent Commander of the army. That’s a hell of a way to get Az-ca’s population to adore you, isn’t it?”

“I can offer them peace,” he began.

“Except you can’t. Kaakos is still alive, remember, and he’ll be coming for you—of that I have no doubt. You know it, too, and you can’t take him on without Az-ca’s army at your back.”

“I thought we could work together—Thorn II and I. That he’d see the reason in it after a while.”

“And, as he’s currently powerless, what choice would he have?” I sniped. “Except he has the strongest Queen you’ve ever seen at his side, and she certainly won’t fall for that bullshit.”


The present King of Az-ca has been rendered powerless through an unsuspected coup, and is overcome with despair.

Kaakos has escaped death, but is forced to leave Ny-nes. Now, his sole focus is revenge.
Az-ca’s citizens have fallen victim to the enemy’s lies, and civil war threatens to split the country.

Sherra is forced to divide her attention between searching for the enemy, dealing with traitors and struggling with the King’s misery and desolation. When the blood spell that rendered Kerok powerless takes a turn even its maker didn’t expect, only her dreamwalker, with help from another, can hope to turn the tide…




"There are three of us. How do you suggest we teach the entire population to read, write and follow a new set of rules—all at the same time?" I demanded.

North wasn't speaking to me. I was barely speaking to him. His back was turned toward me as he gazed out a window in what was left of Kaakos' suite.

Garkus ignored both of us in favor of showing the few who still lived inside the city how to clear ground and plant seeds. The seeds he'd scrounged from the kitchen—beans, corn and such, that hadn't yet been used as food.

At least it was late spring, and if the ground were willing, we might see results—unless the soil and air were so toxic that plant growth was no longer possible.

I watched as North's shoulders drooped, letting me know I'd hit a sensitive spot with him. "I was hoping we could bring teachers and such from Az-ca."

"After you rendered their King helpless? Those people from Az-ca?" Sherra would make his life miserable—and mine, too, if we even suggested such a thing.

"You say she's smart," he whirled to face me. "What if there's a way to reverse this?" he tapped his chest in frustration. "I wasn't intending," he stopped before saying something else.

"Intending what?"

"I thought we could unite the country—like it once was." He turned his back to me again.

"You thought you could walk right into Az-ca, take over where you left off centuries ago, and everybody would just fall in with your plans. Is that it?"

"I didn't count on her—never saw her in all my divinations."

He meant Sherra. An unseeable. He'd divined Thorn II, just not his Queen and partner. "So. You wanted to take over after practically destroying their current King—who was a very good King, and before that, an excellent Commander of the army. That's a hell of a way to get Az-ca's population to adore you, isn't it?"

"I can offer them peace," he began.

"Except you can't. Kaakos is still alive, remember, and he'll be coming for you—of that I have no doubt. You know it, too, and you can't take him on without Thorn's army at your back."

"I thought we could work together—Thorn and I. That he'd see the reason in it after a while."

"And, as he's currently powerless, what choice would he have?" I sniped. "Except he has the strongest Queen you've ever seen at his side, and she certainly won't fall for that bullshit."

"I could be his right arm. His power," North turned to argue with me.

"It's not the same, and you know that."

"It's what I'm willing to offer."

"Go ahead. I want to hear what Sherra says when you say it. Frankly, the only reason you're still alive is that you and he are connected."

"You think she can kill me?" He snorted and turned his back to me again.

"You saw what she was doing with that army—she'd have taken Kaakos down and his palace with him, if you hadn't done what you did and distracted her. She kept him inside this place. He'd be dead, if you hadn't decided to pull Thorn's power away."

This time, I watched him stiffen. He knew it just as I did. Had he left things alone, we wouldn't be having this argument, now. Had he not interfered as he did, Sherra and Thorn II would be happy to send troops and teachers, I think.

Instead, Kaakos was still alive, and that meant he was a hidden threat to anyone who thought to stand against him.

Like his bastard son, Thorn I didn't think any woman was good enough to do the job—not when a man was available.

Both those things—his son and his attitude—had ruined our relationship centuries before.

Not much had changed between then and now.

"How—is he?" His voice was quieter, now.

"Depressed. Not eating. Refusing to leave the palace. That's how he's doing." I received regular mindspeak from Doret—there was no sense in attempting to contact Sherra. I was too ashamed to try, actually.

You should have told her the moment North pulled you away from Kaakos' clutches, a small voice taunted me.

Yes, I should have. I'd told Doret, but as neither of us wanted to inform Adahi, we'd kept that secret from him and everyone else.

Now we were left with the aftermath of that malformed decision.

"Will it do any good to write her a letter, asking Az-ca to stand with Ny-nes for a common purpose? She can hate me as much as she wants, and he can, too, but until the threat of Kaakos is eliminated, neither Ny-nes nor Az-ca will be safe."

"Feel free," I tossed a hand in the vague direction of Az-ca. "Just be prepared to have your ass handed to you."

"It's what the diplomats of old would do," he said. "The enemy of my enemy, and so on. We can send the letter—and Jubal, at the same time."

"You think returning a traitor to Az-ca is a peace offering?"

"His execution belongs in the hands of Az-ca, not Ny-nes. If I thought I'd receive a civil audience, I'd go myself."

"You try that," I said. "To see how far you get."

"What about approaching the army Commander?"

"Armon? He'd be waiting with Sherra at his side. You have no idea how close she is to him and much of the army."

"Then I'm back to writing a letter, or contacting her in some way, to request a civil audience with the King and Queen."

"If I thought I'd be welcome, I'd go, just to watch them take you down a peg or two."

"If they accept my request, feel free to accompany me."

* * *
Secondary Camp


"Wend and Marc have been permanently assigned to the King," I sighed as I took a seat beside Levi for our midday meal.

"I suspected as much. Sherra wants somebody who actually cares about him to stay at his side during the day, whenever she can't be there."

Levi looked grim. Misten, who sat across from us, looked pale. Caral was at the palace more often than not, as was Cole. Sherra called them in frequently, to act as assistants and advisors.

Thorn would only speak if compelled, nowadays. I can't say I blamed him; I'd be furious and seeking revenge against the one who'd removed my power.

Except Thorn's life was now tied to the one who'd stolen his power to begin with. I worried that the King would let it affect him in adverse ways, and that eventually, he'd shut himself off from all of us.

Doret and Barth acted as liaisons between the Crown and the Council, thank goodness. I felt Sherra could blast someone if they asked the wrong question at times. Sherra and her dreamwalker had modified the shields around all the villages already, to watch for Kaakos' arrival.

She was sure he'd come eventually.

After hearing some of the story from Doret, I imagined Kaakos would go for his father and Kyri first, then come after Az-ca afterward.

"Hard to believe that Thorn the First has been alive and plotting all this time, isn't it?" Levi nodded his thanks to Caral's sister, who set plates of food in front of us.

"It's infuriating," Misten hissed. "That fucking piece of—I don't have a good word to describe what he is and what I think about him."

Levi and I stared at Misten—I could count on the fingers of one hand how many times I'd heard Misten swear.

"Well, it's what I think," she sniffed.

"We think the same, it's just—different, hearing it from you," Levi said. "Not that we're complaining," he held up a hand. "You're free to speak your mind whenever it's just us."

"I know. I wish Caral were here. We haven't had much time to ourselves since—well—you know."

"We know."

"I don't know how Sherra is able to deal with all this," she added. "I'd be crazy by now."

Levi and I looked at one another. We were worried that Thorn would be the one to follow that path.

Very worried.

As for Hunter, he could feed himself, now, but he'd not attempted to speak, and still stared blankly into the distance most of the time.

We'd been so close to eliminating Kaakos, when Thorn I decided to pull his stunt and fuck it up.

Sherra had punched him in the nose, breaking it. I wanted to do much worse than that. Like her, I had to quash those thoughts, as any violence against the one who'd named himself North was irrevocably tied to Thorn and his continued existence.

"In all my life, I'd never imagine anything like this was possible," Levi said and stabbed green beans with his fork.

"That's the honest truth," I agreed and started eating.

* * *

King's Palace

"How much faith do you have in your shields around the villages?" Pottles asked. She and I were having lunch at the outdoor table in the garden.

"They'll do what they did when I was alerted to Narvin's presence at North Camp. I don't know whether they'll actually hold Kaakos back if he's determined, but I'll know when and where, if all goes as planned."

Ever since I'd returned from Ny-nes, she and I had carefully skirted the subject of Kyri and her former lover, North.

I hadn't yet heard how they'd separated centuries ago, but I really had no desire to do so. It was understood that Pottles stayed in touch with Kyri—I would have in her place. Besides, we needed to know if Kaakos came back to Ny-nes, bent on killing his own father.

Kerok's life could depend upon that outcome. I let my shoulders droop with a sigh as I considered the King of Az-ca, who was now so deep in depression he would hardly speak to anyone.

I'd already asked Barth to begin gathering information to add a new law—forbidding blood spells of any kind in Az-ca. That's how we'd come to this impasse with Kerok and the former King of Az-ca, whom he was named after.

After considering another mindspeaking of fuck you, North, I decided against it. If he didn't know already how I felt about him, then saying it again would likely be ignored.

A part of me felt sorry for Pottles, because she was caught between two angry people that she cared for.

Another part of me was angry with her, too, because she knew things she should have told me long ago—that North was alive in Ny-nes. That Kaakos was his son. Perhaps she'd been right about Kaakos' mother being a whore, but I didn't really want to hear that story, either.

Not now.

They'd damaged Kerok. They'd damaged our relationship. Az-ca still had a King—in name only. Nothing I could do or say would convince Kerok to return to his study and begin working again.

Rumors abounded that Kerok had been injured more seriously in Ny-nes than anyone had reported, and those wounds kept him away from his desk and Council meetings.

Only a handful understood that his power had been stripped away by a man who should have died centuries earlier. At first, Pottles said the Council asked about the King. They'd stopped after only a few meetings.

"Fuck." I dropped my fork onto the white tablecloth covering the table. I had as little appetite as Kerok did on some days.

"We didn't know what North was planning," Pottles sighed as I turned my head away. "That doesn't absolve us of guilt in any way for not telling you, but it's what I have."

"I need to be somewhere else for a while." Without telling her where I was heading, I stepped.

* **

"Nothing's changed," I told Armon as we watched battle exercises at Secondary Camp. It was Armon's idea to be fully trained and ready, should Kaakos bring the war to our doorstep again.

Only this time, we were training everyone who could be trusted and had the talent to form flying bubbles, to attack from the air.

Armon had asked me about Kerok and Hunter while I stood beside him on the training grounds, my arms crossed tightly over my chest to keep my anger in check. That's when North's mindspeak came to me.

I need an audience with you and King Thorn, he said. It concerns our combined futures.

He'd said it fast, so I couldn't interrupt.

And if we deny the meeting?
I didn't hide my mental contempt.

You know Kaakos won't be satisfied until I'm dead, he replied. That, obviously, will affect the King. I wish to visit under the flag of truce, to determine how we might defeat this threat together.
I wish I could say that this is too little, too late, I snapped back. You should have said this to me months ago, rather than waiting until you failed to kill Kaakos to suggest it.
I understand that, now. Adahi always said I was too full of myself. He was right.

Well, it's convenient for you, I suppose, that he's really dead this time.

You won't believe me, but I wish that weren't so.

You're right—I don't believe you.

When will be a good time to bring Jubal to Az-ca for sentencing?

Bring him tomorrow. It's as good as any other day.

Might we sit down for a midday meal with you? Food is rather plain and difficult to find in Ny-nes.

I'll tell the kitchen to prepare more plates—two or three?

Three. Perhaps four, if Kyri brings someone with her.

I'll be waiting at the outdoor table. I have no idea whether Kerok will consent to see any of you. I'm only seeing you because your life is tied to his. I fully expect Kaakos to devise a way to kill us all, now that you've given him more motivation than ever to do so. I'll have guards waiting to take Jubal to the lockup.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell me—or Kyri?
he asked.

I expect full disclosure on any plans to combat the threat Kaakos represents. If you know where he'd go to plot his next moves, I'd like that information, too. There are many places he can strike and cause far too much damage. That doesn't include the deaths of innocents, either. I want every scrap of information you and Kyri have.

I didn't add that Kerok and I should already have it—it would have made a difference, I think, in recent events. Especially the part where North planned to steal Kerok's power. Now, every time I saw that ring on Kerok's finger, I felt burning anger.

We'll give you the information, North agreed. It's only fair that you have it.
I didn't waste my energy yelling at him in mindspeak. Nothing would change if I shouted at him—mentally or in person.

Realistically, I knew that Kaakos had to be found and dealt with, and North had to be kept alive in the meantime.

I wished for Adahi, then. Perhaps he'd have a solution to this blood spell that connected Kerok to North. If not, he'd be sympathetic, at least.

We'll arrive tomorrow at midday, your time, North said and cut off his mindspeak. Just as well; I was done talking to him anyway.

"Message from the palace?" Armon asked as I released a slow breath.

"No. Message from the fucker in Ny-nes," I said. "He, Kyri and Garkus are meeting me for a midday meal tomorrow, to discuss dealing with Kaakos and keeping himself alive—for Kerok's sake. That's the only reason I listened to him."

"I'd prefer to be in that meeting," Armon growled.

"You're invited, as is Barth and a few others. They're bringing Jubal with them—I'll send him to the lockup and determine what to do with him afterward."

"You know what needs to be done to a traitor," Armon said, turning back to the training exercises.

"I think I'd like to ask a few questions, first. He saw Kaakos firsthand, remember? I want information, any way I can get it."

"Understood and agreed, my Queen."

"Good. I'd like you to be there—Barth, too, when I question him."

"I'd like to break North's nose again. No—I won't do it. Unless you ask, that is."

"He has twice the power he used to have," I pointed out. "I don't know what that could mean if he's attacked. I do know Kaakos got away from him, though."

"Kaakos pulled power from who knows how many, and killed them to do it, so he could accomplish that feat," Armon grunted. "He destroyed his warrior-priests, his servants and his army, too."

"And that's why I worry about innocent lives," I said. "He could be looking to tap into the population of Ny-nes again. That's terrifying."

"He could strike anywhere. Are they sure he doesn't know where Kyri's City or Cole's village is?"

"A question for tomorrow. We can move people here, but I don't know whether it would be any safer."

"Who does he hate more?" Armon asked. "You or North?"

"I think North, but there's no real guarantee of that. He's had centuries to build the hate against his father. On the other hand, I'm a woman, and he really hates women."

Armon's jaw worked after I made my pronouncement. He wanted to say something, but held it back.

"Go ahead—you can say anything to me, Armon," I sighed.

"I'd like to say that doesn't make sense, but nothing about Kaakos makes sense. What I really want to say is that his power should have been removed the moment they realized he was dangerous, and that was probably when he was in his teens, if not younger."

"A powerless criminal is certainly much easier to deal with than a powerful one," I agreed. "I don't know when they figured out he was a menace to everyone, but I believe you're right about this. They may have held off, since he was the King's son."

"I don't give a damn who his father was. He's a fucking sociopath."

"No argument from me on that," I said.

* * *


Anger and depression. Those two emotions were now the entirety of my life. I'd never been without my power. Even as a small child, it had been a part of me; I merely hadn't employed it until I was taught to do so.

Too many times I gazed at the ring on my finger, tempted to remove it and send myself and the one I was named after to oblivion. That would ease my pain.

A part of me still worried about what that would do to Sherra and Az-ca. As for the psychotic fool who'd done this to me—it would feel good to deprive him of his life as mine drained away.

Lately, my thoughts strayed to that scenario more often.

Sherra tried to tell me what was happening in the outside world. She asked questions. Wanted to know how I wanted something done. You are the King, she reminded me gently. You hold the power in Az-ca.

I remained silent. I had no power, because someone had callously stripped it away. Had Adahi known the ring would do this to me? If so, he'd played his part so well that I never suspected.

Adahi's dead, I reminded myself. Hunter may as well be. Whatever Kaakos had done to him was obviously irreversible. He could barely feed himself.

"Tea," Wend placed a cup at my elbow as I sat in the garden, not far from Grae's burial spot. I didn't bother to thank her for the tea, or even acknowledge that she was there.

They were getting used to my silence. Like Hunter, perhaps, I was imprisoned in my own skull and might never venture out again.

"Thank you, Wend," Sherra had stepped in while I was mired in self-pity.

"Want tea?" Wend smiled at Sherra.

"I'd love tea. It's so dry at Secondary Camp, right now."

Wend produced a second cup and poured from the pot on her tray. "The troops are doing so well in the new exercises," Sherra said, her eyes searching mine. She hoped to start a conversation with me.

I wasn't in the mood to hear how troops, who still held power, were doing. I should have asked after Armon, and how he was holding up after our recent losses in Ny-nes, but I didn't. That question was long overdue, and I really didn't want to know anyway.

We lost elite troops in Ny-nes, a small voice reminded me. Shut up, I growled at it.

"Armon wants to give the elite troops a name for their squad, and raise their pay so the others will have something to strive for," Sherra said when I refused to speak. "I think it's a good idea, but we don't know what to call them."

"Can we call them eagles?" Wend sounded excited. That meant she and Marc, who were members of the elite corps, would be called eagles, too.

Eagles were scarce where we were, and almost mythical, until you saw a rare one flying high overhead.

According to Sherra, they weren't quite as uncommon near Cole's village, but sightings were still rare. "I think that's something to consider," she said, "Only I think they should be called the King's Eagles. I'll mention it to Armon when we see him tomorrow."

Had I been myself, I may have been pleased with that name. As it was, I turned my head away from Sherra and Wend's excitement. They could call the troops whatever they wanted. I reminded myself that in my current condition, it no longer mattered.

"There's ah, something else," Sherra said, sounding subdued, now.

"What's that?" Wend asked.

"We're having visitors at the midday meal, tomorrow. Kyri, Garkus and uh, North, are bringing Jubal in, and they want to uh, discuss what to do about Kaakos. We know he'll attack; we just don't know where or when he'll strike first. They owe me information, too, and they promised to answer our questions."

That's when I snorted my anger. "You had no business consenting to this meeting without consulting me, first," I snapped at Sherra, before rising and stalking toward the side door of the palace.

I didn't have to treat them with anything other than contempt when they arrived, and I intended to do so.

Besides, plans could be made to deal with the other traitor coming. The one who'd stolen from me what couldn't be returned.

Yes. I'd see what could be done about him.


About the author:
CONNIE SUTTLE is the author of the Blood Destiny series, the Legend of the Ir’Indicti series, the High Demon Series, the God Wars series and the Saa Thalarr series. Other titles are scheduled for release very soon. 

Connie earned her MFA from the University of Oklahoma and has taught courses at the university level. Reading (and writing) have been a constant throughout her life. 

The author lives in Oklahoma with her patient, long-suffering husband and three cats. Obviously, the cats are not so long-suffering and are certainly not patient. 

To celebrate the release of QUEEN OF THORNS AND ROSES by Connie Suttle, we're giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky winner!

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to internationally. One winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Connie Suttle. Giveaway ends 8/18/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Limit one entry per reader. Duplicates will be deleted.

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