This series continues to impress. Just to be upfront - this series isn't a romance. Yes, there's a love story but the focus is really on Robyn and Marion's fight against the various forces that would see an end to their pagan way of life. Completing the trifecta is Gamelyn, Summer lord to Robyn's Winter. While Robyn's quest is pretty straightforward, the complications come from Gamelyn's inner turmoil and doubts and Marion's continued recovery from her ordeals in the previous book. They're both trying to find their footing, and Robyn's just trying to keep everyone together, after having lost them before.
I did miss having narration, since the narrator for the first two books is so great. He had a way of reading the passive voice structure of some of the sections and sentences that still gave them energy. It took some time getting used to it, but once I did the story moved along flawlessly.
This is a bridge book to the next trilogy of books in the series, but there's plenty here to keep my interested, and it does have a beginning, middle, end. It wouldn't stand on its own though, as you really do have to have read the first two books first, and while there's no cliffhanger per se, it's obviously a "to be continued" kind of ending.
One thing that is consistent with this series is that Hadrian and Royce as the fantastical odd couple are hilarious, and if this series were just them going around righting wrongs and singing songs a la Xena and Gaby, I'd probably enjoy this series a whole lot more. They work off each other really well. Royce is the cynic ex-assassin who only sees greed in everyone, Hadrian is the optimistic ex-soldier who is determined to show Royce the cheerier side of life. Gwen is also a great character, and it was neat to see how Ruben met Arista and became a part of these stories. I have to be honest about not remembering Albert from the original series (which I've decided not to finish after reading some reviews and returned the last volume to Audible), which I'm regretting because he's an interesting character here. (He's got a definite Joxer-esque vibe to him.)
But then these first two prequels are, in general, more interesting since they're mainly focused on introducing Hadrian and Royce to each other and setting up the rest of the series. They have the benefit of being fresh and mostly self-contained. However, this one does start to get bogged down with the larger mythos and political scheming that dragged down the original series, and Mr. Sullivan still has a tendency towards talking heads when it comes to exposition. His villains are also not nearly as smart or sly as they think they are, though at least in this case it's not required for them to be since we already know who they are.
So this was good, and the narrator continues to do a good job with all the characters and does his best to make the talking heads sound natural. There were even a few good laughs, but also a few "whaa?" moments. I'll listen to the next one, since I already have it, and see how that one goes.
"Will you punish me?"
"Do you need to be punished?"
"I have such... wicked thoughts of you."
"Dear God, I hope you do."
"Gabriel, what I give to you cannot be taken; 'tis a thing you've earned. To submit is my gift to you, and pleasure is your gift."
"God, but I love being inside you," he whispered in his own tongue. "So perfect, your body iron hard and petal soft. So beautiful, your satin mouth, your starlight eyes, your silken skin. My heart beats for you, sings for you."
"They'll know I tamed you, and it's no secret I've a liking for rough play. But exactly what goes on betwixt us?" [...] "Your submission belongs to me alone. But everyone is to know you're mine, and no one else is to lay a hand on you. No one."