"Shalador's Lady" continues immediately on from "The Shadow Queen"; in which plain faced rose jewelled Queen Cassidy was selected by Jaenelle to rule the territory of Dena Nehele for a year. As the year passes Cassidy's relationship with her First Circle strengthens, yet her relationship with Theran, her First Escort remains strained as he continues to believe her unworthy of ruling Dena Nehele. Unfortunately Theran is soon in turmoil, as he meets a Queen he is willing to serve; the very Queen who destroyed Cassidy's self esteem when she stole her first court away from her.
Beautiful, vivacious and flirty Kermilla is everything Cassidy is not. She is also petty, conniving, greedy and all out nasty when she doesn't get her own way. Expecting Theran to hand Dena Nehele to her on a plate and keep Cassidy on for the daily duties required of a Queen that she is unwilling to carry out herself, Kermilla has no idea of the enemies she makes as she attempts to usurp Cassidy with Theran's all too willing help.
Jaenelle, Daemon, Saetan and Lucivar may not directly involve themselves in the conflict brewing in Dena Nehele; however they are far more than mere observers as they tactically and subtly show their support of Cassidy. Surreal at last makes an appearance, and has become if possible even sassier following an extended stay with the Dea al Mon after her "spooky house" experience (see "Tangled Webs"). Gray, Cassidy's potential lover in "The Shadow Queen" certainly steps up his game in this book; his development from a tortured boy to a Warlord Prince who is ready to ride the Killing Edge if his beloved Cassidy appears threatened is a wonderful subplot as Cassidy herself grows in power and self belief whilst bringing hope to a people long brutalised by cruel Queens.
AB is skilled beyond belief and has created yet another brilliant addition to her "Realms of the Blood" series. Whilst "Shalador's Lady" is predominantly Cassidy and her Court's tale, the strong presence of favourites Jaenelle, Daemon and Saetan make this book an absolute winner. Again AB adds laughter and delight to contrast her darker, more unsettling scenes; imagine twelve Sceltie pups invading your home and declaring random humans as "mine" or perhaps the normally sublimely skilled Daemon falling asleep mid seduction after running himself ragged babysitting one small Eyrian boy. Yet AB can quickly turn a reader's smile to a frown, and a twinkling eye into one that mists with tears during particularly heart breaking moments, which are sometimes as brief as just one small conversation between significant characters. A talented author able to completely immerse her reader in the dark world she has created, any "Realms of the Blood" books AB writes are definitely an automatic buy and ones for the keeper shelf.