Curse Bound by J.L. Mbewe is a book I have been waiting for for over TWO YEARS, ever since I finished reading Darkened Hope. So you’d better believe I’m super excited to be a part of the release party for this final book in the Hidden Dagger trilogy! I got my copy of the book in the mail a few days ago and have been reading it far too fast… I need to slow down… but that’s the ever-present conundrum of the avid book-dragon… wanting to read a book super fast, while at the same time NOT wanting to read a book super fast. This entire trilogy is definitely on my list of Recommended Reads!
The world-building in this series is just… absolutely epic, and the characters are fantastic, and… well, keep reading, you can get a taste for all of that and this author’s incredible writing style in the interview below.
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to MY favorite character in the series, Kael.
I finally catch up to my quarry on Moruya Island, located in the far west in the Sea of Pavinai, which means healing in Pyamor, the language of the Pauden—the giants. Although, the old dragon master assures me they will not bother us.
The majestic famoruya trees tower above me in the early dawn. Their red bark, deeply grooved and their trunks so large a person could build a home within one. Fog rolls in from the sea, wrapping its salty, chilly fingers around the tree and dampens my face. Smoke hangs heavy in the air, clinging to the trees and land and burning my nose. I cover my mouth with a cloth, the stench almost unbearable. The makeshift pyres had burned through the night and now only smoldering embers and bones remained. A shadowy figure strides toward me, the fog parting and swirling around his legs. Kael. It can only be Kael. I recognize him immediately.
His long dark hair is pulled back from his face, but clumps have worked their way free. Dirt and blood smudge his face and hands from a recent battle, at least that is what I had gathered from Tariq. His gaze meets mine and his frown deepens, causing his scar over his left eyebrow to bulge.
He approaches me. “Oko will be ready to leave soon, so I don’t have a lot of time.”
I nod. “I understand, I’ll try to make this quick. Can you start by telling my readers something about yourself? You are an elf, what does that mean in your world?”
Kael raises an eyebrow. “An elf is an elf. There are three kinds of elves here in Nälu. I’m an Esusamor elf from Zurial. Some call us the sea elves. The Wofsamor elves are elusive and remain hidden within their forests. And then there are the Saryhemor elves, the desert elves. Saeed, the High Guardian was one. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Although we have a number of differences that set us apart from each other, all elves have pointy ears, live longer than most other beings in Nälu, and we have the ability to sense others’ feelings, emotions, and disturbances in the air. And with those who we are close, we may project our own.”
“That’s fascinating.” My pencil flies across the paper, trying to capture every word. “Can you also tell us something about your world? My own world is different from yours, not having dragons or magic of any kind (sadly), so my readers would like to know more about how your world differs from ours.”
Kael crosses his arms. “A world without dragons or magic? I doubt it. Perhaps your world has forgotten how to see them?” He shakes his head and glances over at the slumbering dragon, Oko. “Although, perhaps you’re better off not having dragons and such. You wouldn’t have to experience the awe and terror of facing down a dragon. They can be such a formidable foe. Thankfully, the Council of Nations have outlawed them on the mainland. Only the Kaleki—that is the merfolk—are allowed to raise and train dragons. They seem to have a special bond with them. Magic, on the other hand, is not what you think it is. Saeed would have called it a gifting, something special—and it varies per gifting—given to some to bless others. Although, the enemy has found a way to taint and corrupt them.” Kael grows quiet for a moment and stares out over the sea lapping at the shoreline. The sky lightens and the last stars begin to fade. “Dragons and magic—as you would say—give our world a sense of wild wonder yet in the wrong hands, it can cause some of the worst damage and hurt and chaos.”
I sober, my thoughts turning to where I last left these characters at the end of Darkened Hope. Perhaps that is where his thoughts have gone, as well. It seems likely, considering his answer to my previous question. I hate to ask, but… a good reporter knows when to ask a hard question. “Your quest recently suffered a rather nasty defeat, something involving a dragon. What are you and your remaining companions planning to do next?”
Kael rubs his face and groans. “Don’t remind me!” He lowers his hands and sighs. “Oko and the dragonmaster will take us to the edges of Arashel where Jathil believes will be able to obtain the horses and supplies we need for the remainder of our quest. We have one more item to retrieve before we can return to Kvazkhun, hand over the ingredients, and then head to Gwydion for a rescue mission.”
He looks so upset, I feel the need to change the subject slightly. “I hope this isn’t too presumptuous of me,” I say. “But if your world wasn’t in danger, what would you be doing right now?”
Deep sorrow flickers in the depths of his gray eyes. “I would have been preparing for my sister’s wedding in Zurial. She would have married my best friend, Teron. Ayianna’s brother, actually. And then, I don’t know. I might have accepted my position as lord in the Dzjorym Council like my father.” He shrugs. “Saeed had asked me to join the guardians, but I couldn’t leave . . . my . . . ” He clears his throat. “It doesn’t matter now, does it?”
Oh! How I want to follow this line of questioning! But I sense that he will not speak of it, and I cannot waste what precious little time I have. “We’ve been watching your relationship with Ayianna progress over the past two books, and I’m dying to know, can you tell me how you feel about her now?”
Kael stiffens and averts his gaze, clenching his jaw. “Feel? I’m angry, trapped by these—these circumstances.” He flings his arm toward the slumbering dragon and smoldering pile of ashes and bones. He shakes his head and takes a deep breath. “My heart is bleeding out. I cannot think beyond the urgency of returning to Kvazkhun and saving her before she succumbs to the harpy curse.” He pauses and shakes his head. “I never thought I’d ever . . . but I do. I love her.”
I try to contain the ear-to-ear grin I feel. To any readers, this confession was obvious already, but it feels good to hear him say it. I can see him starting to get fidgety, and I know he wants to get going. Every moment he spends with me is a moment he isn’t heading out to rescue Ayianna. “One final question: if you could have one wish granted, what would it be and why?”
“I don’t believe in wishes.” Kael frowns and crosses his arms. “But if you insist . . . I . . . I wish . . . ” He shook his head and began pacing in front of me. “I wish none of this had happened. That I had stopped Imaran from stealing those scrolls. But then how can I? I would never have . . . ” He stops pacing and faces me. “I wish I could have stopped Desmond. We wouldn’t have had to bury a friend last night or build a pyre. Vian and Ayianna would not be on their way to Gwydion right now. The Sorceress would not have her sacrifice, nor would we have to worry about Ayianna turning into a harpy. Of course—that would mean the Sorceress would still be hunting us. But we would have had a dragon to complete the quest, and we would have had a good chance at defeating the Sorceress. Right now, our odds don’t look so good.”
I give him my most encouraging look. “Darkness must come before the dawn. I believe in you and your companions.” I clench my jaw tightly to prevent myself from telling him just how terrified I am for him and his companions, and for Ayianna and Viand. “I wish you well on the rest of your quest.”
He narrows his eyes at me for a second, almost as if he can sense the unspoken words. But then someone calls his name and his head jerks around. Jathil is beckoning.
“Go,” I urge him. “And thanks for taking a moment to speak with me!”
You can read my reviews of the first two books here:
Kael’s worst fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond’s parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu.
Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations.
Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking.
As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor.
About the Author
Writing as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril.
Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.
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