Suna Di'Viao, the last of the Divenean race, blames herself for the death of her king and queen. As retribution for failing to protect them, she has hidden from the world for over thirty years, until a summons she can't refuse rouses her from her seclusion. Feran Lambert, the youngest General ever appointed to Dunkerk's Guardians, retires his post in disgust. He's tired of representing a kingdom that means little to him. Fate, however, has other plans. His path leads him straight to Suna. More than duty will bind this pair together. Belthazar, a demon lord imprisoned for over a thousand years by the Diveneans of old, covets one thing: his freedom. Using his minion, Isafel, and an evil imp spawn called Ilio, they must find the one object that will set him free. With underlords scheming to take the throne and demons roaming freely throughout Etharia, it's a race against time. Who will be the first to find The Kruthos Key?

Jerlo’s world building is detailed and unique. The descriptions of places are evocative and it doesn’t take much effort to imagine yourself in the heart of the cities or woods of Etharia, following the protagonists on their ominous quest. The solid characterization gives readers a strong sense of characters' emotions, personalities and complexities, making both main and secondary characters alive and believable. ~ Lit Amri,Readers' Favorite



It took some time before Suna mustered her courage and said, “Thank you for what you did last night, but I don’t want it to be mentioned again. Ever. Understand?”

Without stopping, he shifted around with a grin. “A simple thank you would have sufficed.”

“Is nothing ever serious with you?”

“If life was nothing but seriousness, duty and prudishness, what a sad state of affairs it would be, don’t you think? When was the last time you had fun, Suna? Just plain fun. Or laughed until your sides hurt?” He turned away and concentrated on the road. Well, I’ve gone and done it this time. She’ll be steaming mad at me now.

Waiting for the backlash he knew was coming, she remained oddly quiet. He braved a quick peek over his shoulder and saw her staring off into the distance, her eyes filled with that haunting sadness he’d come to recognize.

“I was born into a life of duty. Even as a wizen, I undertook the responsibility of keeping the village of Kanora safe and healthy. Everything I know and everything I do is for these lands and its people. I know nothing else. And my prudishness is none of your concern,” she added with a scathing glare.

“A Divenean is still a person! They breathe. Piss. And laugh. Just like everybody else. True, you had duty. We all had duty. Hellfire, we still do. Have you stopped to think that perhaps it was your destiny that maybe, just maybe, King Markes’ death was an ebbing of tides? Or perhaps that Divenean duty you cling to like a security blanket ended when he died? Is it even possible for you to fathom that it was his time to pass and your duty, as you call it, finished then? Or how about this? It’s beginning now? You’ve floundered so long in your guilt that you’ve condemned yourself to a life of misery because you think that’s what you deserve.”

“This guilt is mine. I bear it because I must. It’s penance for my failure. King Markes and Queen Saliste should both be alive, along with their child. I must live with it. No one else. And because of it, I do not share it. How do I find happiness in life when such emotions are gone from me?”

Taking a deep breath, he spoke slower, extracting more calm from within. “But there is, Suna. You found it in Mattie. You found it in Harrod, Tana and their unborn child. You found peace in their small corner of paradise. And there’s no way in Seven Hells you’re going to tell me differently. I find it heartbreaking that you don’t realize that, especially now, knowing what we know. If we don’t find that key, how much joy will there be left in this world? Whatever time we have, shouldn’t we make the best of it? Otherwise, life has no meaning. And for me, life’s worth living for now. Whether you’re a Divenean or not, you’re still human.”

His outburst wounded her, evidenced by the redness staining her face. He also knew no one had ever said such things to her, or with such frankness, but he had to make her see herself with different eyes. Piece by little piece, he was determined to hit upon those severed nerves and try to ignite them back to life. The deep-rooted inner failings she’d nurtured for so long had to be fixed. And damn the gods, he was going to try to do just that.

She unnerved in ways he found disturbing, like her ability to read his mind, but she excited him far beyond the realm of any other woman he’d known. Never in a lifetime would he meet another like her. Why he felt this need to fix her was beyond his scope of comprehension, and to be perfectly honest, he’d passed the point of trying to understand days ago.

Her steely stare held him long and hard until a deeper flush spread over her cheeks. Surprisingly, a delicate smile curved the fullness of her lips.

Stunned, Feran shook his head and focused on the road ahead. For a second there, he could have sworn the smile had reached her eyes.

“This has been a great testament to my strength,” she said after several minutes of stilted silence had passed.

If she was trying to bait him for another round, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t get away unscathed. “What do you mean?”

“Since starting this quest, I’ve been arrested once and have fallen ill twice. It certainly doesn’t say a lot for me, does it?”

He couldn’t hold back a snicker. Well, it’s a start. “Things like that just make you more human.” He cast a sidelong glance and heaved a sigh of relief when he saw her nod.

Copyright D. Thomas Jerlo