by Candace Gylgayton
Series: The Pentacle War #1
Published on January 4, 2013 by Createspace
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
A quest to find a lost prince. A duke goes to war to be made a king. A young man and woman discover love in a season of strife. A woman of arcane power exceeds her own expectations, to the damnation of them all.
The Pentarchy, a vast kingdom created and controlled by the Heads of five Great Houses: Sandovar, Langstraad, Tuenth, Creon and Mirvanovir. Together with five Minor Houses, these Houses rule their lands with powers political and arcane. This is the Magic of the Pentarchy. This is what keeps the Pentarchy safe from the outside world. But it may not prevent the Pentachy from being destroyed from within.
As the threat of civil seems fated to become reality, Hollin Medicat Lir, Duchess of Langstraad and Head of one of the Great Houses, must find a solution to the impending crisis. Confident, independent and willing to take the initiative, Hollin is more than a match for any who stand in her way. But, as deeds of valor tangle with those of deceit, it may be the many shifting facets of magic, in all its guises, that will determine the ultimate fate of the realm and save the Pentarchy from those who seek to corrupt it.
And far to the south, at the Scholastium Arcana, where the tenets of High Magic are studied and taught, the reclusive and mysterious Mage Masters, forbidden to meddle in the internal politics of the Pentachy, watch and wait.
My first thought on Hearts in Cups was “What is with all the description? Get to the action!” Granted, that was only after a few pages so my final assessment is quite different. I’m a huge fan of the Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin, and watch the TV series A Game of Thrones, based off the series. Gylgayton’s Hearts in Cups reminded me a lot of that series in the epic nature of the story and intertwining storylines. While not every chapter is devoted to a specific character, you get to see into each of our protagonists’ (and antagonists’) minds. I place Gylgayton’s novel right up there with Martin and the other fantasy greats.
Our story begins with the Pentarchy, a kingdom composed of five Great Houses and held together by Lord Percamber ap Morna, the current regent until the lost prince returns. But the regent is older and will not be able to keep hold of the Pentarchy for much longer as unrest shakes the kingdom. The need for a new king is too great and more than one noble is in search of more power. Hearts in Cups, however, is not simply an adventure. Each House has its own magic specific to the ruling members of its family. Together, these powers pose a threat to any who may want to attack the Pentarchy–but not all attacks come from the outside. This novel is an adventure filled with court intrigue, struggles for power, and decisions that affect more than a single person or House. Gylgayton sets the stage for a tale of politics and action which will leave you eager for more by the end.
Hearts in Cups is a fantasy and therefore requires some time to draw the reader into the author’s imaginary world. At first, I felt like the novel moved slowly, transitioning from almost all descriptions and imagery details to pages of dialogue. That being said, I realized afterwards that it was all necessary to prepare the reader for the rest of the story. The novel covers several different perspectives, with a focus on Duchess Hollin Medicat Lir of Langstraad, leader of one of the Great Houses, at first. Her cousin, Ian, is also introduced initially but doesn’t begin to play a large role until later in the novel. From here, more and more characters are brought into play until I could see into the antagonists’ minds as well as the heroes. Nothing marked the transitions between characters, such as a chapter break, but the story flowed so seamlessly that I had no issues figuring out the speaker.
This brings me into the characters. Hollin (“Holly” to her cousin) is a very strong young woman in charge of a fifth of a kingdom. In a role of power such as that, Holly is forced to consider her options as the quest for a new king (and the power plays involved in such a matter) ensues. She comes to the conclusion that the lost prince must be returned to the Pentarchy and not be declared dead as so many wish. And who better to go on such a quest than herself? I enjoyed how Gylgayton not only provided us with a strong female protagonist, but also allowed her to show it in a way other than with an attitude badass-ery. Holly accepts the responsibility of maintaining her duchy but also knows that the kingdom’s needs are more important than hers and does what she can for the safety and prosperity of all the people of the Pentarchy. My only complaint is that I wanted to see more of Holly later on. While she is a prominent character of the first third of the novel, you don’t see as much of her after that and I really enjoyed her personality.
Holly certainly isn’t the only character and it would take hours to give each character a decent overview, so I’ll let you read the novel for yourself. I will say that my opinion of her cousin, Ian, changed a bit from beginning to end, and I want to personally rip Lord Niall and Lady Rashara of Mirvanivir apart. As for the story itself, Gylgayton makes the reader work. It’s not hard work, granted, but requires attention to detail and names. Hearts in Cups covers several characters and nearly as many storylines, all intertwined with an intricacy and care required in lace. The writing style does take a chapter or two to adjust to but by the end, you’ll turn the page and realize there’s nothing more. My Kindle lied when it said I still had 3% left and it turned out to be an index of the Great Houses. While interesting, I’d hoped the story would keep going and now anxiously await the sequel.
Hearts in Cups is captivating, intricate, and a tale of the ages. If you like A Game of Thrones (even just the TV series on HBO), epic fantasies, court intrigue, adventure, action, romance, magic, and/or something to fill those long hours at night, read this book. Gylgayton will take you on a journey you’ll not want to return from. I can’t wait for Swords and Wands, already knowing Gylgayton will deliver another phenomenal tale.