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An assassin, an emperor, and his Chosen. Will their bonds survive intrigue, exile, and war...? Exiled by the emperor he loves, Hredeen Leesian chooses to travel to the once-peaceful kingdom of Bhantan to stop a brutal invasion. Armed with only a blade and his skills as an assassin, he means to stop Raine's cruel brothers from killing and looting their way across the kingdom. But as Hredeen hunts his prey, he discovers another assassin who knows the darkest secrets of their guild. Now Hredeen fears he cannot return to the secretive fortress where he was trained in the killing arts. His world has been shattered by Taldan's rejection, and he no longer has a home at the imperial capital...or in Taldan's heart. Taldan Anrodnes has ascended to emperor, and the magic of the Illumitae has merged with his body and mind. After nearly being killed in a vicious attack, Taldan has begun forging a deeper bond with Raine, the young man who saved his life by becoming his Chosen. Taldan might now be one of the most powerful men in the world, but he's haunted by memories of Hredeen. He can't forget the look on Hredeen's face when he cast his friend and lover out for his deception. The assassin betrayed his trust, lied to him, and—like Raine—saved his life. Now, beneath the weight of the emperor's golden mask, he wrestles with his growing power and the threats against his empire, his life, and his sanity. Raine Yoldis is now bound as Chosen to the brilliant man he has always admired. But he struggles to find his own path as Chosen, especially when Hredeen's shadow lies so heavily over Taldan. He can't escape the fear that he isn't needed and will be pushed aside even as the Illumitae's magic changes them both in unforeseen ways. The gods might have chosen him to be with Taldan, but can he win the man's love, especially when the emperor's growing obsession could tear everything to pieces? Meanwhile, Prince Zaran leads the Anrodnes army in a desperate pursuit of the rebel invaders, shocked by the destruction they have left in their path. As the rebels advance, diplomat Isnay undertakes a vital mission to bring aid to Bhantan—only the young, fiery king is like no noble he has ever met. Inside the empire, Naral struggles to uncover a new plot against his emperor with the help of a brash thief, and the War Guild waits in the wings, its motives unclear, yet a growing threat to the very existence of the empire...