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Lord of the Abyss (Royal House of Shadows Book 4) Kindle Edition

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Length: 288 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

He was the most beautiful monster she had ever seen.

It was the first thought Liliana had as she lay weak and drained across the black marble of the floor, her face reflected in its polished surface. As she watched, the one they called the Lord of the Black Castle rose from his ebony throne at the head of the room and walked down the ten steps with a lazy grace that spoke of power, strength…and death.

Trying desperately to close her hand into a fist, she attempted to push herself up onto her knees, unwilling to meet him at such a disadvantage. But her body was debilitated beyond bearing by the blood she had spilled to make the crossing, her wrists spotted with it, though her magic had sealed the wounds. Her father would've sacrificed another without a thought to the life he took, would call her a fool for using her own blood.

"Weak." He had spit the judgment at her more than once. "I took a beautiful witch to wife and got a hatchet-faced mewling brat in return."

Sensing the vibration of the monster's boots getting ever closer, she took a deep breath, able to feel it rattle in her throat. It wasn't meant to be like this. The spell should have deposited her in the forests outside his domain, not in the midst of his great hall, where he stood as the lone, lethal shield against the vicious beings beyond. She could feel eyes on her, hundreds of them. And yet no one made a sound.

The boots were almost to her now.

Cruelty was no stranger to her, not after having grown up with the Blood Sorcerer for a father. But this man, this "monster," was meant to be completely without heart, without soul. His castle held within it the gateway to the Abyss, the place where the servants of evil were banished after death to suffer eternal torment at the hands of the basilisks and the serpents, and he was the guardian of that terrible place. It was said that even the most inhuman of the dead quivered when confronted by his visage.

But that was a lie, she thought as he crouched down beside her, his boots heavy in her line of sight.

He was not ugly at all.

Strong hands gripped her by the shoulders, pulled her roughly to her knees.

And she found herself staring into the face of a monster.

Sun-kissed hair, eyes of winter-green and skin that held the golden brush of summer even in this black place devoid of warmth, he could have stood in as the model for the mythical Prince Charming spoken of in childhood storybooks. Except Prince Charming did not wear armor of impenetrable black, and his eyes were not full of nightmares.

"Who is this?" A quiet, quiet question.

It made the hair on the back of her neck rise. She tried to force her tongue to work, but her body refused to cooperate even that much, still stunned from the leap she'd made from her father's stolen kingdom to this place that stood as the dark ward between the living and the most depraved of the dead.

"An intruder." He stroked her hair off her face, the act almost tender…if one ignored the fact that he wore gauntlets over his forearms that extended to his hands in spiderwebs of black. A spray of razors rode over his knuckles, while his fingers were tipped with bladed claws the same shade as his armor. "No one has dared enter the Black Castle without invitation in…" A flicker in the green. "Ever."

He didn't remember, she realized, looking into that face that was only of the Guardian. There was no echo of the boy he must've once been. None. Which could only mean one thing—according to legend, it was Queen Alvina who had cast the final desperate spell that had thrown her children from Elden, but Liliana's father had ever gloated that he'd thwarted the queen's magic with his own.

What only Liliana knew, because he'd once betrayed it in a rage, was that the Blood Sorcerer believed he had failed. Perhaps he had with the three oldest children, but not with the youngest…with Micah. Her father's blood enchantment had held strong as the child grew into a man, into the dread Lord of the Black Castle.

Oh, he would be pleased. So, so pleased. For those he bespelled rarely, if ever, broke through the veil and found themselves again. Liliana's mother had not—she haunted the hallways of his castle to this day, a slender woman with skin of the dark, lush honey-brown that spoke of Elden's southern climes, and eyes of uptilted gold.

Irina believed herself the chatelaine of a great keep, childless and with her only duty being to see to the needs of the master—even if those needs meant nights filled with screams and bruises ringed around her neck more often than not. Her gaze glanced off her daughter even when Liliana stood directly in her path and pleaded for her mother to remember her, to know her.

By contrast, the winter-green eyes on her face right then saw her when she wished they would not. She had meant to slip unnoticed into his household, learn all she could about him before attempting to speak the truth of his past. She'd been ready to cope with a lack of memory, for he had been only five when Elden fell. But if he was caught in the malicious tentacles of her father's sorcery, then her task had become a thousand times harder. The Blood Sorcerer's work had a way of mutating over time, so there was no knowing what other effects it might've had.

"What do I do with you?" the Lord of the Black Castle and the Guardian of the Abyss asked in a tone that held a faint, dangerous amusement. "Since I have never had an intruder, your presence leaves me at a loss."

Playing with her, she thought; he was playing with her as a cat might with a mouse it fully intended to eat—but wanted to torment first.

Anger gave her the will to stare back, her defiance born of a lifetime of fighting her father's attempts to break her. Perhaps it was futile, but she could no more help it than a cornered animal could stop itself from striking out.

He blinked. "Interesting." Steel-tipped nails grazed her cheek before he moved both hands to her shoulders again and pulled, bringing her to her feet as he rose.

She wobbled, would have pitched forward if he hadn't held her up. As it was, one of her hands slammed up against the cold black of his armor. It felt like rock. Her father's sorcery she thought, had grown upon itself, turned his mental prison into a physical truth. To counteract the spell, she'd first have to remove his armor.

Of course, before she could attempt any such thing, she had to survive.

"The dungeon," the monster said at last. "Bard!"

A heavy tread, one that made the ground tremble. A second later, Liliana found herself being picked up in huge tree-trunk arms as the monster watched. "Take her to the dungeon," he said. "I'll deal with her after I hunt those destined for the Abyss tonight."

The command echoed ominously in Liliana's mind as she was carried from the hall in a hold that was unbreakable. In contrast to the strange whispering hush that pervaded this castle of harshest stone, she could feel a big, steady heartbeat against her cheek, the speed of it so slow as to be nothing human. Unable to turn her head, she couldn't see who—what—it was that carried her with such ease until they passed through a hall of black mirrors.

His face appeared as if it had been formed of clay left in a child's hands. It was all knots and bulges, misshapen and without any true form. He did have ears, but the large protrusions stuck up far too high on the sides of his head. And his nose…she couldn't truly see it, but perhaps it was the small button hidden between his distorted cheeks and below the overhanging jut of his brow.

Ugly, she thought, he was truly ugly.

That made her feel better. At least one being in this place might have some sympathy with her. "Please," she managed to whisper through a throat cracked and raw.

One of those ears seemed to twitch, but he didn't halt his steady, relentless pace toward the dungeons. She tried again, got the same response. He wouldn't stop, she realized, no matter what. For the monster would punish him. All too aware of the cage created by that kind of fear, she went silent, conserving her energy.

It was as well, for this Bard's long, slow strides soon brought them to a dark corridor formed of crumbling walls, the only light coming from a single flickering torch. Then she glimpsed the stairs. The descent into the menacing maw of the Black Castle was narrow and tight enough that Bard's head scraped the top more than once, his shoulders barely fitting. She felt her feet brush the stone, too, but Bard just held her in a more restrictive way, ensuring she took no injury.

She didn't make the mistake of thinking it was because of any care on his part. No, he simply didn't want to be responsible for explaining why the prisoner had been harmed in a way that had not been mandated by the Lord of the Black Castle.

The stairs seemed to spiral down interminably, until she wondered if she was being taken into the very bowels of the Abyss itself. But the dungeons they finally came to were harshly real, the passageway lit by a torch that gave just enough illumination for her to see that each cell was a black square broken up by a small window set with bars. She strained her ears but heard only silence. Either there were no other prisoners…or they were long dead.

Opening the door to the nearest cell, Bard stepped inside and placed her in the corner, atop a bed of straw. His eyes met hers, and she sucked in a breath. Large and dark and full of sorrow, they were the eyes of a scholar or a physician, shimmering with compassion. But he shook his head when she parted her lips.

There would be no mercy from him, not here.

As he turned to step out, he grunted and rattled something in the other corner. Then the door slammed shut, leaving her in a darkness so complete, it was stygian. But no—a scrap of light flickered in from the flames of the t...

Product Details

  • File Size: 641 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Nocturne (December 1, 2011)
  • Publication Date: December 1, 2011
  • Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,081 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Nalini Singh is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of the Psy-Changeling, Guild Hunter, and Rock Kiss series. She lives in New Zealand but travels as much as possible (the travel bug bit hard from when she escaped working as a lawyer to run away and teach English in Japan). Nalini loves to write, loves to read, and thinks chocolate is a food group.

Find out more about Nalini at www.nalinisingh.com. Make sure to join her monthly newsletter to receive exclusive updates, free short stories and more!

Chat with Nalini on twitter @nalinisingh and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorNaliniSingh

She enjoys hearing from readers, so drop her an email at nalinisinghwritesATgmailDOTcom if you ever have any questions!

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jen (Red Hot Books) TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 15, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was definitely my favorite book in the Royal House of Shadows series. It focuses on Micah, the youngest prince of the magical world of Elden. He was only five years-old when the evil Blood Sorcerer attacked and killed his parents. Just before they died, the couple used the last of their powers to spirit their children away to safety. But the Blood Sorcerer twisted the magic, and it landed Micah in the realm between the living and the dead.

He now serves as the Lord of the Abyss. He collects the souls of the dead and ferries them to the other side. Micah remembers nothing of his childhood. He doesn't even remember his own name. Liliana wants to change that. She is the Blood Sorcerer's daughter and knows better than anyone, the depths of her father's evil. She travels to the Black Castle intent on helping Micah remember his life and his destiny, so that he can reclaim the land stolen from his family.

The story is a play on Beauty and the Beast, though Liliana is no beauty. She manages to see the true man beneath his fierce veneer. Slowly, she peels back the layers of his armor and reminds him what it is to live and to feel. It's touching to watch, especially since Liliana, herself, is very damaged. And it's also quite sexy.

I liked that the conflicts between Liliana and Micah are resolved in good time. A lot of authors would have milked their issues out into angst that lasted a lot longer. I liked the simplicity and purity of their relationship and the steam they generated together.

My only complaint is that the resolution of the series felt rushed. We've built up the big sibling reunion and battle with the Sorcerer over the course of four books and the climax lasts less than 30 pages. I liked the book alot as a series installment, but for a finale, I wanted more. More time for the Sorcerer to get his comeuppance; and especially more time for the siblings to reunite. But it was not to be. A little more than 4 stars.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By DaVinciKittie on November 13, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The story of Beauty and the Beast reimagined and infused with a surprising twist, Lord of the Abyss tells the tale of Elden's final lost prince and his race to save his homeland before the clock strikes midnight and all the good he has known is irrevocably destroyed. His only chance at saving a family and kingdom that he doesn't even remember is in the hands of the daughter of the evil Blood Sorcerer who murdered his parents and enslaved his people.

Every time I read a new release by Nalini Singh, I'm reminded how talented she is at breathing life into every little nuance of a story. In many stories, the intro or prologue is informational and not much else, but Ms. Singh manages to give it purpose and character. The prologue of Lord of the Abyss gave me chills and drew me into the story in the first three sentences, and that was only the beginning. In this final chapter of the House of Royal Shadows saga, the stakes are higher than anyone could have foreseen. If Liliana fails her mission to bring Micah back to Elden, more than just the land will suffer. The entire fate of Elden's existence depends on this brave young woman, who has a heart of gold and a will of steel.

The only one of the four siblings who was not already grown and matured when their parents' final dying act cast them out of Elden to the far corners of the kingdoms, Micah has spent his entire life alone, shouldering the great and terrible responsibility of protecting and enforcing the gates of the Abyss from his throne in the dreaded Black Castle. His armor is a living thing, an extension of his will and subconscious self-protection from his past, and acts as a physical obstacle to his desire for Lily.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Book Lovin Mamas on December 5, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
(I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review)
I can finally say I completed the Royal House of Shadows series and what a way to end the series, but with Micah and Liliana who happen to be my favorite characters in the series. Especially, the handsome Lord of the Black Castle, Micah, who happened to capture my heart the minute I started reading about him. The minute I found out what exactly happened to him, I melted for him. He may be a mean, dark, character compared to his brothers and sister, but his story made me cry more than the others. He went through hell and actually endured more complications then his brothers, Nicolai, Dayn and his sister, Breena. Liliana even made me cry several times in the story due to her being the Blood Sorcerer's daughter. The poor woman went through hell with her father and all she wanted was the Elden princes and princess to take Elden back so she could finally be rid of her father who tortured her. When she went searching for Micah, she never expected to fall in love with the Dark Lord. How couldn't she though? He may of been harsh at times and very forceful....but who wouldn't want the love of a tender heart who just wanted to know what love was. Liliana though, kept downgrading herself in the story and it made me a little upset about her, but after you find out the background of her, you know why she did. It took Micah to encourage her of her beauty, intelligence and strength. That is why I chose these two of my favorite couple in the whole series. They definitely were perfect for each other. I would definitely read this book over and over again. I really enjoyed reading my first book written by Nalini Singh and I can't wait to read other books written by her now.
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