THE TALON OF THE HAWK is book three in Jeffe Kennedy's
Twelve Kingdoms series. These books should definitely
read in order. But if you haven't read Mark of the Tala
and Tears of the Rose yet, then you are in the
absolute treat of reading the whole set thus far, without
having to anxiously await the next release. I believe this
originally was a trilogy, but I'm thrilled to see
announcement that there will be two more books in this
wonderful fantasy world.
THE TALON OF THE HAWK is Ursula's book. Ursula is the
of three daughters of High King Uorsin. Without the son
so desperately wanted, Uorsin has raised Ursula to be his
heir, brutally training her to be both a warrior and a
leader. The king's men joke that she doesn't need a man
because she sleeps with her sword. Ursula has tried for
years to be the stoic heir that her father demands, but
can't quite ever measure up. Her loyalties have been
stretched further and further as the story arc progresses
through the series, until in book three, Ursula is left
questioning all that she has been raised to defend,
including her father.
Harlan, captain of the Vervaldr, is a foreign Dasnarian
mercenary hired by King Uorsin along with his company of
solders to act as additional security for the castle at
Ordnung. Ursula comes home from her attempt to capture
sister and her sister's child, only to find the
have taken over the usual guard at court. Harlan is a
mercenary with a strong inner moral compass, who
worms his way into the heart that Ursula has had to harden
to survive. I love Ursula and Harlan separately, and I
adore them together. Ursula is a strong woman who loves
her sisters, and the lengths that she goes to in order to
protect them are breathtaking. When Harlan earns her
and her loyalty, they make such powerful team acting in
concert with Ursula's sisters for the good of the realm,
and it makes me want to cheer.
THE TALON OF THE HAWK is a fantastic close to the original
trilogy of the three princesses of High King Uorsin in the
Twelve Kingdoms. We don't get as much of the magical
aspect of this fantasy world in book three simply because
Ursula is the sister with battle skills rather than strong
magical skills, but there is still a vibrant magical
underpinning to this well-built world. Excellent
development and a strong action continue to characterize
the Twelve Kingdoms, and I'm thrilled beyond belief
that we will see more of this world in Future Kennedy
Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place
the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The
middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the
eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership,
beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.
Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight
spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with
sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near.
she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never
imagined her loyalty would become an open question on
grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign
witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other—
soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior.
also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters,
her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth.
with her father still on the throne and war in the air.
the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead…
Too unsettled to rest now, and since I was already in the
barracks courtyard, I decided a light workout might do me
the most good. Burn off some nervous energy and maybe
loosen up my back muscles.
With the afternoon waning, most of the troops had cleared
the practice yard. Finding an open corner, I stood
quietly for a moment, centering myself and asking Danu’s
blessing for a clear mind and a bright blade.
Drawing my sword, I held it upright before me, hilt down
and point up. This moment always gave me a measure of
peace, the gathering pause before the flow of motion.
Danu’s spirit filled me and I moved into the first and
simplest of her sword forms.
Most children begin with her first form, Midnight. I’d
learned it younger than most, at five, clonking myself
regularly with the wooden practice blade. Salena had just
given birth to Andi, and Uorsin had been raging through
Ordnung in the hours since.
I’d heard his bellowing summons long before he burst into
the nursery. Though I remembered little else about that
time—other than feeling bereft, summarily dismissed from
my mother’s attention—that memory blazed bright in my
mind. My father, who already frightened me more than a
little, standing like a giant amid the miniature toys of
the nursery, his red-gold hair bright and blue eyes
“Curtsy for the High King,” my nurse prompted, poking me
with a shaking hand, but I’d stood frozen, clutching the
doll my mother had just given me, so I would have a baby
to play with, too.
“What is this?” Uorsin yanked the doll out of my hands
and threw it across the room. With contempt, he took in
the little table and tiny teacups I’d set out for my doll
and me to share and dashed a big hand through them,
sending china shards flying. “You are my heir, Ursula,
whether I like it or not—and here you are fussing about
with dolls and fripperies.”
Even then I knew better than to let him see me cry.
Mother told me to save the tears, tuck them away, and
take them out later. They were for me, not for him. She
did the same.
“Come with me, Daughter. It’s high time you learned
something useful, if you’re to be a credit to the throne.
Do you know how many people died so you can sit here in
your pretty rooms playing with pretty things?”
“No, my King.”
“Thousands. Tens of thousands. Are you worthy of their
sacrifice? Of my sacrifice?”
“No. But you can be. Your mother has a new daughter now
and has cast you aside. I’m all you have. Understand?”
I did understand. Then and in the days since. He took me
down to the practice yard and started teaching me how to
hold a blade. When I tripped over my dress, he ridiculed
me. When I fell, he made me get up on my own. My dolls
and dresses were packed away, replaced with practice
daggers and wooden swords, pants and shirts better suited
While Uorsin continued to oversee my progress, another
instructor took over my daily training. A priestess of
Danu, Kaedrin taught me the twelve sword forms, starting
with the Midnight form. My father’s brute-force
techniques would never serve me well, she said. Kaedrin
showed me how to use the strength of my lower body, the
speed and flexibility of my lighter physique.
The twelfth form—the most complicated and demanding—
finishes at Noon pose, one that took me two full years to
master. It’s one of Danu’s tests that she demands the
most strenuous postures and intricate maneuvers of the
blade after you’ve already executed eleven other forms
and your muscles are weeping from exhaustion.
I held Noon pose, up on the toes of one foot, the other
leg poised in front of me to protect and deflect with a
snap kick, my sword high above and behind, ready to slice
into Snake Strike, my other hand palm out, steady. Danu’s
My back sang with the strain, but I refused to drop
before the count of twelve, as Kaedrin would have
expected of me. As I lowered body and blade, my gaze
snagged on the intent stare of the Dasnarian captain. He
showed no sign of overt aggression, but I moved my sword
and self into a defensive posture, ready. A slight smile
twitched at his grim mouth. He raised his short blade—a
wide, bevel-edged hunting knife—and held the flat against
Then he strode away, leaving me wondering. Challenge or