I've talked before about how much I'm enjoying Kelly McCullough's Fallen Blade series, and having just finished book 3, Crossed Blades, I'm happy to report it's just gaining steam.
As a quick recap, in the last book, one of the apprentices from the Temple of Namara (that Aral, our narrator worked out of before Shen and his devotees declared the goddess dead and destroyed the temple) was found and apprenticed herself to Aral. Faran has been a quick study in using the shadow arts, having worked as a spy and assassin prior to reconnecting with Aral.
We start this chapter with the reappearance of Jax, Aral's one time fiancee, who wound up in bed with Aral's best friend and later traitor to the order, Devin. Jax managed to escape from the Son of Heaven's torture chambers along with a few other Blades, starting a sanctuary and school in the high mountains of her home country. However, rumor of Aral's reappearance in the eleven Kingdoms coupled with the capture of her current lover and the apprentices at her school leads her to the city of Tien to find her lost lover in hopes of freeing them.
What we find out early on is that Jax is being blackmailed by a high ranking priestess in the Temple in order to capture Aral. We also find out that Aral's mentor, Kelos, is now in league with the Temple, acting as the Sun's shadow. Not that Kelos doesn't have his own agenda, but....
Again, much of the book focuses on Aral's climb out of the depths of his depression and recovering from his alcoholism. We also delve quite a bit into Aral's psyche as he deals with his doubts over his previous vocation and whether or not he was doing right by bringing justice in Namara's service. Ultimately, give the preview of the next book tucked into the end of this one, I rather doubt that question is easily answered, as Aral's mindset evolves on the matter.
Another high point is the interactions between Jax and Faran, who hate each other at first sight, and have to work around their differences in order to achieve their goal.
Kelos is by far the most interesting addition to this book, as his motivations remain clear as mud until the very end. One hopes he reappears down the line, as he provides a very interesting perspective on the cause of justice.
Really, while the entire premise sounds like the stuff of an RPG, the verve and flair of the author and his characters makes it worth the investment of time to read.