Title ~ Lying with Scorpions (Memory of Scorpions #2)
Author ~ Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Release Date ~ 20th January 2014
Genre ~ M/M Science Fiction Romance
Rating ~ 5 Powerful Stars
If you lie with scorpions, you’d better have a taste for poison.
Now that Kendras’s lover Adrastes has claimed the throne of Dalman, Kendras is tangled deeper than ever in politics and intrigue. As the new leader of the Scorpions and Adrastes’s one true friend, he and his men stand between Adrastes and those who wish him dead.
And many do. Adrastes openly challenges the ocean priesthood for power while establishing himself at court and brokering with the realm’s various factions. He means for the Scorpions to become a fearsome legion again, but Kendras must first learn how to be a good officer and recruit to replace the fallen. His choices will determine the future of a group steeped in hundreds of years of history and tradition.
As both Kendras and Adrastes settle old scores, a new enemy arises in Commander Graukar, a war hero loyal to the old order. In his formidable mountain fortress, Graukar may hold the balance of power. But while Adrastes aims to either rule or destroy Graukar, Kendras finds himself doubting Adrastes for the first time, and sharing more with Graukar than he ever thought possible.
If you lie with Scorpions,
you’d better have a taste for poison.
Lying with Scorpions is the second book in the Memory of Scorpions trilogy and damn, the long wait nearly killed me. Reading the premise and the excerpt a few days ago made me all giddy with excitement and what can I say, the book surpassed my expectations with flying colours. It’s one of those books that pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go.
For the main part Lying with Scorpions isn’t a romance. It’s more a gritty fantasy adventure with a romantic subplot. The focus is more on the brutality of the war, the political drama and the betrayal, but also on courage, loyalty, honour and friendship. It’s the kind of story Aleks Voinov can tell like no other.
The first book left us with Dalman in uproar, the king dead, the Scorpions decimated and Kendras with the duty to replace Adrastes and take over the leadership of the elite mercenaries.
Lying with Scorpions starts right where Scorpion left off. As expected Adrastes claims the throne of Dalman. Embroiled in intrigues and politics Adrastes is living in constant fear for his life, with Kendras and his Scorpions doing everything in their power to protect the new king, and despite the oath of the Scorpions to never accept a man as his master Kendras still feels like he’s a slave.
“Never kneel and mean it. If you have to crawl,
be the scorpion under the rock—
ready to strike at the hand turning the stone.”
Needless to say the war isn’t over. The ocean priesthood who murdered the former king are still in power and the elders of Vededrin are far away from acknowledging Adrastes. Kendras, not used to his new role, has to learn to become a competent officer, guarding the king, replacing the fallen comrades and strengthening the Scorpions being his priority.
Amrash, the Jaishani ambassador shows up with a strong army to the coronation ceremony and Kendras comes to trust this powerful, mysterious and fascinating person. Amrash helps Kendras to dig out his lost childhood memories, finally remembering his father and the assassins who killed his mother. It comes to the point that he knows why his nightmares are about men with pale skin and raven feathers…
Accompanied by two recruits, the tanesh Kiran and Runner, who is an unusual new recruit by the way, Kendras heads off to the mountains to perform the old scorpion induction ceremony on Kiran, who nearly dies from it. They seek help in the mountain fortress Eagle’s Test, where Kendras meets the gorgeous and wise Graukar, the commander of the fortress. Loyal to the old order he is a man Adrastes is wary about but Kendras quickly learns the reasons behind Adrastes' suspiciousness.
I adored Kendra! He’s so strong and faithful, loves his brothers in arms, he’s fiercely loyal to the Scorpions first and foremost and chooses that over his lovers. He’s a warrior who can’t form too many attachments and whose own life can be lost in the next battle, even though that doesn’t change his growing feelings for Graukar.
“What are you scared of?”
“You’re just playing. Touch me already. Properly.”
Graukar chuckled, but his grip tightened.
“Many things. I’ve never fucked a Jaishani. I’ve never fucked the lover of the king.
And I’ve never fucked a Scorpion.”
“You should really only worry about one of those.”
“Just which one?”
Like in the first book we meet many intense and complex characters. Each one of them flawed, each distinct, each so incredibly real.
• Selvan, the slave, endearing and strong in his own unique way.
• Lord Protector Adrastes, Kendras lover, strong and determined, although we get to know new facets of the new king and former officer.
• Lady Nhala, the commander of the palace guard, a woman, who reveals a shocking secret to Kendras.
• Widow, still snarky and tough.
• Kiran, the tanesh and newest Scorpion member.
• Runner, strong and determined to become the toughest crossbowman.
• Graukar and his brother Shadow, strong, smart and courageous.
• Lord Amrash, the mysterious Jaishani, they all captured me and never let go.
Once again the story telling is strong, powerful and engrossing, the action sequences, the dialogues, they all kept me on the edge of my seat. I eagerly anticipated getting to the next scene yet I hesitated as I was afraid of what would come. Aleks has a special way with words that drew me right into the story; his writing is like painting pictures - vivid, intense and complex.
The story is woven into a pattern that is complete fantasy yet somehow utterly believable. The creation of a fantasy world is exquisite and the development of the characters is brilliantly done. In marked contrast to the manipulative political environment the characters are strong but still possess a vulnerable simplicity. You live, you suffer with them, you hear the clanging of the weapons and you feel the recoil of the crossbow. The story is engaging, from the very first page to the last, a wild ride in a gritty, raw and intense fantasy world.
I won’t give away how the book ends but you don’t need to fear any evil cliff-hangers. Let me put it like this: Kendras’s world seems to be turned upside down and he is becoming aware of the fact that some big decisions are waiting to be made…
Lying with Scorpions is captivating, stunning, and devastatingly beautiful. I can't recommend the whole series strongly enough.
Alexander Voinov Chats about Lying with Scorpions
We have a huge author crush here at Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews for Aleksander Voinov… so we are incredibly excited to welcome him here with us today.
Hi, thanks for hosting me! I’m Aleksandr Voinov and I’m here to talk about my newest release, Lying with Scorpions, which is the sequel to Scorpion and is part of the Memory of Scorpions gay military fantasy trilogy. I’ll be checking in to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to ask questions in the comments. At the end of the post, you’ll find more information and details for a backlist giveaway. Good luck!
Lying with Scorpions: How Lying with Scorpions happened
Once I’d accepted that the sequel to Scorpion would likely irk some people who really loved the Kendras/Adrastes romance, I started devoting brainspace to writing the sequel.
I knew it would be about Kendras’s growth as the Officer of the Scorpions and Adrastes becoming king, but all the details? No clue. So, I spent a while reconnecting to the voice of Kendras. I re-read Scorpion. I re-read the reviews. I was ready, but I had no plot yet. So I switched my mind to “open”.
It’s a bit like an author standing in a vast empty space calling: “Okay, I’m listening. Gimme what you got!”
Eventually, the Muse answers.
I start to get flashes. Ideas. Phrases. Characters. While my rational brain had the arch for Kendras and Adrastes, and I knew they’d end up at odds with each other, the first character to show up was Amrash, in all their Jaishani glory, and I was intrigued.
I knew from the start that Amrash would be of “ambivalent” gender, and I knew that the Jaishani would be okay with that. In fact, it might even be part of Amrash’s power. I knew I had an archetype, and one that was very powerful—the “sacred hermaphrodite”, or the “perfect human being”. To make Amrash less perfect and more useful in the context of the story, I did spend some time working through what Amrash wants and why they’ve shown up, but even then, the Jaishani Ambassador ended up being a real scene-stealer. I loved it.
The other character was Graukar. I think Graukar and Amrash appeared very closely together. I was mostly intrigued by the sound of their names; Amrash is mysterious, while Graukar sounds more like an “in-your-face” kind of guy. Then I learned he was a Westlander, like Selvan. In Scorpion, I’d laid the foundation that Selvan wasn’t “from here”, and a stranger, but I never really developed what a Westlander is. By now, I know much more about them.
The more Graukar took shape, the more I noticed how naturally he fit with Kendras. Unlike Steel, who I really tried to force together with Kendras when I didn’t know about Adrastes yet, their attraction was natural and grew from mutual respect. Kendras can’t love whom he doesn’t respect—both feelings are tied extremely closely together in his heart.
Without much of a plan, and just that material, I began writing, and like Scorpion, the story grew naturally and easily. Although I cursed a lot and often about it, the big pieces all moved into place. The story wanted to be told, which is the best kind of story.
But it grew in the telling, too, and I eventually felt that it was getting quite a bit longer than I’d expected. Then suddenly, all the pieces were in place, Kendras and Adrastes both had completed a huge amount of growth, and their arcs were pretty much complete—and I still had a lot of plot left so I decided to cut the book off there and call it book 2, and tell the rest of the story in book 3, called A Taste for Poison.
Thankfully, Riptide was okay with my “two-book series” turning into a trilogy. I’m not sure what it is about fantasy novels, but they all want to be trilogies when they grow up.
Contest: To win an ebook from my backlist (not Lying with Scorpions), email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the answer to the following questions (and your preferred file format):
- Name the Scorpions that join Kendras’s unit in this book
- What is Runner’s secret?
- Who was the first officer of the Scorpions, and what happened to him?
About Aleksandr Voinov
Aleksandr has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and he works as a financial editor in London.
After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write edgy, dark, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.
He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others.