4,5 starsThe Voinov gate teleported me in a world made of blazing sun, cicadas and olive trees, leather and steel, blood and dirt, high ideals and raw reality, where Empires and Civilizations are weaved tightly and blend to create a fantasy that I actually found historically accurate! That beats everything, no?The story begins after a battle, at the heart of a war for dominance and political machinations between cities which destinies are closely intertwined. It bears epic undertones while drawing portraits of warriors, men gravitating around Kendras or crossing his path.Kendras is not a slave but he is owned. He’s been chosen, saved and taught by a man, absorbed by a unit which aims glory and honour in being fiercely loyal and faithful to the battalion and disdaining death for the benefit of fighting. At any cost.” All men die, Kendras. Better get used to it. And then fight until the end, with every breath, every heartbeat, every single, last thought”He finds himself alone in the world again, wounded and lost but guided by his officer’s voice, yields and fights, struggles to survive and find wholeness again, accomplishing himself in the process, owning, belonging, finding his own voice and becoming a man and a lover. Don’t expect any sensitive romance though, love is brutal here. Raw, fascinating reality, remember?Kendras, Steel, the officer, Widow are the portraits I’m keeping in mind. Some are only sketched and even though this book is a standalone and achieved, it has the definite feel of a beginning and it would leave me an unfinished aftertaste if it stayed that way. Or is it because I want Widow’s book, new Scorpions and Adrastes and Kendras struggling with the corruption of power?