This book is the third in a series about eight brothers, four sets of twins, whose destiny is given in a piece of prophecy - the destiny being the brother finding his soulmate.
At the start of this story, the unfortunately-named Dominor seems miles away from finding anyone. Kidnapped from his home island of Nightfall and taken captive by slavers, Dominor is horrified to find himself up for sale in a market in a land far away. The bidding war that breaks out between two women shows him that his future is unlikely to include freedom, especially as the price paid for him is enormous.
Lady Serina has been working for years to try to reverse a curse on the people of Natallia which means that only daughters inherit magical talents, that male children don't become mages, and consequently there is imbalance within the culture. Serina's scrying shows her that the curse was triggered accidentally by two powerful mages having sex in the Font, or magical fountain, that she guards. Her calculations suggest that if another magical couple copy the ritual but change it at the end, the curse can be lifted. But of course there aren't any male mages in Natallia because of the curse created hundreds of years ago.
When Serina discovers Dominor in the marketplace, he is clearly a gift from the gods and should be the means by which she can break the curse. Of course, she has to buy him first, and then persuade him to help her. But will he help her when he finds out what he has to do -
father a child with her in the Font? Serina decides to keep back some information from him when she finds out he doesn't want children. But there may be more between them than just the chance to break the Natallian curse, and things might not go entirely according to Serina's plan.
The beginning of this book is very good, with Dominor's experiences as a captive, his introduction to Serina and the scenes where he and Serina try to get a measure of each other. However, the second half of the book really drags where Serina spends the whole time doing calculations on slates and Dominor doesn't do a great deal except train the son of Serina's friend in swordplay, tell people he doesn't want children - oh, and sleep with Serina. Even the end of the book
is predictable, and there is almost no suspense involved in wondering whether Serina and Dominor will 'make up'. The Big Misunderstanding plot device here, about whether Dominor wants children, just doesn't work.
The world-building of the magical lands is interesting but not particularly deep. The mages seem to be able to do just about anything, which sometimes makes for lazy plotting. I was rather disappointed that the promise of the beginning of the book, with its considerations of the role of women in society and of slavery, was not fulfilled by the rest of the story, which turns into a rather charmless series of sexual encounters with Serina's ever-present slate and chalk to mark each event. This
is reasonable enough holiday reading, but it lacks the depth and characterization which
are possibilities with the writing at the start of the story.