Review: Belega by Dianne Hartsock

Two men caught in the middle of the a war…will their love survive?

Synopsis:

The Karthagans have regained their ancient powers of manipulating nature, but at the price of madness. In their lust for control they’ve destroyed their island and most of their race. They come now to Belega where one of them, Camron, seeks domination over the known world.

The Mage has come from the northern continent of Sennia to bring peace, but finding his strength no match for the coming struggle, he passes his abilities on to Natan, who only desires a simple life. Now only Natan has the ability to stop Camron, but the personal cost is more than he imagines.

It is only with the combined strength of his friends, his Karthagan lover, Kavi, and his deep desire to bring peace to the earth, that he finds the courage to overcome Camron and restore balance to the world. The power of the mind is immense.

In this world, mankind has learned to gather the energies of creation to use at their whim. But absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Want to Be A Judge?

Excerpt:

“I have you.” 

Natan rose into a low crouch from the scrub brush, careful not to scrape his cloak against the foliage, and searched his memory for the trick Kavi had taught him. Oh, yes. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, releasing all worries. His expectations. Letting go. The clip of the horse’s hooves echoed in his mind and he concentrated on that, the smell of the horse, the feel of its hide, the oats on its breath. He became aware of a vague fear in the animal’s mind.  

But then the tenuous connection broke without time to try again as the soldier leading the roan brought him to a stop, his gaze sweeping the path ahead, alert. Gathering his scattered wits as best he could, Natan lunged to his feet and dove for the soldier’s legs. They went down hard, Natan gasping at the whoosh of air against his cheek as the horse reared, hooves barely missing him. Knowing he was no match for the soldier physically, he scrambled to jab a knee into the man’s back, then drew his thin knife and pressed it against the pulse at his throat and felt him stiffen. 

“Hold very still,” he warned. The soldier didn’t move as the keen blade inadvertently nicked his skin. Recalling Kavi’s imprisonment, Natan gritted his teeth and swung his arm back, then brought the hilt of the knife down sharply on his vulnerable skull. The man went limp with a grunt. Natan climbed to his feet, cursing under his breath as the horse disappeared up the trail. He rolled the man over so his face wouldn’t be in the dirt, making sure he could breathe without difficulty. 

Frowning at the thick trees crowding them, he left his captive a moment to scout the vicinity, at last coming upon a small clearing off the trail. It took some effort to drag the unconscious soldier to the spot, and a relief to roll the heavy body down the last few feet. He retrieved leather strips from his pack and bound the man’s hands and feet to a small sapling, and examined the soldier’s head once again. Although the purplish welt had swollen, the bleeding had stopped.  

Natan watched the soldier a moment, and shook his head in disgust when he didn’t waken. “Hit him too hard,” he muttered, angry with himself. He built a small fire as the air grew chilly, and sat with his back to a tree while he waited for the soldier to regain consciousness. Darkness descended on the forest and he chewed his lips in growing anxiety. Bryon had gone to Nagal to petition the Mage to help them recover Kavi. Had he reached the city yet? If so, Natan would need to be at the Lake of Glass to meet with them in a few short days. A lifetime, while Kavi remained captive. 

He sharpened his knife on a whetstone to pass the time while the soldier remained unconscious. The stars came out and an ache crept into his chest as he thought of Kavi and how they used to lie awake and watch for falling stars. Natan would make them tea in a little pot over the fire, and they’d wrap in warm blankets and talk quietly while the sky wheeled overhead. Sometimes they made love, Kavi’s warm sleek body pliant as Natan searched out new ways to draw those sweet breathy moans from his lips. 

And then it had all ended. Natan closed his eyes at the jab of pain in his heart. The Nagal soldiers had come to their camp and dragged Kavi away, laughing when Natan struggled, and methodically beat him senseless. That had been two weeks ago, and every attempt he’d made to find his lover had failed. The last time he’d been threatened with imprisonment himself. 

He would do Kavi no good behind iron bars, he reminded himself again. 

Natan opened his eyes to find the captive staring at him from where he’d slumped against the tree. Natan went over and helped him to a sitting position. 

 “What’s your name?” he asked with ice in his voice. The man continued to stare at him, insolent. Natan looked him over carefully. “Let me guess. You’re dressed as a Nagal soldier, though you’re obviously not one. Maybe a deserter? Maybe a Barkuit spy?” He watched the soldier’s face as he named the rival country, then leaned closer to whisper, “What of Kavi?” 

“That trash?” the man asked in surprise, and yelped when Natan lunged at him, knife slipping into his hand.  “Say that again and I’ll slit your throat. Now, what 

is your name?”   

“Captain Syros Reed.” 

 Natan sat back on his heels, fury hot in his chest. 

“Speak.” 

 “I could tell you where they mean to bury him,” Syros drawled, holding Natan’s gaze, and smiled slightly at his sharply indrawn breath. “He was alive the last time I saw him, but I heard they mean to bury him soon. If you hurry, he may still be breathing. I don’t know.” 

“And you didn’t help him?” With a sudden enraged cry Natan drove his knife into the sapling inches from Syros’s face. “He’d better be alive, for your sake.” 

He left his water skin for Syros, should the man succeed in freeing himself, then gave the soldier no more thought as he snatched up his pack and settled into the long run ahead, determined to be at the Lake of Glass on time.

Warnings: Brief scenes of off-page rape and abuse toward end of book.

Dianne Hartsock drops readers right into the middle of a war in Belega, the first book in “The Karthagans” series.

Hartsock does not let up on the action throughout the book. There are a lot of characters and the names are similar, but the two most important ones are Natan and Kavi. Hartsock has created a fearless hero in Kavi, or maybe a reckless hero (laugh). 

On the other hand Natan is the Kavi’s balance, as he is far more hesitant and tries to think through everything. Unfortunately for both characters, there is no time in war and there are other players on the field.

Hartsock creates a world of betrayal, fighting, and love. It will be interesting to see where this series takes us. 

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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Meet the Author

From the Desk of Dianne Hartsock:

Hi everyone! I’m Dianne, the author of Belega. So glad you could drop in on my tour. Today, I’d like to tell you 20 things about Natan, my MC, that you might not know from reading the story. 

  1. It’s mentioned that Natan’s parents drowned at sea when he was very young. But did you know he lived by himself in their shack on the river for six months, existing on berries and mushrooms, nuts and the occasional small game he could snare, before Bryon finally found him? He was quite alone and lonely by this time.
  1. Natan was between 8 and 10 years old when his parents drowned. He’s not sure of his exact age, since they didn’t celebrate birthdays when he was growing up.
  1. Kavi is the first and last person Natan fell in love with.
  1. Natan has a ridiculous fear of spiders, having found a web full of them under his bed as a child. 
  1. Bryon was the first person, besides his parents, Natan had ever spoken to. He’d seen other people in the forest, hunters and explorers, but never interacted with them. 
  1. Natan sometimes wishes he was as popular and outgoing as his cousin Jaden.
  1. Natan prefers sleeping under the stars, even on a cold night, than in a tent.
  1. Camron fascinated him, though he would never dare let Kavi find out.
  1. Natan wishes he could be better friends with Alek, but could never find a way to break through the Karthagan’s reserve nature. 
  1. Natan sometimes wonders if he would have been happier to have never met the Mage or Kavi and lived a simple life in his shack on the river.
  1. He already knows the answer to this would be no.
  1. Even though Natan is scared and unsure of his powers, he’s also secretly thrilled, for the first time in his life he feels important.
  1. It takes all Natan’s will power not to use his new abilities to impress Kavi.
  1. Natan wonders if he could use his power to ‘persuade’ Kavi to love him, then is ashamed of the thought.
  1. Nathan often loses his temper, but fights back his anger, knowing how dangerous it could prove, especially toward those who would hurt his family and friends.
  1. Natan dreams of being a sea captain, spending months at a time on the ocean, fighting the elements rather than other people.
  1. Natan’s deepest regret is losing his parents so early in his life. He only has a few precious memories of them
  1. Natan wishes he was a better son to Bryon.
  1. When Kavi talks, his voice is low and musical, and Natan’s heart melts to a puddle of longing when Kavi holds him and sings softly, cheek to cheek.
  1. When Natan meets Kavi on the beach before they go to the Isle of Wind, Natan aches to ask Kavi to stay with him. They’d live in his shack on the river. A simple life, but one of peace and all the love in Natan’s heart. He just couldn’t find the courage to ask him. 

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Bio of Dianne Hartsock     

Further Details:
Publisher: Solstice Publishing, 979-8612751908, 2020
Cover Artist: K.C. Sprayberry
Series: The Karthagans #1
Pages: 340
Settings: Negal,, Belega
Sex: PG-13

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***Book is available on Kindle Unlimited at time of posting

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