Thursday, February 1, 2024

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Tainted Cup, by Robert Jackson Bennett {ends 2/8}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

I counted five of them in the dark, large men in light armor, their buckles and buttons winking in the dim light – along with the points of their swords, of course.

Imperial longswords. Bright and glimmering. Finely made tools for quick and easy killing. They offered no shout or cry of warning. They just advanced, swords unsheathed.

Strovi reacted much faster than I, raising his weapon to guard position quickly. His attacker moved in, swinging his sword in a diagonal downward slash, left to right. Strovi caught the blow with his blade and stepped forward into his stance, and I watched him, waiting to see if the gallant captain would live more than a second longer. But then a second attacker was on me, his sword raised high, and all I could think about was the edge of his blade.

I watched the sword approach, unable to comprehend or believe what was happening – and then my eyes shivered and trembled.

Everything slowed down.

Din Kol wasn’t sure what his job would be as a new assistant investigator, but solving murders as the engraver and eyes for the eccentric Ana Dolabra is full of surprises!

Official synopsis:

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Tainted Cup, by Robert Jackson Bennett {ends 2/8}
In Daretana’s greatest mansion, a high imperial officer lies dead—killed, to all appearances, when a tree erupted from his body. Even here at the Empire’s borders, where contagions abound and the blood of the leviathans works strange magical changes, it’s a death both terrifying and impossible.

Assigned to investigate is Ana Dolabra, a detective whose reputation for brilliance is matched only by her eccentricities. Rumor has it that she wears a blindfold at all times, and that she can solve impossible cases without even stepping outside the walls of her home.

At her side is her new assistant, Dinios Kol, magically altered in ways that make him the perfect aide to Ana’s brilliance. Din is at turns scandalized, perplexed, and utterly infuriated by his new superior—but as the case unfolds and he watches Ana’s mind leap from one startling deduction to the next, he must admit that she is, indeed, the Empire’s greatest detective.

As the two close in on a mastermind and uncover a scheme that threatens the Empire itself, Din realizes he’s barely begun to assemble the puzzle that is Ana Dolabra—and wonders how long he’ll be able to keep his own secrets safe from her piercing intellect.

While parts of the setting and story sounded like any regular Empire, they’re on constant watch for an attack of a leviathan from the surrounding waters. The threat from within the Empire is a poisoning that results in trees sprouting from the victim’s body! There isn’t much to be done other than being prepared for the next leviathan attack, but it makes a great distraction for whoever is doing the poisoning.

Din explained about some of the features of sublimes—characters with modifications that gave them special skills or altered their appearance. Din himself was in his position especially because he was an engraver. By associating memories with a carefully carried scent vial, he could recall everything down to the smallest detail. The memories then stayed with him forever. This helped him serve as a great assistant investigator to Ana, who preferred not to leave her home or remove her blindfold.

The story was unique and the characters were so interesting. The book is the first in a series about the Empire called Shadow of the Leviathan. It was an engaging and well-explained fantasy read which earned 4 out of 5 stars.

{click here to purchase via Amazon affiliate link}

Becki Bayley is a wife and mom who also enjoys supporting her kids activities and reading books to review and just for her pleasure. Check out more of her reviews at her blog,


One of my lucky readers will win a copy of The Tainted Cup!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, February 8th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Tainted Cup, by Robert Jackson Bennett


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