Harlan is a Dasnarian mercenary and the captain of like-minded countrymen called the Vervaldr. He and the Vervaldr are hired by the High King to protect the royal family from harm and guard against the unrest steadily growing within the realm. Ursula fascinates him, and Harlan openly admires the princess's stalwart ability to handle the High King's outbursts and whims. He grows unsettled by Uorsin's open display of abuse against his daughter and the quiet distress Ursula tries vainly to hide from the public. Harlan forewarns the princess of the Dasnarian woman and the dark, evil sect the woman belongs to. He convinces Ursula to flee only to safeguard her from the High King's unstable caprices. Their journey to the magical Annfwn allows Harlan to learn far more about the warrior princess he has lost his heart to.
I always enjoy stories that have a character with a name almost similar to my husband and oldest son's name. There is a slight difference in the spelling and my familiarity with the name Harlen gave me insight on Harlan's possible pronunciation. Also, it is a name not often seen in books, fantasy or romance wise, another reason I like it so. I did have this sense, from Harlan's demonstration of respect and courtesy towards Ursula, that he was somehow beneficial to her, and I was happy when my assumptions proved right. I admit, at first, I felt a little tentative about him but the disgust he shows over the High King's behavior, especially where Ursula is concerned, quickly dispelled any uncertainty I had. I love how Harlan always found a way to fit Ursula into the contract he had signed with her father, and how he uses that often to justify why he follows her at first. I adore the man's patience and gentleness when dealing with Ursula's trust issues. Whenever she acted skittish or waspish, Harlan wisely backed off but did not give up on her. He was beneficial to opening Ursula's eyes to all the abhorrent atrocities the High King committed that she refused to acknowledge or accept.
Ursula is the kind of princess I wish fairy tales personified. She may be born of royal blood, yet never once did she behave spoiled or pampered, abusing her power as her father does. She is equally strong and weak with her vulnerabilities sometimes overwhelming her and clouding her judgement. I admired Ursula for thinking more of other's welfare over her own, how she continuously jeopardizes her safety to keep others from incurring the High King's brutal rage. I often found myself identifying with her, especially her insecurity about letting people in or allowing them to see how much she is inwardly hurting. Ursula is much like me in that we both keep everything bottled up tight inside and presenting a façade of strength to the public eye. Her devotion, although admiral, does tend to go overboard. I hated how she continues to show allegiance to a king and father who never showed Ursula an ounce of love but abused and belittled her. I empathized with her the more I read about the High King's atrocities against her and it allowed me to understand why Ursula behaved so remote. Harlan, I believe, was the ideal match and best medicine for Ursula. He pushed and prodded but withdrew to allow her to cope with past demons until ready to exorcise them.
THE TALON OF THE HAWK is book three in Jeffe Kennedy's fantasy-romance series, THE TWELVE KINGDOMS. My only regret is not having read the previous two books in this wonderful series. The author does highlight the important parts through Ursula to allow me to follow the story better without feeling too lost. I often felt as I read that I missed something vital, so it is best to read the books in order to paint the larger picture. I do know, after finishing THE TALON OF THE HAWK, I have this want to find those previous two books and re-immerse into that imaginative world.
THE TALON OF THE HAWK is everything a lover of High-Fantasy and Romance can expect: action, adventure, closure, and sweet romance. It is evident the amount of work and thought the author put into her spellbinding world. Her attention to detail adds to the world's appeal and made me feel as if I visited there. I do hope Jeffe Kennedy decides to write further stories set in this engaging world of hers.