The Venatrix Chronicles by Sylvia Mercedes, is an imaginative fantasy series that flirts with the idea of a villain origin story. It has an enemies to lovers theme as well as a stubborn and stabby female lead and biracial love interest. The series spans seven novels, and its fantastical world is so grand it’s an easy series to get lost in.
This series is available to read for free with an kindle unlimited subscription.
The Venatrix Chronicles follows Ayleth, a young teen who trained in the ways of the Holy Order from a young age. These individuals harbor powerful Shades inside their souls, and they are duty-bound to expel other Shades who have possessed innocents.
Ayleth dreams of working alongside Prince Gerrard, whose own father slayed Dred Odile, an all-powerful witch who created an empire for Shades.
Luckily, Ayleth makes a good impression on Gerrard, and he’s so impressed with Ayleth that he decides to give her a fair shot at becoming the crown’s Venator. But Ayleth will have to compete with Terryn, a strict Venatrix who also happens to be the Gerrard’s half-brother. Terryn and Ayleth are constantly clashing over their interpretations of the Holy Order. However, the pair quickly learn to work together as more and more witches seek to resurrect their slain queen, Odile.
Ayleth and Terryn’s stubborn hearts ultimately cause the two to develop feelings for each other despite their differences.
Later in the series, it is revealed that Ayleth has a deeper connection to Dred Odile that no one could have predicted. And when Ayleth discovers the truth of her heritage she questions everything.
This series spans seven books, and the first three novels focus more on building up the characters and the reader’s attachment to them. I enjoyed the way the author built the characters early on because as the plot advanced so did the characters which made their growth more exciting.
I was initially drawn to this series by Ayleth’s relationship with Laranta, her shade. The idea of hunters harboring shadow beings/ souls is new to me, and I liked that Ayleth’s the only Venatrix who trusts hers completely. The mutual respect Laranta and Ayleth have for each other is beautiful. This makes me think that perhaps the Shades were a symbol of self-love as Ayleth is her most powerful when she does not suppress that part of herself.
Another reason I continued reading this series was because of Ayleth and Terryn.
Terryn and Ayleth begin as enemies who compete for a prestigious job. And just as Terryn recognizes his feelings for Ayleth, his world turns upside down when he learns that Ayleth was born with Laranta’s soul. Which under Venatrix law means the only way to save her soul is to burn her at the stake.
These two spend as much time arguing as they do fighting each other. And the built-up to their first kiss was electrifying.
While Terryn’s character arc overlaps with his love for Ayleth, I would argue that the biggest thing he learns in this series is self-love. Terryn always followed the Order’s teaching and never allowed his Shade to overtake him, but as he falls for Ayleth, he takes courage from her trust in Laranta and begins to bond with his own Shade, Nisirdi. And once Terryn accepts Nisirdi as part of himself, he’s able to escape death because his shade protects his soul. Thus, Terryn’s love for Ayleth brought out the best in him.
While the series follows Ayleth, Terryn, and Gerard I felt as though Gerard’s arc was not as rounded as Ayleth and Terryn. Although Gerard learns to forge his own destiny and has his own romantic arc, I wished he had more interactions with Terryn and Ayleth. Maybe this is me wishing for a chaotic trio but I wish the three friends went on adventures throughout because it’s clear they all care for each other.
While I love Ayleth and Terryn I loved even more that the theme of this series was love. Which only makes the ending beautifully heartbreaking.
But that only emphasizes the overall theme of this series which is that love is stronger than magic.
I cannot recommend this series enough!
CW: Blood, violence, decapitation, murder, and manipulation
What fantasy series should I dive into next?
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