Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.
Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.
But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.
Detailed Plot Summary
At dinner, Prince Casteel "Cas" Da'Neer announces to the room that he intends to marry Penellaphe "Poppy" Balfour. Poppy says she will never marry him. Landell argues that Poppy will never be his queen after Elijah indicates that if Cas chose Poppy, then they all chose Poppy. Landell criticizes Cas's change of plans and insults Poppy's scars causing Poppy to flinch. As Landell pulls out a dagger, Cas rips out Landell's heart. Poppy gets up to return to her room, but Alastir and Emil walk in. Alastir's voice reminds Poppy of Vikter, but she does not say anything in front of him because Cas warns her not to fight him in front of Alastir.
As Kieran takes Poppy back to her room, Kieran deeply smells Poppy noting that she smells like death. After returning to her room, Poppy begins to panic and uses a knife to pick the lock. As she runs through the woods, Poppy decides that she will turn herself into the Ascended with the hopes of finding her brother Ian, who she believes has Ascended and is living at Carsodonia. Kieran and Cas quickly catch up to her. Cas sends Kieran back to the castle and makes Poppy a deal - if she can beat him in a fight, she may leave. Poppy is able to draw first blood, but Craven ambush the pair.
Once they defeat all the Craven, Poppy and Cas return back to the castle. Kieran and Cas go back into the woods to burn the bodies of the Craven while Poppy bathes in a bath drawn up by Kieran in anticipation of her return. When Cas returns, Cas and Poppy discuss his plans for marriage, and Poppy is still against it. Cas proposes that Poppy marry him so that he can negotiate with the Blood Crown preventing a war. Afterwards, Poppy can choose to divorce him. Poppy agrees if he will help her find her brother.
Poppy wakes up screaming from a nightmare about the night her parents were slaughtered. Cas holds Poppy tight and strokes her hair trying to calm her down. As Poppy starts to feel embarassed regarding screaming, Cas tells Poppy about how he had nightmares after he saw Craven for the first time. But the nightmares took a different turn after he was captured by the Blood Crown. He recounts the many horrors that the Blood Crown subjected him to and confesses that there are still times where he wakes up in the middle of the night thinking he is still in the cage. Cas indicates that Poppy had been talking in her sleep and reciting a disturbing nursery rhyme about the poppy flower.
The next morning, Delano is guarding the bedchamber door while Cas is gone. Delano suddenly comes barging into the room because he heard Poppy yelling, except Poppy had not been yelling out loud, only internally. Delano pales but says it must have been the wind.
Cas announces their engagement and asks to speak with Poppy alone. Alastir confesses that he does not believe in this sudden change of heart between her and Cas and knows that Cas will do anything to get his brother Malik back. He offers Poppy an escape, which Poppy declines. Alastir also mentions to Poppy that Cas was previously engaged to Alastir's daughter, Shea. He asks Poppy not to say anything about Shea to Cas.
Poppy finds an old Atlantian census in the library. Cas points to an empath warrior line and tells Poppy that he believes she descends from an empath warrior, though the line was thought to have died out a long time ago. Kieran brushes Poppy's arm and receives a static shock.
Alastir, Emil, and the rest of Alastir's people leave to check the roads to make sure that they are safe to travel. While they are gone, Lord Chaney along with Royal Guards and Royal Knights appear at New Haven demanding for the return of the Maiden. Lord Chaney pulls out Mrs. Tulis from the carriage announcing that Mrs. Tulis told him that Poppy was at New Haven. When Elijah denies that there is a Maiden in New Haven, Lord Chaney executes Mrs. Tulis.
Cas comes out of the woods where he was watching the events unfold with Poppy and declares himself as the Dark One. A fight breaks out. Poppy notices that a Royal Knight drags a young boy to the stables. Poppy follows and kills the knight, only for another knight to catch up to them. As Poppy prepares to fight the Royal Knight, Lord Chaney appears with the boy in tow. Lord Chaney tells Poppy that if she surrenders, then he will let go of the boy. Poppy pretends to be relieved that the Ascended have found her, but a knight knocks her out from behind.
Poppy wakes up in the carriage with Lord Chaney with the Royal Guards surrounding the carriage. Lord Chaney attacks Poppy for her blood. While he is drinking her blood, Poppy stabs him wherever she can. Suddenly, Cas rips open the carriage door and removes Lord Chaney. Poppy continues to panic and stabs the air until she realizes that Cas is in the carriage. Poppy blacks out and wakes up to find that Cas gave her blood again to heal her minor bruises.
Poppy immediately goes to help the wounded. An old woman tells Poppy that she's like the second daughter, but not in the way that Poppy thinks, but chosen nonetheless. Alastir watches and mentions to Poppy that people are scared of her because the empath warriors were known as soul eaters. Soul eaters could suck the emotion out of people and turn those emotions back onto the people killing them.
On the way to the dungeon, Cas pulls Poppy into a pantry. He thanks Poppy for helping his people. Cas asks Poppy if he can kiss her and that while they do so, they could pretend to be Hawke and Poppy. Poppy obliges, and Cas stops the kiss before it escalates too far, disappointing Poppy.
Cas takes Poppy down to the dungeon so she can kill Lord Chaney, whose tongue has been ripped out by Kieran. While Cas goes to speak with the families of those who lost someone during the Ascended's attack, Poppy sits in the library with Kieran. Poppy goes down into the tunnels to add Mr. and Mrs. Tulis to the wall of names of those who had died by the hand of the Ascended.
Poppy has a nightmare regarding the night her family died. She wakes up and says that she just needs to forget. Cas and Poppy "pretend" to be Hawke and Poppy and he helps her fall asleep with some sexual attention.
The next morning, Poppy, Kieran, Cas, Naill and Delano leave to go to Spessa's End. Elijah thanks Poppy for helping his people. Poppy is oddly quiet and Cas correctly guesses its because of their arrangement. Poppy is nervous that she will not act correctly as she has never been in a relationship nor been surrounded by any normal relationships. Cas tells her to just act herself and that people are more likely to believe that they are in love if she is threatening to stab him rather than just sitting quietly.
Poppy asks Cas what happened to his former lover, and Cas dodges the question. He mentions that everything he loves has rotted due to the Ascended leading Poppy to point out that she was raised by the Ascended. Cas asks Poppy not to take away his pain and barely speaks for the next three days.
As they are riding, Poppy notices some bones hanging in the trees. Cas tells Poppy that the bones were placed by the Dead Bones Clan. They are quickly ambushed by the Dead Bones Clan, and Cas takes multiple arrows to the back and stomach. Poppy kills one of the clan and suffers a minor cut on the arm. As Cas goes to bandage the wound, he ends up just staring at her arm as his eyes blacken. Kieran interrupts breaking Cas out of his spell. His eyes return back to normal and he bandages Poppy.
The group continues on and they arrive at Pompay. The group continues to Spessa's End where they plan to wait for the rest of the New Haven people before going to Atlantia.
Quentyn and a young wolven Beckett meet the group and lead Poppy and Cas to their suite. The two retire, and Poppy accidentally wakes up Cas, and he does not recognize her. As Cas puts his hands around Poppy's throat, she pushes her dagger up against his neck screaming. Cas lowers himself down Poppy's body and starts to pleasure her, and she chooses to drop the dagger. Having heard Poppy's screams, Kieran comes in with his sword. Cas immediately turns and starts growling at Kieran. Poppy reads Cas and feels that he plans to kill Kieran. Kieran tells Poppy that the moment Cas attacks him that she should run and get Naill or Delano.
Fearing that Cas will attack Kieran, Poppy touches Cas and projects happy thoughts to him. Cas calms down, apologizes to Poppy and leaves. Kieran waits for Poppy as she cleans up and takes her down to the Bay. Poppy asks for an explanation of Cas's actions. Kieran informs her that Cas needs blood and that he has refused to feed from other Atlantians since meeting Poppy. Poppy asks Kieran about Shea and about Cas's wellbeing, and Kieran asks her why she cares if her and Cas are in a fake engagement. He tells Poppy that Cas loves her as she loves him, but that she is just not ready to accept that. Kieran tells Poppy that he believes the two to be heartmates, but refuses to expound.
The pair go inside for breakfast, and the people eating breakfast are distrustful of Poppy. Alastir joins them and asks Poppy if Cas has told her about the Joining. Poppy is disappointed that Cas did not tell her himself. Poppy turns to Kieran and says she plans to offer herself as dinner to Cas. Cas eventually joins them and the three return to Cas and Poppy's room. Poppy and Kieran convince Cas that he must feed. Kieran stays because Cas is close to the edge and may take too much blood, which would kill Poppy.
Cas begins to feed on Poppy and shoves Poppy against Kieran. Things get immensely sexual and Kieran intervenes to keep Cas from taking too much blood from Poppy. Once he makes sure that both are okay, Kieran leaves. Cas thanks Poppy and gives pleasure to her.
Cas has a surprise for Poppy, but only if they continue to pretend to be Poppy and Hawke. Poppy agrees. Cas takes her out to the stables where he tells her he is going to teach her to ride a horse. Coulton, who is in charge of the stables, gets a weird shock when he looks at Poppy for the first time. Then they shake hands and Coulton receives a static shock. Cas gives Poppy some basic lessons in riding and then directs her towards a house.
Out of the house comes Kieran and a female wolven Vonetta, who turns out to be Kieran's sister. As the four talk about Poppy's prior life as a maiden over sandwiches, there is a large commotion outside. The four go outside and find Alastir holding a wolven. Beckett was in an accident shattering his legs. Beckett needs to go back into his mortal form before his bones start to heal wrong potentially causing nerve damage. Poppy kneels down besides Beckett trying to take away his pain. The moment that Poppy's hands touched Beckett's fur, her hands began to glow. Soon, all of Poppy is glowing and she heals Beckett's legs. A crowd is gathering, most of whom fear Poppy's abilities. Cas believes that they should marry here in Spessa's End instead of waiting to go to Saion's Cove.
Later at dinner while Kieran and Cas are talking with others, Alastir sits down next to Poppy saying that he just does not believe that Cas loves Poppy. Alastir tells Poppy that Cas is promised to another back in Atlantia for the past five decades. Cas and Alastir get into a shouting match as Jasper, the speaker of the wolven who is also Kieran's father, walks in. Jasper tells Alastir that he is overstepping when Alastir states that Cas marrying Gianna would have strengthened the bonds between the wolven and the Atlantians. Jasper reminds Alastir that the latter does not speak for the wolven. Cas makes it clear that he had never agreed to the arranged marriage and that the idea was one floated between Alastir and King Valyn.
As Emil encourages the group to have the conversation at a later time, an Atlantian Dante calls Poppy a viper of the Ascended. Poppy makes it clear that although she was raised by the Ascended, she never knew who they truly were. She indicates that she is aware of Casteel's original plans to trade her for Malik. Cas states that although he did have plans to kidnap Poppy to use her as a bargaining chip, he had already fallen in love with her. He tells the room that when Poppy found out his plans, she stabbed him in the heart with a bloodstone dagger unaware that a stab to the heart could not kill an Atlantian. Jasper comments that Cas is just like his father with a love for women with sharp objects. Poppy declares to the room that Cas was the first thing she chose for herself and that although she chose him when she thought he was Hawke, she continues to choose him as Casteel. Cas is completely surprised and Jasper, speaking on behalf of the wolven, states that if Cas has chosen Poppy, how could his people not do the same.
Poppy goes outside to get some air and runs into Naill and Delano. They share a drink and Cas approaches. Poppy tells Cas that she does not feel like talking to him right now. Kieran comes outside to tell Cas that Jasper wishes to speak with him. Kieran takes Poppy back to her room. Poppy cries herself to sleep. Cas arrives and wakes up Poppy. Although Cas starts teasing Poppy, Poppy brings up Gianna. Cas explains to Poppy that he never told Poppy about Gianna because Gianna never wanted Cas herself, and he never wanted her. Cas had forgotten all about the arranged marriage until mentioned it. Cas is angry that Poppy could even believe that Cas would do all the things he had done for her and with her while being engaged to someone else. Cas accuses Poppy of never trying to get to know him and of never asking him the questions that are really on her mind. Poppy indicates its because he tells her nothing or ignores her leading her to explode with all the questions she has held back, questions about Malik, the throne, the caverns, the kidnapping, why he never told Poppy about the joining, Gianna, Spessa's End, his former lover, and how he can stand to be around Poppy knowing that she was raised by the Ascended. She demands that Cas tell her something real.
Cas tells her that he came to her room tonight to find out if what she had said at dinner was real or just pretending. Poppy feeling to exposed says nothing causing Cas to laugh. He says that all he ever receives from her is silence, so why would he tell her any of the things that she demanded to know. He tells her he wants everything from her. They both breakdown and admit that neither of them understand their relationship. As Cas explains to Poppy how not falling in love with her would have been way easier and as he starts to tell Poppy about Shea, the two are interrupted by Emil, who states that the sky is on fire.
Poppy and Cas follow Emil up on the Rise where they see the entire wester sky aglow. They wait for Dante and Delano who went to go scout out the source of the fire. As Cas speaks with Kieran and Alastir, Jasper comes to talk to Poppy. Jasper assures Poppy that he never expected Cas to marry Gianna as Cas never expressed any interest in that relationship. Jasper suggests to Poppy that has been whispering in the King's ear and that it was 's idea for Cas to marry Gianna, who is 's great-niece. Jasper also tells Poppy that he does not believe she is of the empath line as he remembered the empaths, very few could heal and none ever glowed.
Delano returns with his fur matted with blood. Much to Kieran's chagrin, Cas and Poppy immediately run down off the rise to meet Delano. Delano immediatley passes out from the puncture wound to his lung. Poppy heals Delano. Delano tells Cas that close to 800 Ascended are coming in two groups and that they killed Dante. Spessa's End has less than 100 people who are capable of fighting and 20 archers. Cas instructs Kieran and to go to Saion's Cove for reinforcements. Kieran does not want to go, but is ordered by Cas to do so. Poppy expresses worry about Kieran, and he calls her by her nickname for the first time.
Poppy and Cas finish their conversation. Cas explains to Poppy that and he and Shea were engaged, but she traded Malik to the Ascended to save her own life. While she escaped with Cas, she again tried to trade Cas for her own life, leading Cas to kill her for betraying him and his brother; he and Kieran have kept this secret and allowed everyone to believe that she died a hero at the hands of the Ascended. He explains to Poppy that he sent Kieran away because he doesn't want going staight to King Valyn to express his doubts regarding Cas and Poppy's engagement. Poppy admits that everything she said at dinner was true. Cas asks Poppy to marry him that day.
Vonetta brings a gown to Poppy. During the wedding, the skies turn pitch black showing that Nyktos, although sleeping, expresses approval of the marriage, which had only happened once before, during King Valyn's marriage to Queen Eloana. In private, Poppy and Cas share blood and sexual relations. The two sleep and wake up to face the ascended.
Duchess Teerman arives at the rise and Cas refuses to give up Poppy. Cas reveals himself as Prince Da'Neer, and Duchess Teerman tells Poppy that Queen Ileana is Poppy's grandmother. When Poppy and Cas make it clear that they will not surrender, Duchess Teerman returns to her carriage and lobs the heads of the group from New Haven at the Rise, including Elijah and Magda's head. Cas and the warriors go into battle. Poppy asks Quentyn to cover her while she goes onto the field. Poppy and Cas fight their way through the crowd, but then the second wave of the Ascended arrive surrounding Poppy and Cas. Although they take down dozens, Poppy's senses are overwhelmed and in order to shut it all down, Poppy holds her dagger to her throat and threatens to kill herself if any of the Ascended touch her or Cas. Suddenly, all the wolven arrive and take down the guards surrounding Poppy and Cas. Then the reinforcements from Saion's Cove arrive. Cas and Poppy race for the Duchess's carriage. Poppy makes it their first and kills the Duchess after the Duchess indicates to Poppy that Malik and Ian are still alive.
Cas reaches the carriage and the two proceed to have sexual relations in the carriage. The reinforcements have decimated the Ascended's army. Cas and Kieran go with the lone survivor to make sure he sends a message to the Ascended, while Poppy goes to help the wounded. Poppy heals a wolven who tells her that King Valyn Da'Neer has plans to use her to send a message. Poppy is not surprised. Cas comes back and tells Poppy that all the wolven felt her calling for them when they had been surrounded in the woods, which is why all the wolven had appeared.
The next morning, Poppy, Cas, Kieran, Naill, Delano, Beckett, Quentyn, and Jasper leave to go Saion's Cove. When they arrive at the foot hills of the Skotos Mountains, the group separates into groups of three to travel through the mist. That night, Cas, Kieran and Poppy cuddle in the mountains. Poppy dreams about the night her parents were killed, and she swears she knows the man that is speaking in her dream. She follows the man only to hear a voice tell her to stop. Although Poppy refuses to stop, a woman appears in the mist in front of her telling her to go home and that she will find her answers there. Cas suddenly grabs her from behind and Poppy realizes that she was about to walk off a cliff. Although Cas and Kieran do not believe that Poppy saw a woman, the mountains begin to shake and Kieran tells Poppy that the shaking was the goddess Aios returning to her sleep place.
The group exits the mist and meets up with everyone else. As they arrive at Saion's Cove, Vonetta meets up with them and realizes that Poppy and Cas married. asks to speak with Cas alone and Beckett offers to take Poppy to see Nyktos's Temple. As Poppy is admiring the view from the chambers, she realizes that Beckett has left and in his place were a dozen angry Atlantians. They called her an Ascended whore and starting stoning her. The sky begins to rain blood and the Atlantians take it as a sign that they are doing what the gods want. A blood tree forms behind Poppy. Poppy takes in all their hatred and turns it back on them, killing all of them. Then hundreds of wolven show up along with Cas.
Poppy is terrified that the wolven are about to attack her. But when Cas sees that she is glowing, he draws his swords and kneels to her. The wolven circle her as the King, Queen, and arrive. The queen demands to know what Cas has done and who has he brought home. The Queen says it is too late and takes off her crown and places it on the floor of Nyktos's Temple. The crown catches on fire and burns off the gilded bone and shines with gold again. Queen Eloana tells everyone to bow to the last Descendant of Nyktos, the rightful Queen to Atlantia.