What a difference the introduction makes. I'll admit that the first time around, I abandoned this book because I could not get past the beginning. Ok, Elisa almost dies several times, her country is in chaos, but they are the most boring murder attempts/civil unrest possible. I don't think it's the writing, it's just tossing events after events at us with little character development that made the beginning intolerable for me, however action-packed it was.However, past page 90 is where the book picked up. We see some actual, meaningful character interactions. The beauty of these books is that Elisa grows. She is so weak as Book 2 starts, and I'd venture to say that whatever self-confidence she has gained in book 1 has been lost. I can't blame her. Her husband died, her country is in turmoil, everyone is out to kill her, it seems, and she is afraid of making the wrong move, and of seeming like a weak and ineffective ruler when that is the last thing her country needs right now. She finally grows a backbone, sets aside her heartbreak (one of many, poor girl), and goes in search of the key that might save her country.I loved the adventure as her band of followers set off to their destination. The danger, the intrigue, all written very well. And oh my, Hector. Their relationship, slow and simmering, the sexual tension is just bursting off the page, or rather, my Nook. Her feelings and her confusion between what is best for Elisa the girl versus Elisa the queen are so well-depicted. Duty is the word of the day, and she tries her best to follow it, however heartrending the choice is.My only regret for giving this book a second chance is that now I'm bursting at the seams waiting for the third book.