Sticks and stones and moss and leaves… that’s what Tatiana is made of.
Tatiana is a replacement—an exchanged child—created to take the place of a perfect human baby and left in a cradle on a cold, winter night.
But twenty years later, her time is running out. The creature who made Tatiana returns and challenges everything she knows. Not only is Tatiana not human, and her family not her family, but the human world is killing her.
Determined to give her family the life—and daughter—they deserve, Tatiana journeys to a strange world, one of fire and dust, and concrete and glass. There, she’ll risk everything to find the human girl she replaced, and make things right.
But she won’t be alone. Grisha, a roamer, and Fedir, a mysterious shifter, find her and vow to help her.
And they aren’t the only ones.
Soon, Shubin, Taras, and Kopala, are caught up in Tatiana’s quest. Fascinated by this exchanged girl, the five otherworldly creatures will put their trust in her.
But hope is a fragile thing, and Tatiana’s been burned before. Will she come to believe she’s finally found a place to belong?
**Forge and Fire is a slow burn reverse harem romance**
I love the world Ripley has created for this series. The past is the beginning as the rusalka looks at the human child and desires to keep her.
Almost twenty years later the story continues as Tatiana with her mother finds she has little time to live and there is no possible cure. It’s once her father, brother and grandmother (Babusya) show up that she finds out exactly what she is.
Her Babusya lets her know in a rather brutal way and the rusalka had to come to the human world to save her. A replacement, Tatiana shouldn’t have lived beyond a few days after the exchange. However the rusalka was followed and this is when Tatiana is offered a choice.
This is one of my favorite scenes.
“Why are you here?” Tatiana asked, ignoring the fact that yet another person had pointed out her short life span.
“I saw a rusalka. And I’m a curious guy.”
“You followed her here.”
“Yes.” He shifted, moving gracefully from the floor to the bed. “Here. I can’t stay much longer, but when I saw you, I realized I had to offer you the choice.”
Tatiana stared at him in confusion. “I understand the individual words leaving your mouth, but the way you string them together makes no sense.” He laughed again, the dull light from the one lamp left in her room turning his hair the color of a summer sunset. Leaning over, he knocked her gently with his shoulder. “As a feia, you have a right to live in Korolevstvo. I’ll take you.”
“Again. No idea what you’re talking about.”
One side of Grisha’s mouth lifted in a half-smile, but it didn’t touch his eyes. “You don’t have much time left. Korolevstvo is our home. The place where people like you and me come from. You’re not meant to live here, surrounded by iron.” He let out a breath and grimaced. “It’s in the air from a hundred and fifty years of smelting. No wonder you are sick.”
Tatiana studied him. His eyes were compassionate, and he didn’t say a word as she trailed her gaze over his features and clothing, down to his shoes. “What is feia?” she asked again.
Grisha sighed. “It’s impossible to describe us, because we are everything.” His smile this time was a little wicked and had Tatiana wishing her bedroom had two doors. “It’s much easier to show you what feia are.”
Talking to Grisha was like talking in circles and riddles. He made no sense. But then again, nothing in her life made sense right now. She wanted to disbelieve him. He had to be crazy.
Except he had the same explanation as Babusya. They used the same words: exchanged child, changeling.
“I don’t trust you.”
“Nor should you!” He adjusted his position, pausing before he perched on the bed. “May I?”
She waved her hand. “Go ahead.”
“There aren’t many like you, but seeing the rusalka has piqued my curiosity. I can’t help wondering, who did you replace? Is your human counterpart alive? Hidden in Korolevstvo?” He glanced out the window and ran his fingers down his face. It made a rough sound and Tatiana found herself studying Grisha closer.
“You have stubble.” She almost lifted her hand to touch him.
He grinned. “Yes. Even if I am different, I am still male. We— most of us— grow hair on our bodies. Some of us more than others.”
“You’re trying to trick me.” He seemed to enjoy her joke. Actually, he seemed to enjoy everything she did, if his grin was anything to go by. Tatiana relaxed into her pillows. She should have been much more worried than she was, but Grisha put her at ease. “Trickery is a feia trait. I hope you’ll come to believe what I tell you. It will be the only thing to save your life.”
It may have been crazy, but Tatiana was starting to believe him. Babusya was one thing, but for Grisha to arrive so closely on the heels of her revelation…
And of course, there was the rusalka.
Was that creature her true mother? If what she said was true, she’d fashioned Tatiana and breathed life into her form. But she loved her family. Those feelings were real, weren’t they?
“Am I not real?” she asked.
Rather than put her at ease, Grisha merely shrugged. “As real as me.”
“My family is here. My mother, father, brother.” She clenched her teeth together before uttering, “And my babusya.”
“They’re not really your family,” he said, not unkindly. “They have a daughter, and she is not you.”
“Do you think she’s still alive?”
“The real you?” he asked.
Ouch. “I’m the real me,” she countered, but… “Yeah. Her.”
“Maybe, if the rusalka didn’t lose interest in the child as she got older. She came here when you were in distress, so she does have some maternal instincts.” Grisha pushed off the bed. “I don’t know how you stand it. I’m getting sick to my stomach. Are you coming or not?”
How could she leave her family? Even if they weren’t her family by birth, they were certainly the family of her heart. And it would destroy them if she just disappeared.
“Thank you, Grisha,” she said. “I can’t go with you.”
He narrowed his eyes, face wiped clean of the smile she’d gotten used to. “You’ll die here.”
She couldn’t shrug like it wouldn’t matter, but her family was more important to her than anything. And no one could tell her for sure she wouldn’t survive. She’d made it this long, hadn’t she? Grisha waited, but Tatiana could see that his skin had lost some of its glow, and between his statement and her silence, his eyes had become sunken.
As if he couldn’t wait another moment, he stood. The wind blew outside her window and he turned toward it. He tilted his head, listening, before he faced her again. “Good luck to you, exchanged girl.”
“You scared the crap out of me Grisha, but it’s been interesting. Thanks for not murdering me.”
His eyes lit up, and he laughed, but sobered quickly. “It is a waste for you to stay here.”
Ripley Proserpina. Forge and Fire: The Replacement Book 1 (Kindle Locations 455-458).
Grisha is only the first feia to make an appearance on this very strange night. For Tatiana the second one from Fedir helps her to decide on a path to bring the human Tatiana back where she belongs.
Korolevstvo is a strange and alive world, filled with many dangers and it also seemed to be poisoned. I loved the way Tatiana meets the rest of her guys Kopala, Shubin and Taras. Each of them does something to help and protect her.
Plenty of action, as we get to know this world and the feia that inhabit it. As they decide to stay together there are other problems to resolve.
I can’t wait to see this relationship grow and what other things they will face in the next book.
5 Contented Purrs for Ripley!
Ripley Proserpina spends her days huddled near a fire in the frozen northern wilds of Vermont. She lives with her family, two magnificent cats, and one dog who aspires to cat-hood. She is the author of the Reverse Harem series, The Searchers, Midnight’s Crown, and the young adult/fantasy duet, Wishes and Curses.