TITLE: Ishtar’s Blade
AUTHOR: Lisa Blackwood
GENRE: Fantasy Romance

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The premise of this book drew me in. I love myth-based, especially Goddess mythology, books and stories. This book uses the mythology of the Goddess Ishtar, also known as Inanna, and the ancient world of Sumer and Mesopotamia as the setting.

In Ishtar’s Blade, the Goddess Ishtar has created a gryphon species which is capable of shapeshifting to human, and the gryphon royal line rules the islands of New Sumer. A magic dome protects the citizens—human and gryphon—from intrusion by the outside world. The kings are protected by a group of specialized warriors called Shadows. When times of peril approach, a Shadow is born with the mark of Ishtar. The bearer of this mark is blessed with the magical powers of Ishtar and a deep connection with the Goddess.

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Iltani is born with the mark of Ishtar and knows she’s destined to protect her childhood friend, King Ditanu. She’s been secretly in love with the king, but as a mere human, didn’t believe he could love her in return. The story begins when she returns from intense training to take her place as the king’s primary Shadow and protector. Gone is the young boy she knew. Ditanu has grown into a stunning man, and her heart is lost once again. But while she was gone, Ditanu has taken a Royal Consort and sired a litter of cubs. Gryphons mate for life and Iltani despairs, believing the king doesn’t return her love. Through a series of blood ceremonies, the human Blade can become a gryphon. During the first official blood ceremony, disaster strikes and outside enemies breech the protective dome, leading to a mystery Iltani must solve. Who wants her King dead?

The romance in this book is front and center and the main plot. The political intrigue and attack add an element of suspense while moving the love story forward. I loved the world building and the gryphon shapeshifters’ culture. I prefer the romance element to be a subplot, but still this was an enjoyable read. There are four other standalone novels set in this world, following the love story of other characters rather than continuing the story of King Ditanu and Iltani.