Serenade of Kings is second in The Gailean Quartet and serves as a prequel to Prelude of Fire. It tells the backstory of Gailea and Ragnar; we met both characters in Prelude of Fire. They were revealed to be Ashlai’s parents, and Ragnar of course served as the main villain. So how did he get that way? And how did someone who stands for justice and truth like Gailea end up with him?
When we meet Gailea, she is a servant in the castle of Adelar. Moragon is the king—a usurper, avpowerful mental magician, and obsessed with musical magic. Musical magic is a gift that can only be received at birth, so he'll never be able to use it himself, but he is searching for a strong musical magician to use in a plot he is scheming with his sorcerer, Chevalier.
Gailea is treated pretty lowly, but that’s partly to protect her identity. Gailea was the daughter of the true heirs of Adelar, who both died in a war fighting for equality. Gailea is also no ordinary musical mage; she has the rare gift of creating her own song-spells from scratch. If Moragon ever learned about her true lineage and powers, he would stop at nothing to control her and use her for his own.
Crispin Ragnar, Moragon’s nephew, also lives in the castle, as does Moragon’s brother Alastair Ragnar, known as “the snake.” Alastair is charming and conniving. He is the one person that the naive Crispin trusts. Crispin is insecure because his fire powers have not yet manifested themselves. I like that they both have the last name of “Ragnar,” because at least in the beginning of the book, there is some ambiguity over which will become the villain seen in Book 1.
Through a series of misadventures, Crispin and Gailea meet, eventually become friends, and court intrigue starts to unfold. They learn of a plot against the queen’s life; Moragon has no great love for his queen, and he and Chevalier are using some sort of dark magic on her, experimenting with a spell that Moragon hopes to perfect for even darker purposes. To use the spell’s full strength, he needs the magic of a strong musical mage.
At some point, Gailea learns more about the sorcerer Chevalier; Moragon keeps him in check by a collar around his neck that dampens his magic. He is basically a prisoner, forced to do whatever Moragon wants. Chevalier tells Gailea of a prism hidden in his chambers and says that if and when the time comes for her to flee this place, to take the prism with her as he believes it will help her (yes, this is the prism from Book 1).
Gailea’s powers and lineage eventually come to light, and Crispin gains his fire powers as his passion for Gailea grows, along with an urge to protect her. Moragon soon desires to make Gailea his queen—once he can finish killing off the current queen—and use his mental magic to force her to use her music for his whims. The king soon sees Crispin as a threat, because of his powers presenting themselves and his own royal lineage. Crispin and Alastair flee to raise armies to attack Moragon. Gailea meanwhile does her best to save the queen—though to no avail—and to ward off Moragon’s advances.
Crispin and Alastair eventually attack and overthrow Moragon, who vanishes. Gailea also helps win the war via her musical magic. Crispin takes the throne, marries Gailea, and at first all is well. But contentions soon form; Alastair helped Crispin to win the war against Moragon, but he is still conniving, seeking to basically rule through controlling Crispin and his actions. Gareth and Donyon, whom Moragon had stolen the throne from in the first place, are gathering their own armies. Gailea says that they should try to form a treaty, whereas Alastair says they must eliminate all of their enemies.
Crispin feels torn between listening to Alastair and listening to Gailea. Crispin has been indecisive and easily swayed in the past, and now this starts to become a problem, especially as he starts to gain more power. He grows more distrustful and starts to go mad, especially when Gailea tries to take matters into her own hands and contacts Gareth and Donyon herself, hoping to create some kind of peace. Gailea gives birth to Merritt, their first child. Things eventually unravel to the point that Crispin doesn’t believe the child is his, but rather thinks that Gailea cheated on him with his friend Tytonn. Throughout the book, Tytonn does nothing but support Crispin and protect Gailea, so such an accusation is ludicrous, but Crispin lets Alastair’s whispers get to him.
As Crispin delves deeper into madness, changing into a different person than the man she fell in love with, and as more mishaps unravel that involve Chevalier and Elda, Crispin’s sister, Gailea knows she has to do something. Pregnant with their second child—Ashlai, the star of Prelude of Fire—she uses her musical magic to escape yet another tyrant king, this time her husband.
Gareth and Donyon end up attacking to retake the Adelaran throne. A final showdown occurs between Alastair and Crispin; Crispin murders Alastair, the man he once trusted, declaring himself as the only Ragnar. Gailea meanwhile flees toward the ocean, to seek a safe haven for her children. Book 3 will pick up again in this exact spot, telling more of Gailea’s backstory.