The Cipher, by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Lucy has a secret gift. She is able to sense magic. But when she comes across a magical cipher that seems to call to her, it alarmingly affixes to her arm. What seems to be a trap and a cursed cipher results in disastrous consequences for Lucy and those close to her. And the danger increases when a blackmailer tells Lucy that he knows about her horde of ciphers. As events stumble out of control, Lucy must decide who she can trust when she comes across a conspiracy that will endanger the entire kingdom.
This is a dark and intense story of intrigue, danger, betrayal, set in a backdrop of magic and mystical creatures. Francis has done a wonderful job of creating a unique world where many more tales can be told. The main characters of Lucy and Marten are believable and fallible. And I found myself pulled more into the story whenever they interacted.
Though The Cipher has a slow beginning, the story soon picks up with plenty of adventure and sometimes-violent action. But past the occasional disturbing imagery, there are some points of humor as well as true friendship and romance. This is dark fantasy at its best. I’m looking forward to the next installments in the Crosspoint series.