Rating: 4 stars out of 5 The main characters are a college student named Andrew, who is trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and a mysterious man named Caius, whom he keeps dreaming about after spending the night in a haunted house. I think the blurb tells you everything […]
I would rate this 4 stars.
I thought this was a standalone, but apparently it would have been helpful to read the Lord of White Hell and the Champion of the Scarlet Wolf duologies first. The world-building is amazingly detailed, yet I still feel like I might have had a rounder view of this universe if I read those first, as there are several characters from those books included in this one and they are written in linear time. Things about the court intrigues, neighboring countries, power struggles between church and state, all the differnet types of religious beliefs, and the use of magic obviously all have more background than I was privy to here. While the plot is always easy to follow, the explanations about the magic are not–until the second half. All of the sudden the magic is explained, the emotional connection I wanted kicks in, and the book really comes alive, which saved this story for me. I am left wondering if maybe I would have felt more emotionally attached from the beginning if I had read the other four books? The writing style for the first half is removed, like an observer focused on the main plot and moving about chess pieces. While there is clever dialogue and witty banter, the author never lets them succumb to passion or deeper emotions that the reader can actually sit with and let breathe. Then again, maybe that is because of the constant explanations of past events, but recaps are entirely necessary for this to work.
The story is told from four points of view: Narsi, Atreau, Ariz, and Fedeles. Narsi is a great character, a genuinely kind, clever, brave and warmhearted physician. Atreau the charming rake and novelist, but that deflects from what he is really doing as a spymaster. Ariz is the tragic tale, living under compulsion and being made to do things he doesn’t want to do. Fedeles as the Duke of Rauma is treading a fine line of facing his fears and past traumas to become the hero everyone needs. Although these main leads are all male, there are many strong females characters in this book and the cast is large and diverse. Clara and Oasia are the most intriguing, rich, intelligence, three dimensional female roles I’ve read in secondary characters in a long time. Everyone has various shades of grey as many are not whom they seem on the surface, even Narsi takes to subterfuge with ease. The characters are what bring this to life–why I even cared about all the plots and subplots. Honestly though, more than rooting for them individually, I was rooting for good to win over evil and for anyone to have even a dash of happiness. Just like real life, there is racism, sexism, homophobia, religious zeal, and xenophobia. In the end, it’s about averting a war. The corruption, greed, torture, assassinations, servitude…they are what you would expect from the rich and powerful. There is nothing fast about this book; it’s all slowly built brick by brick. That’s not to say that no action happens, but the pacing is slowed by the world-building–even though this all takes place in a week, it feels much longer. Suddenly everything happens at once and it’s over.
If you are wanting an m/m romance, this may not hold your interest. If you want a complex, painstakingly detailed, queer renaissance type high fantasy novel with a tangle of multiple plots and slow burn, fairly chaste romantic pairings, then you might like to try this book. This is also going to be a duology, so be aware this doesn’t end here. Right now I am frustrated on many levels. While I acknowledge the first half was neccessary, I didn’t love it and was getting bored. After the second half, I am completely sucked in and want to read the next book right now this minute. I am also sad that reading this might have ruined the four previous books for me, because I will know what happens as I believe this duology is the end of the series.
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Rating: 4 stars out of 5 For the first nine chapters, the reader is in Hunter’s POV as he navigates his crush on Shawn, a colleague at the hospital he works at. He is beset by guilt over the death of his boyfriend. Hunter’s drinking and PTSD are a source of worry for his friends […]
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Holden moved away from Baltimore nine years ago; his life is now in Ithaca where he’s a veterinarian. He has his best friend Gavin and his pit bull Peanut. But when he gets a call his twin brother Hendrix has been shot in the line of duty, he rushes […]
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 This is a short novella starting six months after the previous story, The Castaway Prince. You could read this as a standalone with no issues, but it would be more enjoyable read in order. Prince Stephan of Seveihar is living in the southern kingdom of Segor with his lover […]
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Archie, Archibald Jaeger, is from a long line of respected finders. Unfortunately, his talent for finding doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. His business partner and best friend Edie, is the only person keeping him from being a hermit. When a vampire named Gael comes looking for a […]
I would rate this 4 stars.
This is the fourth book in this series, but can sincerely be read as a standalone. I haven’t read all the series in order, but didn’t feel at a disadvantage at all. In fact, this is a great example of how to blend pertinent information into a story without awkward or wordy recaps. In the course of doing a favor for a friend, David hacks something that brings him to the attention of the Moreau Initiative, a group of scientists researching and experimenting on shifters. He mother assigns him a bodyguard, Buddy aka Theo, he doesn’t think he needs, as he goes on a three week cross-country road trip for a college campus tour before he starts graduate school for journalism.
This is a great road trip story featuring a slew of tropes: age gap, forced proximity, fake boyfriends, gentle giant, and bodyguard crush. Since Buddy is a bear shifter, there is some humor thrown in during a leather night at a LGBTQ+ Irish pub. David’s skills match his foxy, inquisitive nature, lending him maturity when he could fly off the handle and derail things. I like that he stops and thinks. His family plays a large part as his mother is the head of the Western Division Shifter Council Headquarters, his older brother Aidan is her aide, and his mother’s fiance Darren is a member. I liked that there is a strong female leader who can direct the shifters, even in battle. Although Buddy’s family is not highlighted in this book (I think his brothers are in previous books), he helped raise his brothers. His patient and nurturing way is just what David needs. David’s fierce loyalty and consideration is just what Buddy needs. Though fast, they grow close by being honest and sharing confidences. The action throughout the book was always leading to a violent conclusion. It’s a shame the bad guys here, at every step of the way, are quite one dimensional, and none too clever. Also, the emotional exchanges with and between the other characters are not as rich as those between David and Buddy. This was an enjoyable ride, with an interesting plot, likeable leads, and a fast but realistically compact romance in intense situations. I think I’ll go back and read the ones I missed.
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Rating: 4 stars out of 5 This is book two in a series and they would be best read in order as this starts the day after the last book ends and has an overarching plotline. The bump in their relationship has passed with Ethan deciding to stay instead of returning to Earth. Although Ethan […]
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 This is part of the Criminal Delights series, which are standalones by different authors revolving around dark themes. Pay attention to the trigger warnings. This book is about a lawyer named Cowan Kingley, who is a hired assassin. The reader sees him at different ages to establish him as […]
I would rate this book 4 stars.
Ian is the CEO of the family business and a slightly bratty sub. Teran, his husband and Master of five years, is an investigator with the state police. This is a short prequel to a future book that establishes: how they met, their couple dynamic, and what a typical day is like for them. This works well from Ian’s POV to show how much he enjoys all of this. He loves and is proud of his husband. This story has elements of BDSM, but describes the tools in terms of sound and touch, more than visual–shapes are described more than color, for instance. This is sexy, but really a primer for the book that will explore their vacation at a BDSM resort. I liked when they took a break from those roles for regular dinner conversation. I would say this is effective at establishing them as a couple and giving the reader a taste of the author’s writing style.
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