Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan
When the forest behind a Minnesota pawn shop turns out to be the doorway into a faerie paradise, Miles Larson doesn’t see any reason to complain. He’s bankrupt, single, and living in a trailer in his backwoods hometown after being laid off from his big city job: yes, he could use a little downtime in a homoerotic dreamland.
But Miles soon learns that in the faerie world nothing is quite as simple as it seems. The beautiful faerie man who has captured Miles’s heart might also be after Miles’s soul. The frightening beast-man who chases him through the forest is actually a noble-hearted human under a terrible curse. And at the center of it all is the deathly beautiful Lord of Dreams, a faerie so powerful that if Miles so much as looks at his face, he will be lost in dreamland forever.
The only hope for Miles’s escape lies in a magic silver flute, an enchanted instrument that holds the answer to the faerie lord’s defeat. But even if Miles is smart and strong enough to wield it, will he dare? All dreams must stay in dreamland, and when the cold light of truth dawns, if there is no reality beneath the love he’s found in the faerie realm, Miles will have to return to his own world—alone.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m going to say that judging by the positive reviews scattered around for this title, it must just be me that didn’t connect with this unfortunately. While I’m a fan of the author’s writing, especially fantasy elements, several aspects of Miles and the Magic Flute just didn’t work for me and left me uneasy at the end. It seems to be just me since the issues I had are rarely mentioned by others so perhaps judge for yourself with the book. It is a dark fantasy, faerie tale that isn’t afraid to delve into the shadows and give an edgy fear to the romance and erotica.
The story is one of many from the publisher based on old fashioned fairy tales. The idea is clearly to incorporate a modern, fantasy twist on the old tale while keeping the life lessons that are at the core. Here Miles is taught that life is not about what you deserve but more so what you make of it when he discovers a magical flute in the pawn shop he’s working in. When the magic turns dark and threatens Miles with tough choices, he has to examine his life up to now and the direction he’s going. True love is not always easy or beautiful.
The plot feels clunky and awkward to me, which is a huge departure from previous works by this author. On the one hand the setting is crafted with trademark authenticity and the barren, freezing wasteland of Minnesota is translated incredibly well. The despair and anger Miles feels at his life and what has become of it is incredibly stark and vivid. This creates an edgy, dark tone to the story that works well and I really enjoyed. Unfortunately the plot also tries incredibly hard to create a fantasy setting in keeping with the Fey but leaves so many questions unanswered I was pretty frustrated. Whenever Miles would ask a bunch of questions, I asked those same questions as the reader. Unfortunately both Miles and the reader are put off with the bland, generic explanation that everything is Magic.
This explanation feels weak and over used as the background and essential skeleton of the plot is not really explained. It’s merely Magic and that is used to leap from action to action without worrying about how and why. I could have followed that but since Miles is stuck in the how and why for the entirety of the book, as the reader I was too. Thus I was equally as confused, frustrated, and angry when nothing is explained or makes sense. Miles only lets go of his cling to logic at the very end and by then I couldn’t follow sadly. Additionally the life lesson, which is always incorporated in fairy tales, here feels as though it’s beating the reader over the head. Miles and the characters repeat frequently that life is not about what you deserve. This isn’t a bad lesson but by the end, I felt clobbered with a metal pipe beating this into my head.
The other issue that compounded the problems is that the erotica scenes felt well, not sexy at all. They feel empty of emotion and the real lack of connection between the participants made me not want to read these scenes. I can see why each are included, mostly, but they feel rote and without the spark of chemistry and interest that have hallmarked earlier works of Cullinan’s. Instead these scenes feel dark, graphic, and I actually cringed at one point to have to read yet another fisting scene that feels creepy. This could just be me but I had a tough time seeing a deep, romantic connection between Miles and Harry. Thus when combined with sex scenes between Miles and several other Fey creatures, nothing seemed to have the sense of excitement and pleasure that I was expecting. Oh and a word to readers there is beast-human sex so some may be bothered by that.
The characters are decently developed but the real failure for me came with the final romantic couple of Miles and Harry. I actually felt more of a connection between Tarris and Murali. Since Harry is cursed to fall in love with anyone and everyone, his ultimate love for Miles feels shallow and unimportant. Miles is just the latest in a long line and happens to care for Harry so match made. I realize this is a simplification but that’s how the story read for me. The high points are the characterization of the Lord of Dreams, the scenes where he is present lend a fabulous dark element to the fantasy. The final culmination is one of the best scenes of the book with a lot of emotion, drama, and suspense even while the reader knows a happy ending is coming.
While I really like this author, I didn’t particularly enjoy this offering. It has the bare bones of a good story that never quite materialized for me. It’s straddling the fence of being an erotic romance and a dark fantasy and the combination just didn’t work. I wished it had committed to one way or the other and likely been more successful. But again that’s just my opinion and many others really enjoyed the darker take on fantasy and faerie tales. Sometimes I’m just the random reader one way or another outside the masses. Decide for yourself!
Get it HERE!
7 thoughts on “Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan”
Yeah, this one seems to be a love it or, if not hate it, not quite get it sort of thing. Sorry you were the latter, but thanks for reviewing it all the same.
It happens. I’m sorry too. A bunch of people love it so just ignore me.
Nope, won’t ignore.
This book and the roller coaster of reactions and my memory with wrestling with it (and its refusal to move) has actually helped me to move a little closer to peace with the process. All I can do is my best. I can’t get it “right.” (God, I hate typing that.)
Someday I’m going to knock your socks off though. Someday. 🙂
I can’t wait! Don’t forget that I adored Hero. So, so, so much. I decided my upcoming vacation would involve re-reading favorites and Hero was put in prime position on the ereader.
And I love you for loving Hero. It doesn’t get a lot of love.
I think the thing with Miles is that it actually isn’t a romance. It is I suppose technically, but it’s more about Miles and his personal growth than falling in love. I keep waiting for someone to point out that Harry is barely there.
Honestly, I don’t know what it is besides a pain in the ass. But it is its own ship now, and thank god for that. It gets to decide its own fate. I’ll just collect royalties. 🙂
Great review, Kassa! This one sounds very interesting — sort of an urban fantasy like Charles de Lint’s work, but X-rated. The blurb makes it sound terrific! I’m probably going to try it. I notice that a lot of authors are doing the re-interpreted fairy tale thing (maybe publishers are putting out themed calls-for-submissions), but it’s always looked to me to be a very difficult assignment to pull off because there is something contrived about most all fairy tales.
Definitely get it and decide for yourself. It’s a tough job – modernizing fairy tales in gay erotic romance so I give them all props for tackling it.