4.5 stars rounded up
This is why I love blogs. This book didn’t even make my radar but it got some buzz on blogs and GR and when Jen wrote a rave review of the book, I knew I had to get it. For me, the book absolutely lives up to the hype and it’s engaging, exciting, interesting, and the start of, I hope, a well crafted series. I honestly didn’t even realize the pages were turning until I was almost at the end and had to put the book down for a moment. That almost never happens for me. I can eagerly and easily recommend this and hope other readers enjoy it as much as I did.
Lucien Vaudrey, the new Lord Crane, has returned from China after 20 years to reconcile the estate and affairs of his late father and older brother. He didn’t expect to be besieged by unknown enemies. Needing the help of a shaman or magic user, Crane calls in a favor from an old friend. Magic practitioner Stephen Day only agreed to help out of a sense of duty and responsibility. He hates the Cranes with good reason. Stephen’s father was destroyed by Lucien’s father and Stephen hasn’t forgotten. However, Lucien is not at all like his other family members and desperately needs magical help.
When I read the summary I assumed there would be a small magical scene to put the two men together and then the focus would be on how the two fall in love and get over bad blood in the past. Yet I was delighted to find out that wasn’t true at all. Instead the focus was on the problems Crane was having and which magic user, witch or warlock, did them. Stephen was there to help and stop the attacks, while discovering their source and dispensing justice. The issue of the family problem was put aside neatly and early on much to my happiness. It wasn’t a main issue but it created an important detail. The whole story was incredibly tightly plotted with layers of detail and setup. I loved the intensity regarding Crane’s problems and Stephen’s attempt to fix them and nothing felt superfluous or unimportant.
This led to a lot of action and entertaining dialogue. The various secondary characters were exhilarating. From the faithful friend/servant Merrick to the disgruntled townspeople and even the evil villains, they all felt distinct and personable. Each character was imbued with life and purpose, keeping my attention and focus on the story in every scene. I was surprised that my attention honestly never waivered. The witty banter and truly excellent writing had me hooked from the very beginning and never let go. The magical elements were incorporated well and felt organic to both the story and timeframe.
I honestly couldn’t find much fault with the story. I did feel that the villains’ motives were a little murky. I can appreciate that the author spent a considerable amount of time setting up the scene and the various players but the explanation seemed to happen frantically and I couldn’t grasp all of it. Stephen was throwing out names and events so quickly, and I was wrapped up in the pace of the action and emotion, that even upon rereading I was left slightly confused. It didn’t always make sense to me. Additionally while I loved the idea of Stephen and Crane together for the sake of the story, I personally didn’t really believe their chemistry – I didn’t see Stephen as the submissive in bed type. But this was an incredibly minor point as there’s only one sex scene at the end and hopefully that bond will build in subsequent books.
Overall I highly recommend this book. It’s entertaining, engaging, delightful, clever, and incredibly well written. As a new to me author I’m extremely excited to see what other books they have to offer. I personally loved that the book focused on the plot and action over romance so readers should keep that in mind. Hopefully everyone will enjoy it as much as I did.