Having previously only read serial novellas by this author, I was delighted when she announced a stand-alone novel-length project. This book contains all of the elements that I have come to love this author for, such as satisfying paranormal romance arcs featuring unique and fantastical characters. Draper is still one of the few “reverse harem” authors I have found who incorporates the harem element as a plot point in her stories rather than a titillating excuse for lots of sex. In this particular case, the story would have been satisfying with only the relationship between Blythe and Raina. However, including Hakan and Mizu is entirely relevant to the needs of the story, with the added benefit of highlighting under-represented sexualities (bisexuality and asexuality) in an accepting and loving context.
Initially, I thought that bringing an alternate universe version of “the United States” into this story was unnecessary. However, it allows Draper to fill an influential political role with a character of indigenous descent. The setting also contextualizes how the characters of different ethnicities are in their varying social positions without unnecessary explanation.
By the very concept of the magic system used, this book also comments on gender and social dynamics in a manner that never feels heavy-handed. Raina’s desire to change the status quo does not put her on any sort of pedestal; instead, she is down-to-earth enough that her actions in support of her beliefs come off as sensible rather than revolutionary.
I would happily revisit these characters or this world in the future. They all captured my heart, and the book’s conclusion introduced plenty of changes to the world—the possibility for conflict means a sequel would be relevant rather than self-indulgent.
So, why 4 stars? The text desperately needed a final pass by a copy editor or proofreader before publication. The story is excellent and engaging enough that I never felt the urge to put it down when I stumbled across errors, but I cringed every time.
Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.