Hawk granted my wish and returned to his clever and imaginative Hexworld series—except moving the action to a new time and place. Prohibition Chicago is rife with story fodder, especially where magic is involved, and this book is no different. Hawk takes the traditional, in which a small-town guy escapes to the big city and finds himself in over his head (with bonus romance), and elevates it to the unique. Sam immediately stole my heart much how he steals Alistair’s (even if Alistair has no desire to admit it).
The cheetah is my favorite large cat, so I was already predisposed to love Alistair Gatti. I also enjoyed the full spectrum that encompasses the rest of his adopted family. Hawk continues to have a gift for providing worldbuilding details (in this case, also sharing how the world has evolved since his first collection in this setting) without info-dumping or coming across as ham-handed. Even though this book does not directly involve the police, a mystery still directs the plot in the case of a shocking murder and subsequent missing hex that multiple powerful parties are anxious to get their hands (paws) on.
Based on how familiars have been historically subjugated in Hawk’s world, it’s easy to see how they might thrive in the more “lawless” environment of a gang-controlled city (even if certain rights have been bestowed since the previous books). Except war takes as much as society gives, and Alistair has not recovered from the emotional wounds of his experience in and directly after the Great War. His tentative relationship with Sam does not “fix” this damage, and the romance itself does not follow the pattern previously established in this world’s books. I look forward to following the further adventures of Sam and Alistair in this new yet familiar setting as Hawk once again turns reader expectations on their head in the very best way.