jlgribble.com | book cover of Sledge and Claw (Hammer and Fist: Lextalion #1) by Jennifer Cody

I’m really into the genre differences between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, especially when the main character includes supernatural traits, and this book takes that distinction to an entirely new level. The unique spin Cody puts on the fantasy elements of this series is that the non-humans are from different dimensions for which Earth is the crossing point. And even though the majority of Earth has no idea about any of this, any nexus point of sentient beings plus travel equals bureaucracy. Fascinating magics from multiple races (and mixes of races) abound due to a genetic component in one’s heritage, where someone previously thought to be one hundred percent human might have a latent ability. And, as in the case of protagonist Lex, someone can be a literal melting pot of heritages that produce immense power.

Cody doesn’t waste time telling the reader what Lex is at the beginning of the story. Instead, we learn about his capabilities as they become relevant to the plot. However, Lex is not some superhero with fancy powers as needed to save the day. He fulfills his role in the Inter-dimensional Immigration Agency (IDIA) because of his powers, but it is always clear that his abilities have significant repercussions. Eventually, the balance shifts so that Lex ends up sacrificing elements of his personal freedom to remove the threat to the agency that provides his livelihood in return for strong loyalty. Lex is no hero—I look forward to learning more about how his inner predatory and dark natures deal with this as the series progresses.

Alas, he does the best he can, even when the drawbacks to his powers force his hand in numerous ways. Remember how I said this book wasn’t a paranormal romance? This book features a decent amount of steaminess across the pages. However, Cody does an excellent job of balancing sex that is not quite sexy, threads consent issues with care, and is devoid of emotionally based romance (but plenty of pheromone-laden instant connection). This inextricable facet of Lex’s life is shown as both inconvenient and tragic through the twists of the plot. While some of the resolutions found here might lead to a real romance, Lex and the character in question will have a compelling road to walk together to get there.

While trying to save his job and defeat a significant big bad, Lex the non-hero accidentally acquires a family along the way. His new trainee has definite hero potential, the extra-dimensional connections are irritating but manageable, and even he’s a little bit afraid of the previously mentioned instant connection.

The content warning for a cliffhanger ending is there for a reason. Cody does provide a snippet from the planned sequel to ease a bit of the sting, but it’s clear that the job Lex starts in Knoxville might be far from finished. I had to force myself to go to bed rather than start the other novel set in this universe, and I will anxiously await the next installment of this series.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

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