- Read my review of the first book in the R’iyah Family Archives series, A Mage’s Guide to Human Familiars
I absolutely fell in love with the sweetly quirky characters in the first book in this series, especially in how the multiple types of relationships blended into one love story. I was excited to see these guys back in action now that their mage and familiar bonds have settled. Sherwood’s books are always a fun romp, which is an added bonus.
After a spicy date night shared by Bel, Nico, and Garen, they are called to investigate mysterious deaths and disappearances in Australia. Overall, this external conflict is an exciting, new adventure with familiar (no pun intended) friends in the form of other mages that Bel regularly works with.
Once they arrive in Australia, I appreciated that Bel and co. find themselves working with competent military leadership. I didn’t quite understand how the Australian/American joint based worked, or why they were supported strictly with U.S. Marines, but it’s possible to suspend disbelief regarding those issues. I loved that the squadron leader was a woman who received no disrespect from her teammates, and especially that she was able to work with the MAD agents with no distracting and unnecessary conflicts regarding jurisdiction. All sides work together effectively, and even the training scenarios are hilarious with the application of ridiculous magic. My only serious quibble is that I felt the final confrontations with both monsters were a bit of a let-down, and I remained with questions about who initially sealed them up. Sherwood missed an excellent opportunity to feature and/or create magic specific to Australia’s indigenous people in this open urban fantasy world.
However, the true conflict of this book is teased throughout the beginning portion of the story, in which Bel still deals with a significant amount of anxiety caused by his experience with the familiar he summoned before Nico. So, obviously, said former familiar is part of the Marine unit they work with in Australia. Bel is still a badass, professional mage even when he’s hurting emotionally, and I loved the additional level of detail we get about his history with Spencer. Unfortunately, Spencer came off as fairly one-dimension on the page. His anger and current treatment of Bel are inexcusable, but never quite explained. The constant barrage against Bel and his familiars does lead Bel to understand he might have lingering post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and make peace with his past. I suppose that is the actual point of the conflict, but again, Sherwood could have given us just that much more.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining and (when appropriate) steamy book, and Sherwood remains on my authors to follow list. Fans of this book who also appreciate horror should check out the Taine McKenna Adventures series by Lee Murray, and fans of Murray’s epic adventure books who also enjoy comedy and nontraditional relationships will definitely enjoy this series.