Frost and Notaro don’t hesitate to throw readers right into the action at the beginning of this book, in which we experience a drastic change in Theon’s life, but like him, have no idea about the reason for it. Even though the book description telegraphs his eventual (happier) circumstances, I felt his same visceral fear when he first meets Weylyn, Nica, and Braz, who are alien to Theon on so many levels. Overall, I enjoyed the slow build-up and subtle world-building that we learn more through exposure to the characters than through overt narrative. However, though I loved getting to know each character through their developing relationships with Theon (and each other), I felt a distinct lack when it came to each man’s specific history.
This is not a light-hearted poly fantasy. All four of these characters have certain freedoms, but they are ultimately slaves in a brutal society. The dark moments they experience are tragic, but this is not an overly dark book either. The authors use excellent pacing to balance the blooming joy of these men coming together and deepening bonds that already exist with the stark reminders of their true status in a difficult life.
Unfortunately, I found that the lack of detail about Theon’s origin made the eventual conclusion to this book more obvious. A bit more misdirection instead of keeping his life before House Natas a completely blank slate might have increased the tension on that front. Conversely, an important secondary character remains a total mystery that definitely drew me in, and I can’t wait to learn more about Florian’s role in this saga in future books.
This series starter does not end on a cliffhanger, but it does wonderfully set up the further intrigue and adventure to come in the next phase in these men’s life together. I look forward to learning more about this world, especially if I get more backstory along with it.