Read my reviews of the previous books in the Magi Accounts series:
Our Hearts That Tie Us (#0.5) | The Scars That Bind Us (#1) | A Kiss to Revive Me (#1.5) | The Shackles That Hold Us (#2) | A Date to Impress Him (#2.5) | A Purpose That Restores Us (#3) | A Holiday to Sustain Us (#3.4)
This side novel to the main Magi Accounts series finally ties up all the hints Notaro has dropped about the relationship brewing between Jude, Kulani, and River, but most of all, it finally allows us to spend time with Jude. I’ve been curious about him as a character since the first main book in the series, as the human focus to his partner Madeo. This author has always done an excellent job of making Jude a full character in his own right, but in this book, I especially loved seeing both his life and how magic works from his perspective.
Jude is the newcomer to the Ono-Nai pride, where shifters Kulani and River have been circling each other for years. Both before and after Jude’s arrival, their interactions seem to shift (no pun intended) between adorable kitty-style flirting and silly human angst. Alas, Jude only adds to the angst as all three characters initially follow the assumption that a relationship can develop only between two of them, and they are each promptly self-sacrificing for the other two. A lot of the unnecessary angst in this book boils down to a sheer lack of communication between the characters; however, all three of them experienced enough trauma growing up that I’ll allow a certain lack of emotional intelligence when it comes to relationships. The story is still fairly “slow burn” even when the trio formally gets together. Because of how physically affectionate the shifters are by their very nature, I found myself appreciating the focus on developing a solid foundation with dating and quality time rather than a rush into bed.
The external story elements of this book once again focus on the heartbreaking reality of life for shifters and magi in this world. The Red Cloth witches mystery doesn’t progress too much in this side story, though we do get at least one clue that I hope is relevant later on. Mostly, I want the systemic inequality issues of this country to be fixed, but we also can’t forget about how this fantastic cast of characters came together, as a semi-military operation protecting their city against monsters emerging through breaches into another world. Overall, Notaro continues to deftly balance multiple issues, truly fleshing out this complicated, dynamic world to support her fascinating characters.