I’m spoiled for choice these days, which means I don’t often take a chance on new authors. However, this book came highly recommended by an author I enjoy and features the sort of genre-blending that I love to promote, so I jumped at the chance to read an advanced copy. The writing style does feature a few quirks common to early writers, but they were more amusing than distracting, and the shorter length meant I spent an enjoyable evening with this urban fantasy adventure.

The story launches with interesting calls to action for the two main characters. Penn and Jude have both similarities and differences that make their dynamic compelling as they are forced into a partnership to deal with a world they know nothing about. The supernatural elements start low-key but grow more fascinating with each reveal. The adventure aspect, on the other hand, immediately sets up life-or-death stakes. A lot is going on with the different factions at play, but rather than feeling lost, I found it exciting to uncover the mystery along with our heroes. The breakneck pace almost verges on too much, with even the quieter moments contributing important elements to the overall story. It wouldn’t be sustainable for a longer book, but it’s not too bad here.

The romance that develops between Penn and Jude is difficult to parse out from the paranormal facets of this story. Multiple factors are at play, from the obvious trauma bond element of their shared circumstances to the “fated mates” aspect continually reinforced by outside information sources. No matter which side of the argument you fall on to explain what blooms between them, the connection between these men is real and adds an important emotional draw to the rest of the story.

Overall, I have no regrets about spending an evening getting to know a new author. Balsam has sown the seeds of an intriguing urban fantasy world with this book. Most of the action may take place in Europe, but he also gets lots of bonus points for incorporating plenty of elements that are not rooted in Eurocentrism. It is obviously the first installment of a series but ends at a definitive place for the main characters while leaving plenty of room to expand the story later. I look forward to seeing what comes next for these characters, especially since they think they are living a “happily ever after” but it’s so clear there’s much more to this world at play.

Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars
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