I was immediately intrigued by this dark fantasy, especially with the added realization as I got further into the story that the brief glimpse I had of the human realm felt so much darker than the land of nightmares. Once I encountered the twist that the lord of nightmares needs some sort of help from the human main character, I was completely hooked.
Eveland creates a complicated and dynamic world that features a multicultural mix of fantasy species without ever leaning too far into any specific region’s stereotypes. The result is like nothing I’ve seen before, but at the same time, the best thing about speculative fiction is that no matter the species, all characters are still people with familiar agendas and motivations. Politics are still politics, even between fantasy realms, and I especially appreciated that Eveland trusts their readers to eventually put all the pieces together themselves instead of spoon-feeding us information that would disrupt the story’s pacing or be out of character for the narration.
The relationship tropes in this story aren’t quite “enemies to lovers” for any pairing, but I was definitely curious how Cian and Nevahn would become close after their conflict-laden introduction. In the same vein, Cian and Hellion are also nowhere near their previous status as lovers at the beginning of this book, which also gives us a healthy dose of second-chance. The details that unfold of their past together are poignant and painful, with Ren almost as much of a present character as the living heroes. That Cian and Hellion, as long-lived fantasy creatures, have interesting and complicated backstories (separately and together) is a given, but Nevahn shines as much more than the token human in this tale. He’s as competent in his own way as the others, and part of the appeal of his entering into a relationship with them is the implication that he’ll be there as an equal.
Never once does Nevahn feel like a replacement for Ren, but I imagine that’s an issue that might crop up in the future—because this story is certainly not finished. The dark moment for this individual story arc is painful for all, but it serves the dual purpose of reminding us just how inhuman Cian is at the same moment that it forces each main character to reexamine their role in each other’s lives. The book does not end on an overt cliffhanger, but much about the relationship and greater external plot is left unresolved, with Eveland giving us just enough to leave us wanting more. I adored this introduction to what promises to be a truly grand epic about death and creation, and I’m already counting down the days to the next installment in the series.