This book was very good. More mystery than romance, and a paranormal historical to boot. Likeable characters, interesting magic system, secondary characters that felt like they existed well outside the book… it was very good. So good that I brought the sequal immediately and stayed up to 3am reading them both.
Rough Synopsis: Crane is a lord recently returned from overseas to settle his estate – he’s spent roughly the last 25 years in china, and he’d much rather be back there, doing work he’s good at. On his return to his house, a curse continually prompts him to try and kill himself. He reaches out through a mutal aquaintance for a Shaman – known in england as a practioner. Who he gets is Stephen Day. Stephen had ultimately only taken on the job to sneer at the last memeber of the family that destroyed his parent’s life, but on seeing Crane and his affliction, his genreal sense of duty takes over (and boy does this man have a sense of duty. Which makes sense – his job as magical judge, jury and excutioner is literally his life), and he agrees to help.
What appears to be a straight forwards curse/attempt at murder turns out to be a fair bit more that however, and day stays on both to solve the murder attempt, and to unravel the problems that pop up along the way and involve into something bigger.
I rarely finish books I don’t like, and as such I rarely review books I don’t enjoy. However, there’s not much point in just gushing about it, so I’ll start the actual review by splitting it into sections:
Excellent character development. Stephen and Crane both have interesting pasts, worlds that exist beyond the space in the book. The character development was subtle, moving the characters sideways rather and making them grow into new ways of interacting with each other and the world, rather than forcing them to completely change their ways. Both were competant men, although Crane was more traditionally powerful, in the sense that he went from A to B, stephen tended to negotiate his way around things
Only a once did they feel… not exactly in character. And that had less to do with their chracterisation and actions in the book, and more to do with the lead up to the sex in the book. While the “almost happened” moments felt very real, the only actual sex scene felt a bit too sudden. The change in the characters while they were having sex didn’t really have the space to breathe that I would have prefered, and as such the verble interactions between the two felt a bit staged. (I must admit the very enthusiastic use of “lord” made me raise my eyebrows, mainly because I feel it was a bit over the top.) The dynamic (the dominate/submissive) was there without highlighting it, and it sort of pushed it a bit over the edge and out of the realm of believability, given how Stephen had acted through the book, in regards to class and in regards to Crane in particular.
Side characters were all interesting people, who fit well into the plot but were all well rounded.
I enjoyed the general outline of the plot, up until the start of the third act. There were a whole bunch of characters introduced with no warning, and rather than feeling like it was a natural “look who’s behind the curtain moment”, it instead felt added on. Once I’d accepted that these characters were there, it was fine though. The climax in particular was really good – many of the elements of the rest of the book came together in a fairly spectacular way – but I don’t see why the addition of extra characters was needed.
I think this was what I appreciated most. The author has a very workable, entertaining style that drags you through the story, gives you insight into the characters. A very well done example of close third person.
Also, it should be noted that the second book in this series, which I went on and read at 3am in the morning, is a 5/5 star book