I just finished reading this book today (breezed through it in half a day and have gotten nothing else done), and I HAVE to talk about it. If I could give this more than five stars, I would. Phenomenal characters in a uniquely twisted setting that is written beautifully.
Plot and Romance
Our main character, Michael, is a unique, not yet fully understood, paranormal being. He has the able to use something called the Flame, which is a paranormal energy. There are others like him, but he seems to be the strongest. He learns this when Anlu'kyr (vampires, basically) try to kidnap him and use him for this unique ability, but he's saved by the Guardians--a special task force made up of other Flame users, witches, and shifters. This is where he meets Gabriel. And together, they head to safety, battling Anlu'kyr, their Prince Alexei (who has some weird bond with Michael we still don't fully understand), and their army.
Ohhhh, Gabriel. The romance is strong! Gabriel is a werewolf. And this universe separates shifters from werewolves. He has a tragic backstory that I can't wait to delve into more. He's gentle with Michael, but he's under a lot of pressure from the council to keep Michael contained. Especially once everyone learns more about what he really is. Ohhhh . . . mysterious.
I'll admit, I'm having a hard time describing this book's plot without giving too much away. The world building is also pretty complex, but it's essentially a twisted, unique version of vampires vs shifters, with a few other species thrown in for good measure.
Just read it.
Warning: This book contains magical dubious consent that reminds me of when Omegas go into heat in omegaverse books. If that isn't your thing, this might not be a good fit for you.
Michael is . . . moody, snarky, frustrating, and yet super relatable. I did find myself skipping some of his internal monologue, but other than that, I think he's a really good, average-joe kind of hero, and I love that. He's also straight . . . apparently. Yes, this is a gay-for-you romance.
Gabriel is complicated. There's a large part of this book where you don't know if he's the villain and Prince Alexei is the hero. And I'm still not 100% certain Prince Alexei is truly evil. But Gabriel really does care for Michael, and it shines through in some of his chapters, which we get in the latter half of the book. He finds most of Michael's snark and bitching adorable, but he secretly loves how pliant and submissive he is in the bedroom.
Prince Alexei is the villain in this story, and we don't get any chapters from his perspective. However, Gabriel and the prince both hinted at a lover they used to share, and so I'm not unconvinced this won't turn into an MMM. Not really sure what I want, if I'm honest. Guess it'll depend on how everything turns out. But Prince Alexei is a charming, controlling asshole who I might secretly love. Shhh . . . don't tell anyone.
This is, essentially, a shifter vs vampire world. Which I know is cliche, but it's actually pretty unique. There are faeries and witches, and the vampires (the anlu'kyr) have a half-faerie, half-anlu'kyr prince. And honestly, they both sound awful on a government level. Like, I'm not sure who is worse. There's a lot of history and culture in this, and it really helps light the world on fire for me in my mind. When I'm reading, I much prefer an active form of world building--cultural norms the main character takes part in, places they travel to, history they learn, etc. Rather than just hearing about it through the narration. It really brings everything to life.
Beautiful writing. As evidenced by the editor and proofreader listed in the copyright section, this has been well written, well edited, and well proofread. Which is a rare combination in the romance world. (Not just shitting on other romance authors, Fifth Horseman wasn't done that well either). Genuinely, this book has a wonderful style, a great use of first-person perspective, and is error free (as far as I noticed, anyway). I cannot fault the writing at all.