Title: Miles and the Magic Flute
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M fantasy romance
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A complex and involving fantasy story where miserable Miles is taught the meaning of happiness after he finds an enchanted flute.
When the forest behind a Minnesota pawn shop turns out to be the doorway into a faerie paradise, Miles Larson doesn’t see any reason to complain. He’s bankrupt, single, and living in a trailer in his backwoods hometown after being laid off from his big city job: he could use a little downtime in a homoerotic dreamland.
But Miles soon learns that in the faerie world, nothing is quite as simple as it seems. The beautiful faerie man who has captured Miles’s heart might also be after Miles’s soul. The frightening beast who chases him through the forest is actually a noble-hearted human under a terrible curse. And at the center of it all is the deathly beautiful Lord of Dreams, a faerie so powerful that if Miles so much as looks at his face, he will be lost in dreamland forever.
The only hope for Miles’s escape is a magic flute, an enchanted instrument that holds the answer to the faerie lord’s defeat. But even if Miles is smart and strong enough to wield it, will he dare? When the cold light of truth dawns, if there is no reality beneath the love he’s found in the faerie realm, Miles will have to return to his own world—alone.
I have to admit when I first started reading this book I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. This was mainly due to the character of the eponymous Miles who isn’t particularly likeable when we first meet him. He’s recently lost his high powered job in Atlanta and has moved back to his Minnesota small home town with his tail between his legs. Now, instead of a swanky office, a secretary and a hot city boyfriend, Miles has a job in a pawnbrokers and lives with friends in a trailer. His hot ex-boyfriend is sending gloating texts with pics of a new lover and all his Atlantan friends have abandoned him. Miles feels very sorry for himself indeed, and looks down his nose at the rustic lifestyle of his friends Julie and Patty who own the pawnbrokers. Miles also has a strange fascination with the woods behind the shop and he often goes there to sulk and rage at the world for the loss of his nice job and friends in Atlanta. Things change for Miles when a strange flute is brought into the shop and he’s catapulted into a dream world filled with both beauty and horror.
As I said, Miles is rather difficult to like at the beginning. He’s selfish and has a far too high opinion of himself, to be the slightest bit sympathetic. Having read further into the book, I began to realise that actually I wasn’t supposed to like Miles at first, because as the story progresses Miles begins to realise that what he had in Atlanta wasn’t so good after all, and that he’s a better person in Minnesota than he was in Atlanta. It was this gradual change in Miles that I felt was perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the story, as he grows as a person and ends up stronger as a result of his strange experiences.
Another aspect which worked well was the fantasy dream world that drags Miles into a confusing place where looks can be deceiving. I liked the uneasy tone to the story during these parts, as Miles is unsure of who to trust and is pulled further and further into danger. Some parts were very tense, and others frustrated me, as I knew Miles’ was making the wrong decisions time after time. Those of you who like a beauty and the beast storyline are going to like this book as Miles has to make a choice between the beautiful fae, Terris, whose handsome looks and sultry body appeal to Miles, and the enchanted beast Harry, whose rank breath, gigantic dick and threats of rape and torture frighten Miles but his kind eyes confuse and attract Miles. The fantasy story is complex and involving, but never so intricate that it got confusing. The usual fairy tale messages can be drawn from Miles’ adventures – be true to yourself, always look beneath the surface for true meaning, don’t be influenced by money or beauty – and I enjoyed the familiarity of the fantasy, along with the freshness of some of the ideas, such as the use of silver and the nature of the entrapment.
There were a couple of little niggles to the story which mostly related to the ending. Firstly, I was a little disappointed at the way the villain of the piece was so anti-climatically dispatched, in fact I found the villain to be an all round disappointment, especially as he’s given a huge build-up – but I don’t want to say too much about that for fear of spoilers. Secondly, the end was a little too Disney for me, and in some ways spoiled what had been quite a dark story with its sugary HEA for all concerned.
Despite these niggles, I still enjoyed Miles and the Magic Flute. The fantasy story was absorbing, the writing good and all the characters, including Julie and Patty, were well defined. If you like fantasy stories, especially those involving the faerie realm, then this book should be ideal for you. Recommended.