A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: An okay but actually not overly original read centered about how Aron and Clay find love and commitment in the middle of a fight against outerworldly monsters.
The Blurb: As head of the Border Patrol’s Paranormal Operations Unit, Clay Chiles has found a place where he can function and a surrogate family to replace the one he never truly had. He keeps hidden a lot of secrets, and both fears and longs for the day he may be able to take that one long step out of solitude and darkness into love and light. Before he can do that, however, he has to face some surprising facts about himself and deal with some horrific enemies. Although not a weak man, he’ll never have the strength alone to confront all those demons. But who can help him there?
Arondel Wanderer is a son of the ancient Elven royal clan, but far enough from the throne to be expendable. He obeys his queen’s orders to visit Earth and find what is going wrong there. One task he faces is to contact and recruit a human keystone in the desperate effort to stop an invasion of ancient evil that could corrupt the elves’ original home beyond redemption. Aron, a loner and solitary emissary from Elvenheim, never expected to find his soul-mate on this mission, but surprises, both good and bad, have always been part of his long and adventurous life. He’ll take anything good he is given, and once he sights the partner he’s always wanted, the most extreme danger is not enough to deter him…
The Review: The story opens with Arondel Wanderer, a minor scion of Elven royalty, walking through nightly San Antonio while pondering his mission and the human man he’s about to meet. Next we watch Clay Chiles wake up and going about his morning ritual while thinking about his life and his job. As Clay enters his kitchen, he’s greeted by a stranger who’s not only made himself at home there but claims to be an Elf, and a distant relative of Clay’s who, much to his surprise, now learns that he’s also supposed to be of Elven descent. Well, as the head of the Border Patrol’s Paranormal Operation Unit, Clay deals with the paranormal on a daily basis, both in its good and evil form. Thus, after a bit of initial irritation, Clay stops fussing about the stranger and sits down with him for a heart-to heart. Aron tells Clay about the Trogues, alien monsters who are said to have formed an unholy alliance with a group of malevolent humans and are about to conquer Earth, something which the Elves are determined to help prevent. The Elves may have left the earth long ago but they still feel strongly about their old home. The most notable thing for both Aron and Clay about their encounter happens right before Aron leaves when a small touch of their hands sends a spark of strong emotion through both of them, indicating they might be significant for each other beyond their working relationship.
Two weeks later Clay and his team are out in the Big Bend National park looking for the Trogues. Aron joins them with his band of thirteen Elven warriors. Both Aron and Clay worry at first how their respective people will react to each other, but the groups merge smoothly. Only now it becomes suddenly clear to Aron that Clay is his soulmate, but immediate danger prevents him from telling Clay so. When a traitor arranges it so that Clay falls prisoner to the enemy, the cooperation between Elves and humans proves most useful. Now that Aron has Clay back, both realize that their time together might be too short not to act on the bond they both feel. According to honored Elven custom, they share the runes of commitment before consuming their new union.
This story was a curious mix of mythical figures from different lore. Elves, shifters, a voodoo priestess and a lone vampire, among other beings, thrown together in a paranormal fantasy tale about nothing less than the salvation of Earth, or at least the United States. The result was actually not half bad, perhaps not overly original but reassuringly familiar like a home-cooked meal. I found the writing style smooth, although a bit stilted at times (not only when the Elves spoke, but also in the narrative). The actual pairing and building of a relationship between Aron and Clay was well-crafted, a nice variation on the finding your soulmate theme.
In my opinion this story suffered most from its shortness. By employing popular mythical beings, the author could mostly borrow the clichés, working on the assumption that every reader might be familiar with the respective lore. Yet, there was still a lot or worldbuilding left which was mostly dealt with through the character’s musings, through dialogue or simple telling of facts. While sometimes getting bogged down in insignificant details, this way of conveying background information failed to really pull me into the world. It also took away from the characterizations; the acting persons unfortunately remained flat and two-dimensional despite the alternating narrative viewpoints. The most elaborated character was Clay, but his internal inconsistencies were bothersome enough to keep him from really coming alive (only one example: why did he feel compelled to hide his homosexuality from his team although most of them were gay themselves?)
The actual action, i.e. the final battle was done off-page; the story ended rather abruptly with Aron’s and Clay’s union. All things considered, this story wasn’t exactly noteworthy although fans of the author might want to read it nevertheless.
N.B.: Rhys and Liam from “Beyond the Shadows” (reviewed by Val here) make a reappearance here, yet Runes of Revelation isn’t a serial book and can be easily read as a standalone.