A guest review by Sirius.
Summary: I expected to enjoy this story very much, but strange behavior of the characters, lack of chemistry between them and sparse word building did not make for a good read for this reader.
Daniel is a sorcerer, good at magic and taking all the credit—or so it seems to Liam. In Daniel’s eyes that’s vastly preferable to being Liam, a hunter who excels at killing beasts and sleeping with everything else. They cooperate only to keep their country safe—until a new and greater danger calls for desperate measures that takes them to the land of gods, and the only way home again is by facing monsters, gods, and truths they’ve been avoiding.
More often than not when the blurb indicates that the story has *any* indications of “from enemies to lovers” trope, I will make a bid for the book. If the story is also a fantasy/sci-fi, I am very likely to request it. The blurb sounded awesome to me, unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations. Actually I should say the only expectation I had was to read a good story, because this is a new to me author.
This book starts with Liam killing an ugly creature and then being recruited to become one of the Hunters. When I open a fantasy book (any book which would throw me in the new and unknown world ) I am open to any approach to the world building. It appeared at first that the author was employing what I call “sink or swim” approach. The readers are thrown in the middle of the action and as the story would progress we would learn more and more details about this world. I do not mind this approach at all and I had seen it employed very successfully many times. In fact often I prefer such approach to huge information dump in the beginning of the book before any action starts.
Unfortunately instead of slowly revealing more details about this world, what I thought was happening is that very few things were revealed at all in the story. I felt like the world was mostly a window dressing for romance and not very sturdy window dressing either. Until approximately the middle of the book here is basically what we know about this world besides being shown that the Hunters exist and they kill Hellspawn.
“Three years before, monsters from Hell had begun appearing in Brewin, their home country. These monsters were dark and evil, spitting fire, acid and disease. Hunters like Liam were found and trained specifically to fight these monsters and aid the regular soldiers. It wasn’t long before war was declared by Idonahai, a sorcerer tribe beyond Brevin’s western border, who had been using dark magic to raise the hellspawn from Underworld and sic them on Brewin”
Because I did not have a strong sense of what this world is like in my head, when the characters go on the certain quest and some common features of the fantasy books started popping up in the middle of the book (and hopefully you will see what I mean when I say that I did not feel that they contributed to world building much), I was amused, but not in a good way. Those features, like elves, Gods felt out of place in that world and I felt as if they were supposed to indicate to me that the story is indeed a fantasy. I cannot really explain it better than that.
As much as I enjoy fantasy/scifi with sophisticated plot, I also like romance books which concentrate mostly on the relationship, so if I would have enjoyed the main characters and their relationship, I would have at least tried to ignore my unhappiness with the world building and plot. Unfortunately I did not like either Daniel or Liam and did not feel that they had any chemistry together. This is of course just one reader’s opinion and other readers may have completely opposite reaction to their romance. I felt like Liam’s treating sex casually was described with disdain within the story and Daniel’s attitude about wanting to have sex only with person he would have feelings for was meant to be better, morally superior.
“He looked at Daniel. “Sex doesn’t equal love. It can be just a good time, you know, it doesn’t have to be a big deal.” Daniel looked away again. “It was always a big deal to me, but never to the person I was with. I thought it mattered to them, but they didn’t care”.
Liam was not shown to ever sexually abuse anyone, to even try to force himself on anyone, why could not he just have fun without being looked down upon? But it got weirder for me. When they were having sex during one of the scenes Liam was being called a virgin. I am annoyed every time mm romance tells me that because gay man did not have anal sex, but had plenty of other sexual encounter the character is apparently a virgin. In this story Liam just never bottomed and he is a virgin as well? Now it is all magically okay since he did not have a specific sexual experience despite having *plenty* others? I am sorry, no, really not. Liam was not a virgin even if he never bottomed in his life. Not that I am saying that it was not in any shape or form NOT okay when Liam was treating sex casually, but the story apparently was not okay with that.
Then we have the whole “from enemies to lovers”. I have to say – I love any kind of genuine chemistry which goes from antagonistic to loving. The guys do not have to be full blown enemies, they could just dislike each other or pretend to dislike each other, as long as there is a believable shift in their relationship I would be ready to eat it up with a spoon. This story tried hard to portray this trope, but instead I felt that their dislike was artificial and not portrayed in depth at all. In fact I just did not think that the story treated anything in depth – be it relationship, character development or world building.
I also have to admit that POV change drove me crazy. Luckily we only have Daniel’s and Liam’s third person limited in this story however the changes after a single paragraph or even in the middle of the paragraphs gave me a headache. I mean, at times we are shown when POV is changed – it is divided by asterisk, but at times, no such luck. And the more story progressed, the more often POV changed at random.
Unfortunately I cannot recommend this story.