Author: Lisa Henry
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Genre(s): High Fantasy, Magic
Page Count: 227 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Aramin Decourcey—Min to his few friends—might be the best thief in Amberwich, and he might have a secret that helps him survive the cutthroat world of aristocratic families and their powerful magic users, but he does have one weakness: his affection for his adopted nephew, Harry.
When the formidable Sabadine family curses Harry, Min must accept a suicide mission to save his life: retrieve Kazimir Stone, a low-level Sabadine hedgewitch who refuses to come home after completing his apprenticeship… and who is in Anhaga, a seaside village under the control of the terrifying Hidden Lord of the fae. If that wasn’t enough, Kaz is far from the simple hedgewitch he seems.
With the Sabadines on one side and the fae on the other, Min doesn’t have time to deal with a crisis of conscience—or the growing attraction between him and Kaz. He needs to get Kaz back to Amberwich and get Harry’s curse lifted before it kills him. Saving Harry means handing Kaz over to his ruthless family. Saving Kaz means letting Harry die. Min might pride himself on his cleverness, but he can’t see his way out of this one.
The Hidden Lord might see that he never gets the choice.
This is a well-structured story that offers a single perspective on events and is written in the 3rd person. It took a little while to get into the story but there is plenty to enjoy here. Characterisation is very good with clear development of both central and secondary characters. Perhaps it is the style of writing but the lead character remains only interesting, it was difficult to empathise with him to any depth until much later in the book. His nephew was far more interesting and yet his primary role is to trigger events and to keep the lead character focussed.
The world building is rich and well-formed. More could have been made of the fundamental differences and tensions between the human and fae worlds as well as the history. Anhaga as a place should have been developed much more. There was a lot of potential for this to happen and for it to gain far more prominence. Similarly, the fae world is only mentioned as being behind the veil. Without some development of this, the Hidden Lord is not that menacing.
The magic system is disappointing. There is clearly a system of magic present, which has a hierarchy along with its practitioners; however, apart from a few points in the story where magic is used, it is just mentioned in passing.
The relationship between the two lead characters utilises a fairly standard mechanism of one worldly and street-wise character being drawn to one who personifies innocence and vulnerability. There is reasonable level of relationship building with external characters used to trigger reflection and action towards developing their bond. The sex is mentioned, not quite fade to black, but not enough to get your teeth into either. The characters are likable and the author does generate a desire that they should be together, but there is no real tension or drive to make it happen. As such the reader is left know the likely outcome and going with the flow.
PacingThe pattern to the story becomes clearer as the book progresses. Characters, their location and relevance slowly fit together; there is a steady pace with action sequences that do not significantly change this. Towards the end, this increases somewhat, but the reader doesn’t really have the opportunity to get their teeth into the action. This is a love story about a mismatched pair of young people who find common purpose and attraction through the circumstances that bring them together. Sometimes it feels as though the plot is just along for the ride.
The story draws to a close with the resolution of the fundamental conflicts antagonisms are either resolved or eliminated. It follows a familiar pattern of a build-up to confrontation which ultimately resolves to calm and a happily ever after. Had this been a different type of book, there is the potential for a lot of subject development and further stories with these characters, but this doesn’t feel like it has the legs to go on.