This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while though I originally picked it up because I was interested in the paranormal angle with witches and also the intrigue and romance. Mostly, this sat as long as it did because I discovered that it is the second in a series. Now, normally, this doesn’t deter me, but it’s an Urban Fantasy and those I tend to respect the series order a bit more.
But, I just never got around to the first book and decided to go for it.
And, how did that go you ask?
Surprisingly well. Got lucky again.
But I will say, it was quite obvious I was catching a story mid-way through. The author did enough groundwork that I didn’t have trouble getting up to speed and into the current story. And truthfully, there were some points in favor of skipping what went before this one. I enjoyed the story, but I think my opinion going in might have been different had I gotten the previous book. More on that later.
The story opens with coven witch, Xandra, newly recovered from recent harrowing experiences at the hands of a surprising betrayer, the witches’ governing council, the ACW. She was abused and tortured by a fiend because the ACW considers her a danger in the future when her formidable powers awakened and wanted her dead before that could happen. They also ‘soulbound’ her to a dark witch to restrain his powers because he, too, was considered a threat.
Xandra’s witch magic came late after she had lived many years as a disappointment to herself and her magically gifted family. She left home and made a place for herself in the human world running her bakery and conjuring up sweets instead of potions. Her world is turned upside down when her first power unlocks to reveal a magic that compels her to find the bodies of people lost and killed which puts her in the crosshairs of killers and the enigmatic warlock, Declan, to whom she was soulbound since birth. Declan is now a part of her life after the experiences of being captured, raped, and tortured at the behest of the ACW council.
Xandra is convinced that Declan’s dark warlock past and ways will always be between them. He smolders with the need for revenge against the ACW. She can’t understand this dark need since it was her who was the one nearly killed and very much abused. He can’t go up against all that power even though he swears it has to be done because the ACW will not quit until they gain what they want.
But soon, Xandra has more worries as a little girl goes missing and council members are being killed. Xandra’s magic pulls her to the scenes and gives her a connection to the missing girl. Is Declan behind this? Either way, Declan and Xandra are the likely suspects and must figure things out quickly.
Alright, so I jumped in mid-stream, but I got a feel for the character, the previous books’ events, and the current situation enough to appreciate the story. Overall, I liked it, but there were things that were disappointing. There are some good action sequences in this book and I’m always up for a good murder mystery. The potential of an interesting early relationship between a warlock and witch as investigative partners and lovers had strong appeal. However, I had issues with the heroine that made some of my enjoyment go flat.
I struggled early with the heroine and it had to do with how she was written. This was a heroine who had just been raped and tortured. She is described as still bearing the cuts and scars, in fact. And not only that, her attacker was sent by the government authority of her people with their full approval. But not once in this book did the heroine act like a survivor of such a thing.
However, the author did write the hero in such a way that he did feel like a man who was in a relationship with a rape and torture survivor. He is angry at having to helplessly be there and not have prevented it, he is murderously wrathful at those who were responsible and wants to take down that evil group, and he is careful and protective of her so that he needs to know where she is and what she is doing and he needs to be by her side when she knowingly faces danger.
And why is that important?
Because it felt off, for one. Those things should have more impact on the character if they are used in a story. And because they don’t have impact, the heroine doesn’t ring true for me. There is a lot of sex and so many times when there are some really bad stuff going down. The sex already didn’t make sense since she is recovering from rape and abuse, but it really doesn’t make sense when a little girl is in danger and when Xandra herself is in serious trouble because of the murders. Then, there is her issues with Declan. She spends the whole book upset because Declan wants revenge and how she can’t be with a guy this dark when yeesh, she seems to be the only one who doesn’t get what went down here. I’m five pages into the story and know that the situation isn’t over and, evil, particularly with that sort of authority and power, can’t go unchecked, so it was tough reading as she worked hard to excuse and cajole the bad guys when Declan had it right and she was punishing him for it with her attitude and doubt.
I was also disappointed in how the worldbuilding was not described or explained much at all. There is magic and witchery and it was all so vague. It was like a minor side element that I would have like to have seen richly described and a larger part of the story. The ‘hows’ and the ‘why’s were only vaguely addressed and left me dissatisfied. I think some was probably explained in the first book, but not all or there would have been more inclusion of the world of the witches in this one, too. The scenes with Declan meditating and practicing his fire magic in the beginning and with Xandra and her roommate doing the taro reading were the few moments witch magic was really used in the story and those were good.
So, this was an interesting venture that left me with a moderate liking for the story. I would direct this series toward those who enjoy passionate paranormals or Urban Fantasies involving witches and magic, but caution for the issues.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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