Rating: 4.5 stars
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Dylan Ryve is a dream hunter, trying to find a way into the magical town of Arcada for his final task that will finally set him free from the burden he has been carrying for years. When he sees a young, sexy, wild shifter in a bar just outside town, Dylan is instantly attracted. But despite stirring up trouble throughout the bar and flirting with just about everyone, male or female, Travis Feris makes it clear he doesn’t do men. But when Travis finds himself in trouble that night, Dylan can’t help but jump to his rescue. Unable to enter the town and return Travis home to his pack, Dylan brings the young shifter back to his hotel room where they are snowed in for the night.
Travis knows that there is something “other” about Dylan, and when Dylan lets down his guard a bit, Travis finds out Dylan is fae. The man proves strangely comforting to Travis during his recovery from the incident at the bar, and Travis is attracted to him despite himself. Not only do the men share a hot sexual encounter, but Dylan gets to know Travis through his dreams. Though Travis appears to be a wild, impulsive trouble maker, Dylan learns he is actually incredibly bright and talented. His acting out is a way for him to handle his restless brain and direct his energy. As the son of the pack omega, he is smaller and not as strong as some of the other members of the pack. And as a son of the alpha as well, he compares himself even more to his strong and dominant father and half brother and sister. So Travis is full of doubts and fears about his own self worth and place in the pack.
When the pack is attacked by a group of crazed, rogue wolves, Dylan once again steps in to save Travis, earning him passage into the town. Something bad is going on with these wolves, and it turns out the Dylan might have the skills to help figure out what is happening. But although Travis has total faith in Dylan, the others’ doubts are well founded. Because despite his growing love for Travis, Dylan still has a task to do that will destroy any hope for a relationship between them. The men have fallen for one another, but Dylan’s past and his otherworldly obligations may ruin any chance for their happiness.
Silver/Steel is the second novel in the Arcada series, following the excellent Blacque/Bleu. The first book introduces us to the magical town of Arcada and to Lukas Blacque, Travis’ half-brother. Travis plays a small role in the first book and Lukas is an important side character here, but I think McBride provides enough background and the stories are distinct enough that this works fine as a standalone (of course Blacque/Bleu is one of my favorite paranormals so I think you should read it anyway!). Here McBride creates a really interesting character in Travis. At first he just seems like sort of an undisciplined wild child. We hear that he is always getting into trouble, clearly with little impulse control. He loves the rush of adrenaline he gets from fear, so he is constantly pushing things just that little bit too far to create some excitement. But we come to see that Travis is so smart and clever, he needs a challenge and his acting out is just a way of providing that. Travis faces so much self-doubt about his role in the pack as well as his family, especially compared to the more dominant members. He is just searching to find his way and face his fears and anxieties. At the same time Travis is also so sweet and caring with his mother, fiercely defending her from all who would take advantage of her status as omega.
Dylan is also an interesting character, though we get to know him much more slowly. We learn almost immediately that Dylan is a dream hunter, forced to work for someone who requires him to capture or kill 1000 people through their dreams. However, we don’t know right away who controls him, why, or the consequences of failure. These details come over the course of the book, allowing us to get to know Dylan along with Travis and the pack. It is clear that Dylan is haunted by his duties, but it is also clear that he has no choice in the matter. He has been trying for months to complete his last assignment, but Arcada is a magical town that protects her inhabitants and every time Dylan tries to enter he is blocked. But when he is critically injured and being cared for by the pack, he finally is allowed in, enabling him to complete his final task. Along the way, Dylan finds himself unexpectedly opening his heart to young Travis. Dylan once had love and happiness and a community, but he has shut that part of him off long ago to get through his difficult assignments. But despite his desire to keep his distance, Travis becomes incredibly important to Dylan. He sees what is behind all of Travis’ wild behavior, and in turn, Travis sees deep into Dylan as well, connecting with him through dreams in a way no one else has.
One of the best parts of this book, and something I greatly enjoyed in the first one as well, is McBride’s fabulous world building. The story is so rich and well developed with an interesting take on shifters and the fae (I particularly loved the close connection between the fae and vampires, one a creature of light and the other dark). The role of the fae in particular is quite well done, and McBride manages to give us a detailed understanding of their place in the magical world, the different type of fae, etc, without overloading with info dump. In Silver/Steel we also learn more about the town of Arcada itself. While the first story introduces us the idea of the town protecting its inhabitants, here we see it is almost a tangible being, one that Dylan can actually communicate with. The town takes an active role in protecting its citizens and keeping out those that will hurt them. I think this was really interesting and quite well done.
Despite this great world-building, at times I did find myself a bit lost in all of Dylan’s backstory. Part of it is the slow pace that his secrets are revealed, so we spend a lot of the story intentionally vague on what is really going on. But even toward the end, I am not sure I completely grasped all the nuances of his history or the details of his captivity. I also think that there were a few loose ends that I would have liked to see tied up, or at least acknowledged. For much of the book Dane, the pack alpha and Travis’ father, is missing. This requires Blacque to step in as alpha and handle the crisis with the rogue wolves, as well as to figure out what to do about Dylan. But when Dane suddenly returns, we never find out where he was or why he was gone. Dane says once the crisis is over he will explain, but it is never picked back up again. Perhaps this is a story for a later book, but it felt like a big side plot that was introduced but never resolved. To a lesser extent I felt the same way with a subplot involving Travis’ mother, her best friend James, and one of the rogue wolves. Clearly there was something happening among the three of them and the conflict was set up, but then never resolved.
Overall I really liked this one. The world building is incredibly rich and I especially liked the author’s take on the fae, a group that not as common in paranormals. McBride creates some really interesting characters in Dylan and Travis, and a fascinating community of shifters, vampires, fae, and other creatures within the town. I hope that this world gets explored more in future books. As for this one, I think it was really good and would definitely recommend it, especially for paranormal fans.