Rating: 4.5 stars
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Since he was a young boy, Taren Laxley was a slave working for a master rigger and dreaming of the sea. When he is kidnapped by pirates, he not only gets to live his life on the water, but something else he never dreamed of — the promise of his freedom after three years of working for the captain. And with that comes the perks of a sexual relationship with both Captain Rider and his partner Bastian.
Taren loves his life aboard the ship and plans to stay there even once he is granted his freedom. But circumstances throw his life once more into turmoil when a terrible storm sends Taren overboard and he is rescued by Ian Dunaidh and the men of the Phantom. The ship is tasked with patrolling waters surrounding their island home and Ian must bring Taren back to the ruling Council, as he is a mainlander found amid island waters. But there is much more going on here that Taren could possibly imagine. Not only are Ian and his crew Ea, a group of shapeshifting mermen, but Taren soon learns he is an Ea as well, though no one is quite clear how he survived without shifting for so long.
Taren finds himself incredibly drawn to Ian, even as he still feels and allegiance to Bastian and Rider. And Ian longs for Taren as well, and fears what will happen once Taren is released to the Council. It is clear these men are intertwined, both in the past and their future destiny, in ways that neither of them really understand. Together they must fight not only to be together, but to help the future survival of their people.
Oh, Shira Anthony, you had me at mermen! I have been eagerly anticipating this book as I love a good mermen tale and this was just so wonderfully done. Anthony manages to create an incredibly rich and fascinating world here with such wonderful detail about the Ea, the politics of their culture, and life on the sea. She incorporates not just the mermen and shifter lore, but also pirates, slavery, mysticism, and politics all into one story that really kept me captivated from the start. Anthony makes everything really come to life with her rich detail and obvious research. I was just so caught up in the magic of it all.
Taren is a wonderful character. He is a man who grew up in slavery and has never seen himself as anything other than someone to follow orders and do as he is told. Slowly he begins to learn to accept not just his freedom, but also his destiny as someone key to the coming struggles with the Ea politics. We see a lot of growth in him and I loved his developing relationship with Ian, as well as his friendship with Bastian and Rider (FWIW, early on Taren has a menage relationship with these two guys, though they are the partners and he just joins in). Ian is so warm and strong and protective. Not always perfect and often torn between the right way to handle things, but I sort of loved that too. I am so excited to see how things develop between them in the rest of the series.
One of the key aspects that unfolds here is the political situation with the Ea. There has been a civil war separating those on the mainland from those living on the island. It is complicated by the fact that the islanders are ruled by the Council who seeks to keep them isolated, even though many wish to be reunited with their families off island. The story develops this lore slowly over the book and most of the real detail comes toward the end of the story. I wish more had been explained earlier on because I did find myself a bit confused at times about some of the conflict. However, this story sets us up well for the future books and it is clear more will unfold as we go along.
So I really loved this book and am so excited for the rest of the series. Romantic and sexy and really wonderful world building. Anthony gives us a rich and exciting story here and a great set up for the remaining books. I can’t wait for more and highly recommend this one.
Cover Review: Oh I like this one. Such sexy mermen!