Ten years ago, Shane Conell traded his soul to the Ice King in exchange for saving his lover’s life. Before that, Shane and Drake Young worked together, hunting the evil in the world. But ever since the night that Shane traded away his humanity, nothing has been the same between them. There is a small part of Shane that still feels and remembers what it was like being with Drake. And there are parts of Drake that can overlook what his lover has become without his soul. But the deep loving connection between the men is gone, and they are now enemies fighting on opposite sides of the battle against evil.
When a super baddie surfaces, Drake and Shane find themselves with the same target. The Soul-Thief has taken the soul of a friend of Drake’s, and he is determined to capture the creature and get it back. The Ice King is willing to offer a trade to anyone who captures the Soul-Thief and Shane will do anything to win the bounty and get his own soul returned. The battle against the creature brings both men together again, fighting the same enemy. It also continues to remind them both about the passion that was once between them, and what has been lost.
As Shane and Drake continue to hunt the creature, they encounter other supernatural beings intent on stopping their quest. This includes the Ice King himself, who is not interested in letting Shane go so easily. It will be a fight to the death to save themselves and reclaim Shane’s soul. If they succeed, the men can finally be back together the way they were before. And if they fail, it will likely mean both of their deaths.
Icebound is the first book in a new series by Corinna Rogers and I really enjoyed it quite a lot. This isn’t a genre I read a lot, but I really liked the combination of urban fantasy and romance/erotica she gives us here. The story has such an interesting set up and I really liked the world Rogers creates.
The story jumps right into the action, and at first, I had a little trouble following along. But Rogers quickly gets us up to speed, both on the past relationship between Drake and Shane, as well as what is going on with them now. After trading his soul to the Ice King, Shane has become his number one Vassal. He works for the Ice King, basically hunting creatures for the bounty. Shane is mostly cold and closed off. He retains the tiniest bit of emotion, mostly pain, but for the most part he is no longer the man he once was. He feels no remorse or guilt for the bad things he does. But that connection to Drake is still strong. Deep down he remembers their love, still wants Drake despite himself. But a relationship between them is impossible as long as he remains soulless. I found Shane such a fascinating character. He is at once jaded and uncaring, while still so obviously in pain over the loss of Drake. He is incredibly powerful, one of the strongest mages around, but he can’t have the one thing he wants. I think Rogers does a great job portraying his character and show us the duality of the man he has become.
For Drake’s part, we can feel his loss as well. He wakes up from near death to find his lover has sacrificed himself and sold his soul. The men tried to continue their relationship at first, but it was impossible. So I could really feel for Drake and the pain of having to go on alone, fighting against evil with his partner no longer at his side. Drake is now a Champion of the church, setting himself up basically as the total opposite of Shane. But we can still see the connection between them and, as much as he tries, Drake can’t totally get rid of his feelings toward Shane. It makes for some angry scenes between them, and definitely some hate sex when they get together. But we can still see the glimmers of the bonds between these men as much as they try to keep their distance.
The story is told mostly in the present, with Interludes that flash back from the time Shane trades his soul, all the way back to when the men first met. I am not always a fan of flashbacks but I think they work really well here, and are in fact quite necessary for us to really connect with these guys as a couple. Obviously there is no romantic relationship between them currently. The men do still have sex on occasion, but it is hard and angry and more for relief than for emotion. So the flashbacks provide contrast between their hard, bitter relationship now, and the loving, warm connection they had before Shane lost his soul. I found the juxtaposition quite poignant and the flashbacks added that necessary emotion between them to really make me root for the guys to find their way back to each other.
As far as the world building, this was just about the right amount for me. I tend to get overwhelmed with too much detail and in this case I feel like Rogers gives us enough set up to make it all work without being overwhelming. We learn about both Shane and Drake’s pasts, a bit about different creatures out there, and get a general idea of the world they live in where magic exists and horrible beings are trying to destroy it all. If you are a super fantasy fan, you may find this a bit “light” for you, but for me it worked well. I also think that given that this is the first of a series, more will develop as the books continue.
A few things to mention. First off, there is some on page rape here led by some of the bad guys. Because Shane has no soul, he is kind of emotionally removed from what is happening to him. So as horrible as it is, the scenes don’t have the same intensity as they might under different circumstances. That said, if this is a trigger for you, be aware. Second, the story is told in third person, present tense. Didn’t bother me at all, but I know this an issue for some folks. Next, after all that set up with Drake looking for his friend’s soul, it kind of gets forgotten about in the end and never addressed. And finally, because Shane is without a soul, the interactions between these guys in present day are pretty harsh. They both hate and love one another, need each other but don’t want to. So there is definitely some bitterness and some hate sex, and the parts where they are in the present day there isn’t much in the way of romance. I actually found that worked well, especially when contrasted with the warm and loving connection we see between them in the past. But again, be aware if you are looking for a real traditional romance arc, you aren’t going to find it here, though the ending is quite sweet and romantic and definitely gives a happy ending for these guys.
So I really enjoyed this story quite a lot. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I found it to be a really engaging set up with characters I enjoyed and a really interesting world. I enjoyed the structure of the story and the way it contrasted their loving past with their struggles in the present. And I definitely enjoyed Shane and Drake together and loved seeing them get their happy ending. So I definitely recommend Icebound and look forward to the next book in the series.