Theodyne Thespacian is a thief, caught and imprisoned. When released, he vows to change his ways. But then he hears about the Eye of Truth and decides one more score is in order. Unfortunately, the artifact is owned by Nicodemus Valencia, a master alchemist. Theo tries to be honest and inconspicuous, so he applies for a job at Nico’s villa. But the moment the two men meet, they see beneath the cool facades they present to others and realize they have more in common then they expected. They end up in roles of master and apprentice, and get caught in a dark adventure regarding alchemists and their ancient enemies.
Eye of Truth is an absolutely wonderful start to a new fantasy series about alchemists, elementals, and… other things which I won’t spoil. A great story.
The characterization is exceedingly well executed, with plenty of three-dimensional people. They have their own ulterior motives, may or may not speak the truth, and trust is a valuable commodity and a potential weakness. Theo and Nico spend most of their time together talking instead of having sex. In fact, there’s not a lot of sex here, period, but a great deal of sexual tension. The two men have their own pasts to deal with, and both men have secrets and trust issue. There’s a bit of repetition of inner monologue but not enough to hamper the story. Every side character has their own depth, except the Medovin cousins who I expect will play a greater part in future books in the series. Oberon and Rhone, for example, were highly intriguing.
The plot is where the story shines like the sun. The alchemists are facing a danger they thought had been neutralized long ago. Because of their assumptions, they are not ready to tackle this threat. Their more pressing concern comes from political pressure from the rulers of the city-states. They demand the alchemists choose a side in the inevitable upcoming war, but that would make them nothing more than an army for nobles. The terrible dark forces of old, however, scared me to death. I doubt I’ve read about anything like them in gay romance, and they alone make this well worth the read.
One negative point comes from the fact that this mystery and the resulting problems are not solved in this story. We learn who the enemy is, what they’ve been up to, and how. But these foes are not destroyed. That made this story seem like setting the scene for later, a dress rehearsal, which did annoy me a bit, as I’d expected a full storyline. Regardless, the writing, both in dialogue and action, is excellent. Nico’s intelligence in tactical matters and Theo’s knowledge of the more clandestine aspects of the world have the two men come together in a great partnership, working almost as one.
My major gripe, however, is with the Eye of Truth itself. It’s the reason why Theo comes to be in Nico’s house. The Eye is mentioned a lot at first, but then the whole story happens with barely a mention. Close to the end the Eye is talked about once more, but on the whole it seems to serve no real purpose, other than being something the alchemists protect and the enemies want for reasons unknown. We’re not shown the Eye, not in any detail, and given only the barest of history behind it. That was disappointing. Considering it’s the title of the book, I naturally expected it to play an integral part in the story. Alas, we get virtually nothing. It seems to function as a mere catalyst to bringing Theo and Nico together.
Nonetheless, this tale is simply speaking too good to miss. I personally can’t wait to read the next one, which I understand is about Esteban Medovin. That did surprise me a bit, since I was hoping for a better resolution of Nico and Theo’s story—and way more sex. Still, highly recommended as is.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.