Estobán Medovin might be the prolate of a powerful noble house, but his time mentally enslaved by the necromancers took its toll. He’s free now, but he has terrible nightmares and he paints even more nightmarish images while asleep. But that isn’t even the worst of it. The demagogue of the Church, a sort of a pope really, dies under suspicious circumstances. Nobles, clerics, and the like must all gather in the holy city of Gusan for the new election.
Estobán plans ahead and requests an alchemist as a companion to weed out any possible interference from the necromancers, an ancient and terrible foe that has gained a foothold in the city-states of Dominicál. Along comes an air elemental, Jolen Meripen—who like Estobán had once been under the fiendish control of the necromancers.
In Gusan, the political situation is a powder keg, volatile and about to explode. Another twist comes from the shared experiences of both Jolen and Estobán, which creates a powerful bond and a sexual attraction between them. But wherever Estobán and Jolen look, someone’s being controlled by the necromancers. They seem to have a hidden base in the city, but where? It seems the necromancers have a plan to destroy all elementals and thrust the world into endless darkness and death with the use of a shattered tablet called the Elementica. The race for this priceless artifact is on.
The events in this book take place three years after the first book in the Alchemists and Elementals series, Eye of Truth. As with that story, a book/tablet is a focal point of interest for both the good parties and the bad. In my opinion, that connecting thread was what brought the two books together. The Eye of Truth was to be used to destroy the alchemists; the Elementica can destroy the elementals. I wonder in which direction the third upcoming book in the series will take.
I have to say that while I appreciated the first book, this one is better. The story is more concise, the pace tighter, and there are extremely few extraneous passages or chapters. Not a single word or line is redundant or unnecessary, and there was no need to skip anything. This intriguing story simply grabs you from the first line onward. The tension in the plot comes from a variety of sources: Estobán’s prophetic nightmares, the political scheming in the palatial areas, Jolen and Estobán’s potent attraction, the little boy Wendro who has some unusual abilities, the bursts of action and speed that drive the story forward in leaps and bounds as the heroes are thrust, swords and magic in hand, into the foreground in the war for control. In essence, if you are seeking an extraordinarily well-crafted fantasy suspense story, look no further. This is it.
While the main storyline is serious to the point of grave, there are sparks of humor mixed in with the shadows, such as ancient elementals presiding over Jolen and Estobán’s lovemaking session to sign off their approval. I laughed out loud. There are also familiar characters in the form of Theodyne Thespacian, the rogue from the first book—who also happens to be Estobán’s former lover and Jolen’s savior from the necromancers. Now that’s an awkward love triangle right there. Plus, there’s loss and sorrow when death claims someone you’ve come to care for. I had tears in my eyes when that happened. I wished it didn’t have to be so.
Like a lot of reviewers, I judge a book by how well it is written, but also how it makes me feel. I may utterly hate a book but can’t shake the memory of it, or I may love a book but know it’s forgettable. It’s subjective. Cassie Sweet has written a wonderful story, even better than the previous book in the series. Both books have a different protagonist pairing, so they are standalones in that sense. But I recommend reading both. Nonetheless, in my personal opinion, this one is way better—while the first was prime reading material already. Cassie Sweet definitely improves her skills as she goes along.
In short, I highly recommend this suspenseful and action-filled fantasy book. I’m anxiously awaiting the next book in the series, especially once I learned who the protagonists were going to be… This series is a well worth exploring for all lovers of M/M romance. Easiest five stars I’ve ever given.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.