Two years ago, Shilo Walsh’s husband disappeared without a trace, and Shilo hasn’t heard from Mazin since. He’s still depressed and missing Mazin, not quite ready to give up on the man entirely. He still lives in their house and has all of Mazin’s things, and he hasn’t filed for divorce. As the two year anniversary approaches, Shilo becomes even more despondent. But then his house blows up and he’s kidnapped, being constantly moved so an Elemental (those who have control over one or more of the elements) cannot find him.
When Shilo is rescued from his kidnappers, it’s by a young man named Zak. And what Shilo can tell almost immediately is that Zak is related to Mazin. Zak is Mazin’s cousin, and was sent to find Shilo by Mazin himself. Zak’s job is to get Shilo to a safe house and out of the line of fire, but everything goes sideways when a huge storm rages and Zak decides to take Shilo to the family’s compound instead. It’s on the journey that Shilo learns the truth: that Mazin is very powerful Elemental and he has been keeping it from Shilo for years. Mazin has been at the compound, unable to leave all this time.
Shilo doesn’t quite know how to deal with being reunited with his husband, and even though he could readily accept the truth about Mazin, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that Mazin lied. They have a great deal to work through, but they don’t get the chance. Mazin’s family is embroiled in a war, and Shilo is now thrust into the middle of it. Now his only goal is figuring out how to end the conflict so that he and Mazin can leave and try to rebuild their relationship,
This was a story where the world building and the plot itself just shined. Reese gives us an interesting twist on magic, and I found myself absorbed immediately and completely sucked in. A mix of the contemporary life and old world sensibilities, there were some fascinating elements that really kept me engaged. I liked the dichotomy between the world Shilo knows and the one that Mazin has been trying to protect him from, and I think the author used it to great effect. The plot itself wasn’t anything truly new, but it was done in an artful way that gave it a fresh feeling. Those points alone bumped my rating and my enjoyment up.
And then we come to the characters. To be fair, I enjoyed Shilo a great deal. I loved his spunk and his humor, and I liked that he had a strong backbone. He had all the layers that he should, and expressed them well. I was right there with him throughout most of the book, and since he’s the POV character, I thought that worked incredibly well. I particularly liked that he accepted Mazin’s secret without much angst, but that he didn’t immediately forgive Mazin for his lies. Yes, ultimately, he understood why Mazin did what he did. But I really appreciated the fact that Shilo had a lot of hurt to work through, and he wasn’t magically cured. He had been left behind by his husband, without a word, and that’s not something that is going to disappear quickly with only an apology. This whole part was handled incredibly well.
Mazin was a character that I, personally, had a much harder time with. I’m not sure if it’s because we don’t spend as much time in Mazin’s presence, or if it’s because our perception of Mazin is colored by Shilo’s views, but I just couldn’t connect to him as easily. I didn’t understand his motivation. In particular, his leaving in the first place. He had time to take a couple of pictures with him, but not enough time to jot a quick note? In two years’ time, he couldn’t manage to get one single message out to Shilo? A lot of this was explained within the confines of the story, but even still, it seemed like it wasn’t enough or believable, and I had a really tough time with Mazin. If I’m completely honest, I liked secondary character Zak even more than Mazin, and spent just a few seconds imagining a different sort of book. Zak’s chemistry with Shilo was more believable, to me, than Mazin’s. While there were moments where some genuine love and affection shined through, mostly I wasn’t overly impressed with Mazin and Shilo’s romance.
But overall, it was a well written story and I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes the contemporary/fantasy mix. Especially if you’re okay with the romance being the B plotline. The world building and overarching plot in this story make it worth a read, but maybe not a reread.