Ian Evers is a reporter for a fringe newspaper that reports on the activity of magical creatures. It’s not much of a day-job working in contemporary Seattle, but he does okay. Until the day he hears a haunting melody that hooks into his brain and tugs him toward unknown disaster. Ian has known that magic exists; his “Aunt” Cleona is a part-time witch and he’s been attended by Alistair, Cleona’s friend and possible Aleut shaman. This music is surely a spell, and Cleona’s not up to the task of breaking it. What Ian doesn’t realize is he’s been targeted because the spell caster senses his inherent, but unknown, magical power.
Ezekiel, as a dark elf or svarta, is duty bound to bring all magical creatures to his Queen, so she can harvest their power for all her subjects—yet, when he senses the magic in Ian, Ezekiel knows he must taste some of him first. He tries to lure the novice in with a charmed song and interacts with Ian in his dreams, one of the realms betwixt and between, but his magical ties are severed by Ian’s friends. Still, Ezekiel is addicted to Ian’s light power, and won’t quit trying to harness the not-quite-human Ian, especially once the Queen finds out about him.
This is not a light-hearted fantasy. The Queen is a bloodthirsty, powerful dark elf who has enslaved her clan of svarta for centuries. They hunted the liosa, or light elves, almost to extinction. I really enjoyed the mystical world built within Seattle’s confines, though I was sometimes confused about where I was—in what realm, that is. Ezekiel is able to transcend the realms, to some extent, but Ian cannot, at first. His gradual building of liosa powers was excellent. I hate when a character learns “I have powers” and is immediately awesome at using them. Ian is not, and most of his use is low key and measured.
Both Ian and Ezekiel develop an attraction for each other, but this is a tricky dance as their clans are sworn enemies—Ian shares none of this history, having been raised by humans, but the prejudices for Ezekiel are centuries old and harder to break through. I admired how Ezekiel initially clung to those silly notions, and worked past them in a believable manner. The hunger for power, both from Ezekiel and the Queen, was a palpable and real force in their characters and took the plot in different directions from those I was expecting. Ezekiel and Ian learn that their coupling creates more power than either can alone, and this might be the answer for the magic-starved svarta suffering under the Queen’s avaricious rule.
This book is more magical fantasy than romance, but the romance is still present, and there are a few steamy (and acrobatic!) scenes. I loved the language and imagery, getting a real feel for the world through descriptions that involved a lot of sensory information. The point-of-view is shared by Ezekiel and Ian (and later by Alistair) so I had great insight into their emotional landscape and decision-making. Both men question if their attraction is real or conjured by magic, and struggle with the consequences of maintaining any connection at all. I had as much trepidation as Ian did regarding a love with Ezekiel—who could have easily overpowered him and turned him in to the Queen—but I was glad that his faith and trust were rewarded. For Ezekiel, the question to capture or love Ian is one of life or death. But the path to life or death is far different than he first imagined, too. This story is billed as the first in a new series, but the resolution has no cliffhanger. The next story must center on a new dilemma.