Stripped of his art and imprisoned in the catacombs, Nido never expected to have a chance at winning his freedom. An indeterminate time later, the same immortal who meted out Nido’s punishments miraculously shows clemency. All Nido must do is escort another sidhe named Tisik to the sidhe havok where his fate may be decided. The reward is far too generous for the task, but how can Nido refuse?
As for Tisik, he has the sneaking suspicion there is a plot against him. He’s not the only one who made his way to the bed of a promiscuous royal, yet he’s been singled out for using his magic to get there—a very serious offense. What Tisik can’t understand is why anyone would take such pains to fabricate a crime and try to pin it on him, a simple traveling bard. Regardless, it’s Tisik’s word against that of a noble; Tisik knows knows the havok, the sidhe arm of justice, will prove him innocent.
The short journey Nido and Tisik embark upon quickly devolves from a brisk walk down a well traveled road into something far off the beaten path. Traveling through an enchanted forest might keep them safe from prying eyes and anyone susceptible to Tisik’s powerful, musical art, but it also throws them into much more dangerous situations. When it comes to survival, a man’s past wrongs are quickly forgotten in the fight to save life and limb. Nido and Tisik form a bond as they conquer one hardship after another. In just a few short days, Nido learns that his attraction to other males is not as unheard of as he thought prior to his imprisonment. Tisik, on the other hand, he learns that life has more to offer than parties and music and sex.
What will happen once they reach the havok? The longer Nido and Tisik are together, the more details they tease out of one another and piece together. It doesn’t take long for them to understand something—or someone—has compromised their justice system. With no hope for a fair hearing for Tisik and no recourse for Nido, they must decide if they can be law-abiding sidhe or if they dare to challenge a corrupt system.
In a word, this book is “fine.” I liked that the two main characters are introduced wholly independently of one another. We start with Nido’s experiences regaining his freedom and left wondering how that’s going to tie into his meeting Tisik—mostly because Tisik is introduced waking up in the bed of a playboy royal. Once they’re together, though, events unfold pretty lockstep with common tropes. There’s the “going on a journey” theme that throws the pair of them into some pretty dire situations. During these events, of course, they bond. Plus, the sexually repressed Nido quickly develops an attraction for Tisik which is promptly, if inexplicably, returned. Even the big betrayal at the end is dutifully foreshadowed in both Nido’s and Tisik’s introductory passages.
One thing I appreciated was Vincent’s dedication to linguistic consistency. Even though this is set in an imaginary fantasy world, she did right by me when she consistently applied the term “art” for the inborn magic all sidhe use. Also, despite the limited world building, I thought she was fairly successfully at conveying enough detail about its culture and people that nothing in the plot blindsided me. The havok, for example, is basically the tribunal that acts as judge and jury for people accused of wrong doing. What, beyond that role, the havok plays is entirely eschewed, but given that Tisik has been accused of a treasonous crime and 85% of the book is about the journey to get there, that little bit of knowledge about the havok was (mostly) sufficiently informative for me.
I was less enamored of the instalove aspect of things and how Nido acts on his impulse while Tisik is initially just sort of overwhelmed. By the same token, I suppose that scenario is easily enough to believe. If Nido has been underground for months, years, or more (this was never clearly established, which was by turns intriguing and annoying) I suppose he’d have raging hormones and jump at anyone who seemed remotely willing? It’s not exactly like Nido attacks Tisik for sexual gratification, but it’s not like Tisik was all “come hither, ye sexy beast” either. Plus, maybe it’s just the instalove trope in general that I find disagreeable, but I also catch whiffs of more Stockholm Syndrome here, too. This is largely a function of the fact that only Nido and Tisik are on this journey; nevertheless, it does seem a bit super convenience that the two people who just happen to be thrown together wind up falling in love.
Leaving aside personal quirks about stuff like instalove, however, I did like the way Vincent alluded to Nido’s dark past. When the dark deed are finally revealed, I was somewhat let down, but then again, I would have been more disappointed if none of the hinting and nuances got an ultimate explanation so I give it a pass. I also liked that Nido began the book with his art removed (as part of his initial punishment all those whenevers ago) and never got that particular art back. Truth be told, I would love to have seen more of his life before he got imprisoned.
In retrospect, I really liked Nido, apparently. Tisik was perfectly adequate in—you know, in the sense of “it takes two to tango and, hey! here’s a willing, warm body!” His character was a lot less mysterious, although he gets points for having an art that is curiously powerful compared to most other sidhe. But he’s also a lot less “fun” in that he comes off as kind of flakey at the start, then pretty spoiled in the epilogue. But both characters seem satisfied with one another, so who am I to judge?
All in all, this is another book that doesn’t demand a whole lot from the reader. All the action and drama is pretty straight forward and the characters are pretty likable. Here’s another quick and easy read that, if you’re like me, might be a nice change of pace after finishing a contemporary story.