Rye Cunnings makes amazing, colorful marbles. But while the process and the act soothes him, he spends his life fearing the day and thinking he’s completely insane. Once a week, every week, he wakes up in a churchyard, having no idea how he got there, and having used his keys to gouge a mark on his wrist. Rye is becoming more and more unsettled, and he’s relying on the calming effect of certain marbles to get him through. He doesn’t associate much with the outside world, and his only real friend is Milo. But when he sees Milo abducted by a dragon right off the street, Rye is beyond terrified. Not to mention, it brings up the nightmare he’s always had. He goes looking for Milo in the night, when it’s safer, but no one he talks to has any idea who he’s describing. He’s at a loss until a strange man shows up, and Rye thinks he really has gone crazy.
Cerdic is a warrior for the Winter Kingdom in the Telluric realm. His job is to protect the crown from the Hansians, the group of malicious Tellurites who want to bring down the royalty. They are against the society as it is, and want to bring about change. Though their leader was long ago imprisoned in stone, they still work to do his will. And when Cerdic’s brother is cursed, he will stop at nothing to save him. When the crowned prince, Drake, orders him to head to the commons’ realm (human, non-magical world) and to find Rye Cunnings and bring him back, Cerdic does. Because he never goes against his orders. Even though he knows Drake wants to use Rye to break the curse that is on his family.
Because of who Rye actually is, he’s the only one that can break the curse. And because Cerdic agrees to look for Milo, Rye eventually agrees to go with him through the portal and into Gatreau. Rye is then stuck there, unable to move to the different parts of the Telluric realm, or back into the common’s realm, until he’s proved he’s loyal to Telluric ways, and only then can he be keyed to move among the realms. In his lessons, he learns how magic works and how what he’s been doing when making his marbles is essentially imbuing them with magic. He begins to make friends, learns about the world, and becomes closer to Cerdic.
But though Cerdic is loyal to the crown and wishes to do the prince’s bidding, he also believes that what Drake is planning is wrong. And the closer he gets to Rye, the more he learns about the beautiful man, the more Cerdic knows he cannot follow through with his orders. As chaos rises, peril does too. Not only are people dying, but Rye is at the center of it all. As he puts together the pieces, he realizes the extent of what he thinks is Cerdic’s betrayal. But as he will soon learn, there are two sides to every story, and sometimes seemingly wrong choice is the only one he can make. Rye will put his life on the line to save people, and in the process, unleashes a horror no one wants. And this is only the beginning.
This book is a truly well written fantasy tale. There are so many twists and turns, all beautifully laid out and wonderfully nuanced. I enjoyed this story a great deal, and was riveted to the pages. There were few moments where I wanted more, and ultimately finished this book satisfied and ready for more.
I have to classify this book as a fantasy tale with romantic elements but oh, does it work here. I’ll start off the bat by saying that I wanted more of the romance, simply because Rye and Cerdic were just so electric. Their chemistry and connection was fantastic right from the start, so of course I wanted to see more of it. But it wasn’t a true detriment to the story that it wasn’t as big a part. It enhances the story without overwhelming, and is one of the reasons I can’t wait for the next books in the series. I want to see more of these guys.
Rye and Cerdic are the main MCs, and we get to understand them and their motivations the best. There was a fantastic balance between them, as Rye was absolutely in the dark that Telluric Realm even existed until Cerdic showed up. Through him, the reader gets to learn all about the other culture, how magic works, and the nuances of the world. This worked really well, though there were a few small passages that felt bordering on info dump to me. I liked the growth Rye showed throughout this story. Because of his early years and much of his upbringing, he is a fearful sort. And with good reason. But as he grows and learns, realizes what is right and wrong, and the gray area between, he finds himself, his backbone, and really becomes a man to be reckoned with. Cerdic too, learns and grows. I liked that much of his growth was finding his heart and listening to it. These guys were perfectly matched, and as I said, well balanced. Between the two of them, the story flourished.
These two aren’t the only POV characters, and as this is really a fantasy book, it worked. I don’t want to get into too much here because I don’t want to spoil things. But the other POV characters really add to the book, and show the other side of the coin. While Rye and Cerdic are changing for the better, the others may just be going a bit darker and I really liked the juxtaposition. And not only that, but the secondary characters throughout the book truly fleshed out the story. No one was wasted space, and each individual character added to the whole of the story. It really worked, and gave the book a more of an ensemble feel, with Rye and Cerdic at the center.
And world building! This is where the book absolutely excelled. Now, I will say that I had a few small issues here, and some things were not explained well. There were a couple of very short instances where I was confused. But on the whole, this was a very clever and creative magic system. Though I’ve seen similar, there were enough twists on it to give it a unique feel. It was thorough and well written, and flowed seamlessly with the storyline. The world building just might have been my favorite part of this book.
Locked is the first in a series, and I’m already wanting the next one. Though the major plot arcs do wrap up here in this book, it’s left things wide open for the continuing saga. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I have no doubt things will be further explained, and that the world and characters will continue to evolve. It’s a well done book, and I’m looking forward to more. If fantasy is your thing, then absolutely pick this one up. And if it’s not, I still urge you to give this story a try.