Jere and Wren have settled into a comfortable domesticity. Of course, Wren remains a slave, but within the privacy of their home they are free to be themselves. Jere has expanded his practice and is now caring for slaves as well as citizens and in doing so he is forcing those in Hojer to take a second look at slavery. He’s also killing himself. The energy it takes to heal is leaving him exhausted and worn. Jere could draw energy from Wren, but refuses to do so. Instead Jere does the unthinkable: he buys a second slave.
Isis is fifteen and broken almost beyond repair. But Jere is sure he can save her and integrate her into their household. Wren is decidedly less sure and all too quickly the easiness of the relationship he and Jere shares falls prey to the stress of dealing with the new slave. As Isis struggles to adjust to her new life, Wren and Jere fight to keep their love strong. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions and Jere’s decision to bring Isis home may have devastating consequences for all of them.
Inherent Risk is the direct sequel to Inherent Gifts and picks up soon after that novel leaves off. Wren and Jere welcome readers back into their home with an easiness that feels like visiting old friends. But the addition of a second slave brings a new level of tension to the storyline. Given how much Jere hates slavery, it’s hard to rationalize his decision to get Isis. It seems like the height of hypocrisy, but then much of Jere’s life in Hojer is the same. His character is no less complex than when we first met him in Inherent Gifts. He won’t use Wren for healing, but he’s perfectly willing to buy another human being for the same purpose and in doing so, you can’t help but hate him a little. And Wren isn’t at his best in this novel either. He dislikes Isis from the start and his own jealously causes him to become inpatient, angry, and even a bit cruel with Isis and Jere. Inherent Risk definitely tests the reader’s willingness to tolerate Jere’s stupidity and Wren’s attitude, but it’s these same characteristics that make them intriguing. They are far from perfect and they never feel more human than when they are struggling to make this new aspect of their relationship work.
Isis is a much like Wren when Jere first found him, save that she brings violence with her. She is so vicious and hurt it’s hard to remember she’s little more than a child and one who was on the verge of being killed before Jere purchased her. But for as much as she disrupts life in the house, the conflict she brings is desperately needed. She forces Jere and Wren to remember the realities of their life and to push Jere further into the role of abolitionist. His actions as such are not exactly subtle, but they are worth the risks they bring. As Inherent Risk comes to a close, we see the three of them walking a tight wire between safety and destruction. But they do so together and as readers we can’t help cheering them forward.
Inherent Risk is another excellent entry in the Inherent Gifts series and holds up to the first novel. Given that the books are about character development first and foremost, Inherent Risk showcases Jere, Wren, and Isis dealing with conflict on different levels and doing so in a realistic, believable way. Consider this one another recommended read.