For Jere and Wren, a train journey is a chance to celebrate their anniversary and to pretend for a few moments that they are both free men. But when the train crashes and Wren is temporarily ripped away from Jere, the resulting chaos forces them both to confront the hard truths of their relationship and their respective places in Hojer. As the state’s regulating slave authority starts to investigate Jere and his slaves, he is forced to enter the political ring and become a force for change. Meanwhile Wren and Isis deal with increasing cruelty and the ever present threat of being taken against their will by the state. Gone is the safety Jere’s home and medical clinic once provided and now their lives are in perpetual upheaval. As a slave reform bill begins to gain prominence, the danger for all of them becomes very real. And when freedom becomes a possibility for Wren, he and Jere must decide if they have any hope of a future together.
Inherent Cost is the last in the Inherent Gifts series (though there are multiple short stories available that take place in the same universe) and author Alicia Cameron definitely left some of the most stressful moments for last. Jere’s entree into politics is both reluctant and long overdue. He still walks the thin line between being a slave owner and a true abolitionist and that is never more obvious that in Inherent Cost. He is perfectly willing to bend and even break the rules to keep Isis and Wren safe, but the idea of leaving Hojer is still problematic. His defense of slave reform is the only real way he can express his disgust of slavery without losing Wren and Isis to a government authority that lingers too close to home. He and Wren are forced to make some difficult decisions regarding their romance. And the book does an excellent job of asking the question of whether love more important than freedom. The answer is an easy one for me and perhaps you as well, but the struggle Wren and Jere endure feels real and so do the potential consequences.
My only complaint regarding Inherent Cost involved Wren and Jere’s relationship, specifically their willingness to trust one another and their continued decisions to hide huge issues. A lot of this felt like rehashing old ground and there wasn’t a ton of growth on the part of either man. This was the first time I felt this way during the series and it was slightly frustrating to see these two failing to learn from their past mistakes and continuing to hurt one another, regardless of intent. In the previous two novels, I felt that Wren and Jere both made significant progress in both their personal growth and within the evolution of their relationship. But with Inherent Cost, there was an overall stagnation that was slightly unfulfilling. As an additional warning, I would say the BDSM in this book is considerably more pronounced. That wasn’t an issue for me, but for those of you with triggers or a dislike of this particular genre, considered yourself warned.
Inherent Cost is the conclusion to Wren and Jere’s story and though there are no simple solutions, their journey was fulfilling from start to finish. There was a lack of character growth in Inherent Cost, but overall the book was still an excellent addition to the series and gave the readers more than a few tough questions to chew on. I believe the best kind of fiction is the kind that makes us think and the Inherent Gifts series does this time and time again and does so with wonderful characters and a strong narrative. This trilogy is definitely recommended.