Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 8 hours, 8 minutes
Angelus Salvatore is a sorcerer and necromancer in Boston. Ten years ago, he lost his entire family, aside from his younger brother, in the culminating battle of the ongoing Blood Wars. Angel ended the war by casting a spell that decimated all the attacking vampires at once. No one knows how he did it, but Angel doesn’t talk about that night with anyone. He is just trying to move forward.
Angel now works teaching magic to young practitioners and occasionally helping out at vamp HQ when they need the assistance of a necromancer. He has a deal with the vampires that he will help them and stay out of their way, as long as they don’t hurt him or those under his care. When a friend of Angel’s brother gets caught breaking into vamp HQ under some sort of compulsion, Angel gets called in to help. No one can understand the motives for compelling Greg, but it makes Angel and the vampires wary about what is going on, especially when it looks like an attempt to rekindle old conflicts. A demon attack and a murder following close on the heels of the break-in make it even more clear that something sinister is going on, and Angel is somehow in the middle of it all.
As Angel gets drawn in to the investigation, he reconnects with Simeon, a vampire Elder. Angel has always tried to be fiercely independent and not lean on anyone for help, but he can’t help but be drawn to Simeon’s strength and stability. Simeon also makes it clear that he has been wanting Angel for years, but has kept his distance for fear of scaring the man off. But now, as the two men work together to figure out who is behind the attacks, the bond between them begins to grow. As the attacks become increasingly serious, Angel and Simeon find themselves falling harder for one another, and Angel begins to really open up for the first time to the idea of a real relationship. But now that Angel has finally found someone who can be a true partner, he must figure out who is behind the attacks before he loses his own life and those of the people he loves.
Oh, I really loved this one you guys. S.J. Himes has built such a really exciting and creative paranormal world, it had me captivated from the very start. There is a rich history that we learn about early on regarding the Blood Wars that raged on for years, and the dramatic ending courtesy of Angel. He is infamous for the way he managed to destroy all those vampires at once, and most of the supernaturals give him wide berth. But at the same time, he still mourns for the loss of his family and the way the incident has nearly destroyed his relationship with his brother, Isaac. Himes gives us this great set up, then adds layers on top of it as we learn about the vampire lore, the various magical practitioners, and how the supernatural world exists in modern Boston. I appreciated that it is richly detailed, but at the same time never feels like info dump. Clearly Himes has thought out all the little details, but they unfold in a way that feels very fluid and organic.
They mystery part of the story develops nicely. It is clear something suspicious is going on right from the start with Greg’s mysterious compulsion, and things escalate as the story continues. Things are nicely twisty, especially as Angel faces the added hurdle of old enemies from the Boston police making things even more difficult. I found the mystery engaging and it kept me guessing until the end as to who was behind it all. I do think that it may have actually been a tiny bit too twisty, as when they figure out the bad guy, it takes a lot of explanation and narration from Angel to clarify to everyone else (and the readers) how it all came together. I also noted that Angel has a near amazing ability to understand the motives and put the pieces together here. But I did appreciate that the plot is engaging and nicely complex without being overwhelming.
As for the romance… sigh. I loved Angel and Simeon together. Simeon is a hundreds-year-old Celtic vampire, complete with tattoos and sexy accent (courtesy of narrator Joel Leslie). As much as the story is modern, there is an old school feel here to Simeon’s vampire. He has that courtly way about him, wooing Angel, protecting him, and declaring his love. If you like that deep, swept off your feet passion, you are going to love Simeon. He is clear that he has been longing for Angel for years, and now that he has his man, he is determined to support and care for him. For his part, Angel is endearingly prickly. He doesn’t quite know when to keep his mouth shut and he doesn’t take crap from anyone. He is attracted to Simeon for sure, but he doesn’t quite know what to do with these new feelings. Despite that, Angel is all in as he basks in the love, strength, and support Simeon provides, even as Angel is tough enough to take care of himself. So they are a nice match of strong willed men who are also loving and doting on one another.
I listened to this one in audio and really loved Joel Leslie’s narration. He does a great job with the MCs, both of whom have very distinctive accents — Angel’s Boston and Simeon’s Irish. Leslie not only captures the accents well, but manages to really imbue the voices with such a great sense of the characters’ personalities as well. Leslie handles a host of other accents among the side characters quite well too, and I particularly appreciated that even the characters that shared a Boston accent all sound distinct, something that is not easy to achieve. There is really only one female character here, but Leslie makes Millie sound believably feminine and with an accent that fits her character well. Leslie also uses a different voice for the narration of the story than for the main characters’ speaking voices, a style that I particularly like. At times the narration voice was a little overly deep and gruff for me, but overall I think the voices are smoothly done, and in the case of Angel and Simeon in particular, definitely enhance the story.
The pacing is also done well here and the tone works nicely with the book. There are a few places where Angel is having internal thoughts where I struggled a bit to tell he was thinking and not speaking. However, this is a hard challenge in any book and I think Leslie handles it well. I think this story would work nicely in either audio or ebook form, but Leslie really brings the characters to life in a way that enhanced the story for me.
So overall I really loved this one and am so excited to see that not only is the second book out already, but Himes has several more planned for the series. There are so many interesting places to take this story and some great side characters to develop as well. I really loved The Necromancer’s Dance and am eager for more. I can definitely recommend it, especially for paranormal fans or those looking for some great world building and an engaging mystery.