Riagan Antarrea is an elf with purpose. Having crawled his way up from the gutter, Riagan has purged himself of sentiment and is known for being cold, calculating, and dangerous. The only worth a person has to Riagan is how he might use them to forward his own interests. Riagan meets Elisedd and the two share a hurried encounter, and charming as it is, Riagan expects that to be the end of it. After all, Elisedd is a human and well below Riagan’s social status.
Tensions between elves and humans are coming to a head in Airgead and growing protests threaten Riagan’s plans. He decides to retreat from the city to spend time with his business partner and he drags a reluctant Elisedd along as a servant and companion. But when old secrets, enemies, and racial conflict threaten to destroy everything Riagan has built, he will have to decide if the mouthy, down on his luck Elisedd is worth more than his desire for power.
The Calm Before is a gratifying, though somewhat muddled fantasy about two men who belong together more than either of them realizes. The plot is generally strong and the pacing is solid. Riagan and Elisedd are both intriguing characters, though I feel Riagan’s development is somewhat stronger than Elisedd’s. Both men are hiding secrets about themselves and neither wants to acknowledge the chemistry between them. All of this makes for a bit of cat and mouse set among the more serious problems of civil unrest.
The world building in The Calm Before isn’t the strongest and it seems to be more a combination of modern technology mixed with elven nature. This could have been lot more appealing with just a bit more elaboration. The author does a good job of setting up the conflict between humans and elves and making the strife between them seem believable. Despite a solid plot, there are some uneven moments, especially involving Riagan and his business, all of which make sense but somehow don’t add much to the overall plot.
The Calm Before has a few fantastical elements, but it isn’t a fully developed fantasy, at least in my opinion. That doesn’t make any less entertaining though. The characters are strong and engaging and the plot is established enough to hold the interest of most readers. Consider this one worth reading.