Narrator: Greg Tremblay
Length: 9 hours, 44 minutes
Roku MacCormick is an oddity in an otherwise odd world. In a San Francisco where the worlds of faerie and human nestle cheek to cheek, Roku is a half-breed. Rather than the product of science, splicing magic talents and faerie genetics onto a human embryo, Roku is the product of the natural union of his human mother and not-so-human father. Not only is he caught between the two worlds of the magical and the mundane, his grandfather happens to be a prominent figure in the magical mafia, and his mother — whose footsteps Roku chose to follow — was a cop. A good one. And so, Roku hopes, is he.
Not that many would call Roku a good cop for shooting his partner in the leg. To be fair, he probably saved the man’s life. If Roku hadn’t shot him, the dragons might have eaten him, and that’s no way for a man to go. Even if they happen to be a crooked cop stealing dragon eggs for a quick bit of cash. So, after a brief reprimand it’s on to the next partner, and the next case.
The partner in question is one Trent Leonard, a man who watches Roku’s every move with a bright and focused eagerness and who desperately wants to be Roku’s partner, even if he doesn’t know enough to have the bare basics of supernatural supplies on hand. Before Roku has a chance to get to know Trent, they’re interrupted by a stone shrine god statue come to life who decides to take a romp through the city. A statue whose artist made certain to endow the creature with everything he needed to prove to the world he was… a god of, er, fertility
For Roku, it’s just another day of mayhem and maddening chaos, something to distract himself from the pain of his dead husband and daughters, victims to his grandfather’s politics and rival fae factions. For Trent it’s an eye-opener, proving to him just how powerful Roku is and emphasizing how much he wants the other man. But with more statues on the move, the deaths of innocent victims, an elderly missing woman, and more magic than you can shake a bag of tea leaves at, Roku is going to have to learn to trust Trent one way or another. But Trent has a few secrets of his own.
There are twists in turns in this book that I don’t want to give away; that would spoil the fun for you! And this is, I promise you, a fun book. First let me gush about the world building, something that has always been one of Ford’s strengths. Her version of a mystical San Francisco and Chinatown are so real it’s almost as if you could visit. You can practically smell the herbs and flavors of the various restaurants, and see the architectural hybrids of the gates, roofs, and building facades.
And that same hybridization applies to the characters. Much like Chinatown itself, Roku is neither strictly Chinese nor American, neither fully fae nor human, but someone balancing between the two. He longs for fae wings even as he keeps a separation up between himself and the members of the fae community. Roku struggles between loyalty to his family and a distaste for the life they lead, and the price he paid for that association.
Trent, too, struggles halfway between one thing and the next. As a splice, someone whose arcane talents were given to him not through nature but science, someone who was abandoned by his parents — whoever they were — shortly after his birth, he’s always had a struggle with identity. The military helped, but he’s not there anymore. Instead, he’s looking for a new start and a new partner, and has focused on Roku to be that partner. It’s not too stalkerish as much as it is… fan, or admirer. He researched the Arcane Crimes unity before settling on it as his new life, and while looking up the SFAC he found Roku. Someone who is good looking, skilled, a good cop and a good person, and someone Trent wants to know, to learn from, and to befriend. On meeting Roku, though, Trent realizes he also wants something more, a more… human connection.
Roku is still half in the past, mourning his lost family — and blaming his grandfather for their deaths. (Not that it’s that simple, as we learn later in the story.) Trent offers him a chance at both a new partnership, someone he can trust at his back, but a chance at a relationship that is fully here, in the present. He’s not using Trent to replace Jon, his lost husband; he’s not using Trent at all. Their slowly growing friendship, which leads into something more — like a spark starting a bonfire — feels so natural and effortless. For all that the events of the book happen at a rapid-fire pace, the pacing of the story isn’t rushed at all.
Personally I would have liked to have spent a little more time in this version of San Francisco, a little more time getting to know the people in Roku’s life, a little more time amongst killer fae, dragons who roosted on the dragon gates, and the kitchens and restaurants of the city. I suppose I’ll have to wait and see if the author is kind enough to give us a sequel. Whether it continues with Roku and Trent and Bob (the cat) or some other pair or people, I don’t care. I loved this world and the world-building so very much. Ford has a wonderful balance in her storytelling, never too much introspection and sprinkling enough hints that you think you know the ending even when you don’t. While I was half-right about the twist, I was also so wrong on the other half.
I love that, and I love sofu (Roku’s grandfather). He’s enough of a villain and enough of a foil that he balances Roku and his earnest efforts to do the right thing, giving him room to twist and sidestep when the rules of law and order get a little too much in the way of doing what he knows needs to be done. Their relationship was so delicately handled with so many hints at what could be… I really want a sequel to this book.
This audiobook wouldn’t be half so good with another narrator. Greg Tremblay has a remarkable gift for narration. He manages to keep each character separate and unique. You can even tell the difference between Roku’s inner thoughts, the general narration, and Roku’s speaking voice. He manages to pronounce the Japanese/Chinese words without emphasis, making it clear they’re simply part of the dialogue or part of the world without pointing them out. The Japanese/Chinese names, terms, and accents felt natural (not that I’m an expert, but he convinced me!) and even his Irish priest sounded believable.
The writing is wonderful, the narration is excellent, the world is well-done and I urge you to read this book if you like paranormal books with strong characters who make strong and sexy couples.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.