Narrator: Michael Lesley
Length: 16 hours, 40 minutes
Things are going well for wizard Sam of Wilds and his hunky boyfriend, Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart. It has been a year since the pair got together, and though Sam continues to get himself in constant trouble (along with his best friends Gary and Tiggy), the two are happy in their relationship. Sam is even sure it won’t be long before he and Prince Justin are BFFs as well.
Things are shaken up for Sam and his little gang with the appearance of Vadoma, Sam’s maternal grandmother and the leader of the gypsy clan. Sam has never met Vadoma since she cast out his mother for wanting to marry his father. But Vadoma comes to him certain that she sees his destiny and determined to bring Sam into her world. For his part, Sam wants nothing to do with Vadoma, especially when she brings a man she claims is Sam’s other cornerstone. But when Vadoma shows Sam what could be, a future where a man of shadows comes to destroy the world and only Sam can save everyone with the help of some dragons, he knows he can not ignore her.
As much as Sam has no interest in a “destiny,” he is also unwilling to stand by and let evil rule unchallenged. It isn’t going to be easy. Sam is already feeling a sting of betrayal as he learns that Morgan and Randall know far more about his past than they have let on. Not to mention he has no idea how to go about gathering the five dragons from around the country. Nor what to do with them when he has them. But Sam is strong and powerful and he refuses to stand by and let the world be destroyed on his watch. Now with the help of Gary, Tiggy, Kevin, and Ryan, Sam sets out to fulfill his destiny and save the people of Verania from the man who would destroy them all.
You guys, I can’t even tell you how much I was anticipating this audiobook. When I listened to the first book in the series, The Lightning-Struck Heart, I was blown away both by T.J. Klune’s amazing story and also by Michael Lesley’s incredible narration. I fell in love with these characters and the mix of humor and silliness, combined with some real intense and poignant moments. Pretty much from the day this story came out in book form I was impatiently waiting for the audio. So I was thrilled for the chance to listen to this one and the story was just as good as I had hoped.
Klune does a wonderful job here balancing the fun and whimsy of getting the gang back together again with the more serious side of their quest. Sam, Tiggy, and Gary continue to be hysterical and I love the fierce bond between them. Kevin is also along for the ride and we can see that despite the fact that he makes Sam crazy, the connection between the two of them has grown considerably since the last adventure. What I loved most here is actually Sam and Ryan’s relationship because we can see how fiercely committed the men are to one another, along with the strength they provide to each other. Things could have been tense in their relationship as Vadoma brings another man around to entice Sam. And yes, Ryan is hilariously jealous, puffing up his chest and brandishing his sword. But at the same time, we never doubt the love and commitment between them and I never questioned for a moment that these guys are truly meant for one another (and I appreciated that Klune doesn’t resort to the easy conflict by allowing Ruv to genuinely get between them). I’ll also note that Ryan has become an excellent straight man here, with his exasperation at the rest of their antics and his low mumbled comments. He provides some great comic relief in a different way than the more broad humor of the other four.
At the same time that we get the usual crazy hijinks from these guys, this story takes a more serious tone than that last as truly the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. Well, technically Sam’s shoulders as the prophecy is about him. But there is no way his friends and lover are letting Sam face the big bads of the world all alone. Things get intense here for Sam, between the sudden appearance of his grandmother, the sense of betrayal from Morgan and Randall, and the fight he faces against a man who is potentially more powerful than him. I loved seeing Sam’s strength here. Despite all the silliness and crazy things that happen, Sam is fierce as fuck when he needs to be. He stands up to Vadoma, he is confident in his magic, and he will do whatever it takes to save his people. I enjoyed seeing him really come into his own in this story.
My only tiny nitpick here is the book felt the littlest bit unbalanced. It takes a while before the main quest happens and while there are definitely key things that happen earlier in the book, there is a lot that is more fun filler. So it left me feeling a little bit shortchanged on the actual destiny side of things. I’ll also note that while this isn’t truly a cliffhanger, the action isn’t resolved here and you definitely will need to continue on to The Consumption of Magic for more of the story.
I listened to this book in audio and once again Michael Lesley is amazing as the narrator. Honestly, I am having trouble finding enough superlatives to talk about Lesley’s performances. He is truly fabulous here and he inhabits these characters and brings them to life in a way that just transcends the fabulous story itself. As much as I was dying for the sequel after listening to The Lightning-Struck Heart, I waited (impatiently) for the audio of this story to come out because there was no way I was missing the chance to revisit these characters through Lesley’s performance. The way he voices these guys just brings them to life. I don’t know how else to say it. There are a lot of characters here and they are all unique and interesting and have their personalities infused into their audio. From Ryan’s dry asides, to Gary’s over-the-top crazy, to Vedoma’s menacing tone, everyone just gets that little bit more through his narration.
I also loved the how Lesley handles the pacing here. There are moments where he just takes his time, drawing things out, and just letting the words hang in such a perfect way. It is just the right counterpoint to the more frenetic side of things and really those quiet moments were the most intense for me. My only teeny tiny little issue here is that at times Lesley speaks a bit too fast in the high octane moments and I had trouble understanding the words on a few occasions. But otherwise, this narration felt spot on.
So I was thrilled to get to listen to this story and I’m totally in love with this series. It is a truly wonderful book and I think that anyone would enjoy the story, but I can’t recommend the audio highly enough. I am eagerly awaiting getting to listen to the next book in the series.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.