Forged In Fire is the second novel in Ari McKay’s Asheville Arcana series. For those who read the first, Out of the Ashes, you’ll remember Whimsy as the mage who was once in a friends with benefits triad with Julian and Arden. Now that Arden is mated to Eli and Julian has become even more paranoid and closed off, Whimsy is alone and available. When we last left Asheville, these characters had managed to vanquish a demon, but not the werewolves it had compromised. So, it’s no surprise that there has been another raid, this time on a bear shifter tribe, and some rumbling about a mysterious cauldron. New to the group is a coworker and friend of Eli’s, Harlan Edgewood.
Harlan has walked the earth over three hundred years, but not by choice. You see, unlike Eli who is a werewolf, Harlan is a lycanthrope—a human who was forcefully turned by a bite from a demon. Because of this, Harlan experiences incredible pain when shifting and cannot control when he does so. Eli and Arden immediately think of Whimsy as someone who can help ease Harlan’s discomfort while shifting—it doesn’t hurt that they also think Harlan and Whimsy would make a great couple. Little does anyone know that Harlan’s wolf has a different idea as regards Whimsy—a more possessive one. But the team is distracted by the attacks on innocent shifters and humans and knows that the problem they thought they may haves settled on their last encounter is far from being over. Now between a growing attraction to a shy and reserved lycanthrope and fighting someone who is set to unleash yet another powerful demon, Whimsy has his hands full and then some.
While I had some reservations with the first novel in this series, I can say that this one hit it out of the park. Once again, Ari McKay brings forth a plethora of shifters, elves, and magical entities to create a fast paced, action-filled story that focused around an incredibly sweet and slow building romance. If Whimsy’s name didn’t grab you right off the bat, his sweet personality coupled with some kick ass magical abilities certainly will. He is compassionate, loving, and loyal to a tee and his attention, when lavished on the shy, reserved Harlan, is just lovely to read.
Harlan, who was once a Quaker, still holds on to some pretty narrow views and is, believe it or not, still a virgin—but not necessarily because of his former religious lifestyle. You see, Harlan cannot trust his wolf to be civilized or patient with a lover. He also feels tainted due to the way in which he was turned. The shame he feels, coupled with the prejudice he has had to endure from other shifters, has made him both cautious and lonely. Whimsy is just the person to change all that if Harlan will allow it.
With a balanced blend of furthering the demon unleashed plot line and developing the sweet romance between to unlikely opposites, Ari McKay gives us a delightful paranormal story that is better than the first.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.