Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Manuel Pombo
Length: 4 hours, 3 minutes
The Foxling Soldati is the second book in the Soldati Hearts series featuring Soldati warriors, tiger shifters who guard the unknowing humans from demons and other baddies who’d otherwise consume them. In the first book, the Soldati king, Khalon, found his true mate, Riley, a human who is now the Soldati prince.
Toka is a foxling servant in the Soldati realm and Riley’s personal attendant. He’s also been in love with Rayner, second-in-command to Khalon, for quite some time. Toka and Rayner spend a lot of time in close proximity and their attraction to each other is growing. Unfortunately, Rayner is forbidden to mate a servant, but it doesn’t stop him from finding some bliss with Toka in secret. They have a building passion, but it seems that things are troubled when the Orso come to pay a courtly visit.
See, the Orso are bear shifters, and their king, Pavoni, holds a serious grudge for Rayner—who turned Pavoni’s affections down many years before. Oh, Pavoni, the boorish brute who thinks servants are convenient bedmates, is certainly willing to punish Rayner…by making life very difficult for Toka, regardless of Riley’s attempts to prevent such abuse.
I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, but I will say the main conflict isn’t between Toka and Rayner. In fact, Rayner and Khalon have a big falling out over the status of Toka, when it becomes clear that Pavoni has designs on Toka. The status of servants and consent is a large part of the conflict, in truth. Further, there’s a well-paced mystery regarding “crimes” that Rayner may, or may not, have committed. I liked how steadfast Riley was regarding Toka and progress in the Soldati court; he’s still my favorite character in the series. Rayner was a solid character, and Toka is completely sympathetic. Khalon has an impossible choice to make, and it causes a rift that nearly cripples his court. As the plot unfolds, Khalon makes it right, but not before Toka needs to take matters into his own paws.
There’s sexytimes from the start to the finish, with Rayner and Toka making the most of their intimate moments. Though, the middle section is more of a chase than one might have predicted.
The narrator Manuel Pombo brings the whole realm to life, with a well-paced, tonally-rich performance. There aren’t many female characters, but his range is sufficient to the task. It was easy to experience the petite Toka, the burly Rayner, and the behemoth Pavoni. I liked the slight eastern European lilt to the Orso parts, which gave them a more exotic feel.
As the story winds down, we get many new characters, and it seems as if the Soldati seer, Erza, might have the next love story—perhaps with a grizzled Orso. I’m very much looking forward to the prospect. I’ve listened to this one a few times now, and still enjoy it.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.