It is clear that time is running out to stop the Masters from returning and ending the world as we know it. Whyborne is determined to do all he can to help in the fight, especially as the violence and bloodshed increases. When Whyborne’s cousin, Rupert, entreats him to come help save the Endicott family from magic that is keeping them trapped in their ancestral home of Balefire, Whyborne is not sure he should be leaving Widdershins. These are dangerous times and he is needed to help protect the town. Not to mention that after they keep trying to kill him, there isn’t much love lost between Whyborne and the rest of the Endicotts. Yet they have the key to deciphering the Wisborg Codex, an important tool in stopping the Masters. So with the promise of the key in exchange for his help, Whyborne sets off for Balefire, along with Griffin, Christine, Iskander, and Heliabel.
It seems somehow Balefire, which has been protected for years against both the ketoi and other magical attack, has fallen into dangerous hands. The family members who were in the home at the time of the attack have been trapped there for months. Worse still, it appears that the Masters, or at least their minions, are at work keeping them there. With the Masters so close to crossing back over into our world, more is at stake than just the Endicotts at Balefire. It is up to Whyborne, Griffin, and the others to stop those who hold Balefire hostage before it is too late.
Wow, Jordan L. Hawk has done it again. I am a huge fan of the author’s writing, and will read pretty much anything Hawk writes. But the Whyborne & Griffin series is arguably the author’s most well-known and beloved work, and Balefire is the perfect example of why. As always, Hawk manages to combine the romance between Whyborne and Griffin with an exciting and thrilling magical suspense, all while tying the story together with the larger series plot. At this, the tenth book in the series, things are all interconnecting from previous books and Hawk masterfully weaves pieces together from the larger story. For that reason, you really need to be familiar with prior books for this one to work well, but given that this is in my top all time handful of favorite book series, trust me, it is no hardship.
So I don’t want to go into too much detail plotwise here, because discovering just what is happening at Balefire is part of the fun (and horror) of the book. There are multiple conflicts built in here that manage to all work together well. We have Whyborne’s dislike of travel, combined with the fact that leaving Widdershins right now can be risky. Add to that, there is the conflict with Whyborne and Heliabel versus the rest of the Endicotts, most of whom all hate them for various reasons having to do with ketoi blood and past wrongs. But at the same time, if they are possibly going to rescue anyone from Balefire, they must all work together. A third faction here is the ketoi, who as we have learned in Draakenwood, were harmed far more by the Endicotts that we once thought. And yet now the Endicotts need the ketoi’s assistance if they have any hope of saving their home. And of course, on top of THAT, we have the Masters, their impending return, and whatever these guys are facing when they arrive at Balefire. It is all just a fascinating mix of conflict and suspense, and Hawk does a wonderful job taking elements from across the series and pulling them all together here to continue bringing the series to its climax. I’ll admit that sometimes the lore got a bit overwhelming; not having read all the past books recently, there were some things I couldn’t fully follow. But overall, Hawk does so well at weaving all the series elements together, while still bringing us an exciting individual story.
One of my favorite parts of the series as it develops is the increasing bond among Whyborne and his found family. Of course, he and Griffin are so sweet and wonderful together. Although this story focuses less on the two of them together than some, we can still feel the intensity of their bond, how these men would happily die for one another, and how the strength they provide helps the other through hard times. This story is told in dual POV between the men, which really adds to the excitement as we get each of their perspectives as the story evolves. I love the way the relationship the men have with Christine and Iskander has continued to grow as well. Whyborne and Christine have always been best friends, but here we see how strong their bond really is, how they are almost like siblings. Christine is in rare form in this book and she just keeps getting more awesome, in my opinion. I love that she is kick ass, speaks her mind, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. But here we also see some of her vulnerability, as well as some sweet moments with both Whyborne and Heliabel. So I love how this group has bonded and enjoy seeing them all battle together to take down the bad guys.
So this was another fabulous installment of one of my all time favorite series. I’ll say it again, if you aren’t reading Whyborne & Griffin, you should be. And if you are, you don’t need me to tell you this is an installment not to be missed.