All it took was a bit of magic and a pinch of fate to steal the thief’s heart.
The job was supposed to be quick and easy. Sneak into the house, posing as a waiter, use the bathroom to change into party clothes, and pretend to be a guest. Mingle, smile, and fade in; walk past the displays of magical artifacts, and, while no one was looking, steal the enchanted knife. Get in, get out, get home, and get rich. The one thing Noah didn’t count on is how easily the magical prince charming takes his breath away or the way it feels when their magic melds.
Ben has been looking for love in every bedroom, backseat, and bachelor in his circle. Unlike his family — unlike most people, really — Ben believes in the soul match. A match between two people that takes their separate magic and joins them together, allowing them to share their powers, as well as share their lives. His sister wants to see him well married to advance the Caldwell name, but when Ben catches sight of the pretty young man, he knows there’s something special about him. Once he has Noah in his arms, Ben knows it’s not just special. It’s perfect.
Much like Lady and the Tramp, this story gives us two lovers who are worlds apart. Ben has been raised in an ivory tower, trained in the best schools, both for academics and for magic. Noah lives in the warlock infested slums, learning his magic piecemeal from whomever he can get to teach him. Ben is swimming in wealth and luxury, while Noah has to pick pockets and steal odd and ends just to feed himself. Mages and warlocks do not, have never, been equal, and if Ben’s father found out his son was slumming with a warlock there’d be hell to pay.
Ben is a Caldwell mage, among the most powerful and the most respected. Well, the family is respected, at any rate. Ben is seen as a playboy, charming and flirting and seducing anyone handsome enough or friendly enough, though he never keeps them beyond a night or two. It’s the family’s rather embarrassing secret that Ben is looking for his true love, and one they’re willing to put up with, for now. His father holds him in contempt and his sister only sees him as a tool to be used. Ben doesn’t care, though. If he’s lucky enough to find his soul mate, everything will be perfect. And, until then, he’s having fun looking.
Ben, like the cocker spaniel Lady, is open hearted and — while not innocent — willing to give anyone a chance. Once he realizes Noah is his soul mate, he’s unwilling to do anything to risk frightening, or hurting, or angering Noah until the warlock accepts their bond. Even knowing Noah is trying to steal from his family, Ben doesn’t actually care. One, it can’t be done anyway, and two, what he and Noah have between them is more powerful and more wonderful than a silly knife. He won’t let anything get in the way of their happiness. Not even Noah.
Noah is very much a junkyard mutt who came to his magic later in life. Always the target of bullies, he’s learned to cast illusions as easily as he breaks wards to get into safes and locked doors. He’s an opportunist, but something in the way Ben looks at him makes him uneasy. He doesn’t want to believe what’s between them is real because, if it is, Ben is better than he is, and he knows it. Ben deserves better than some warlock who only wants to use him. Hurting Ben is the last thing he wants to do, which is — for him — unusual. He’s never allowed himself to be close enough to anyone to care for their feelings. The more he’s with Ben, though, the more he wants to protect the mage. But, the more that he’s with Ben, the more danger he puts him in.
The plot is simple enough, though not simplistic, that I don’t want to give anything away, especially as the story seems set up to be the start of a potential series. However, I enjoyed the plot. Everything that happened felt true to the world the author created and abided by the rules they set forth. While the setting itself was rather forgettable, the magic system was intricate and no character acted either stupid or reckless for the sake of the plot. (That’s not to say that Ben and Noah didn’t have their moments; they are, after all, only human.)
The magic here is described in a very fluid way with water metaphors being heavily used and, in later chapters, water itself plays an interesting role. For Noah, it’s an ocean of magic with waves and swells, the way it feels when Noah casts is described in very languid, liquid terms. However, once his magic is affected by Ben’s powers, fire shows up, with sparks and heat and eruptions of power. We don’t really see how Ben thinks about his powers. Perhaps, with more institutionalized teaching it’s more a thing of rote practice and spellwork than the natural way Noah has pieced together.
The limits feel believable, and while we’re not given huge exposition about why and how magic works, enough is given to us through the way both warlocks and mages use it to get a feel for the rules. Mages and warlocks aren’t all that different save mages are taught by schools — mages also tend to come from powerful, wealthy families — and warlocks are people who often come from mundane parents and are taught as best they can by other warlocks. The class distinction and conflict feel very rooted in the world and you can see the tensions in the way the characters react to one another, knowing who has what training.
So many little things in this book work for me, such as Ben’s sister, Alyssa, and her initial opinion of the thief that tried and failed to steal the knife at the party. Her idea, her interpretation, fits completely with what she knows of her brother and warlocks, and was neither on the nose, nor too far off from believability, considering her brother’s character. Small things like that make me appreciate an author who treats every character as though they matter. Well, mostly. Some side characters, such as the Caldwell’s guards or the thugs from the warlock slums are pretty much guard A and thug B, though effort is made to distinguish them from one another.
I also appreciated that the soul bond was not so all consuming, and that simply because their magic came together, even though the characters were fated to be together, it wasn’t a case of love at first sight. They had to spend time together and get to know each other before making the choice to be together. This was a quick, easy read with a fun story and a creative approach to magic and the soul bond. However, the final conflict with the villain felt a little too easy, in part because I think it is set up to be the first of a series. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a series since I really did enjoy this book.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.