A year ago, the world changed. Mythic creatures from another realm came spilling into our world and were found to be useful. Now they run our cars, our lights, even our televisions. Eliot, as a member of the Civilian and Environmental Protection Agency, is in charge of handling any and all complaints having to do with malfunctioning or mishandled mythics. Of late, gas gremlins seem to be the creature causing the chaos.
Enter Alek Saroyan, an agent with the Mythkin Energy Research Facility (MERE), to help. It’s animosity at first sight with a healthy dose of lust. But even with Alek’s help, Eliot can’t quite find the answer to the gremlin problem, but they’re getting closer. Unfortunately, whatever is causing the problem with the paranormal pests has moved on to murder, and Alek and Eliot soon have targets on their back.
Adding to fuel to the fire is the Trans-phaser Liberation Army, set on releasing all of the mythki they think are trapped by MERE to be experimented on. But that isn’t the only thing heating up. Alek and Eliot find themseles drawn to one another, and as they get closer to the murderer, Eliot gets closer to finding out Alek’s secret.
This is … not a subtle book. Seemingly just to make sure the reader doesn’t miss a point, things are repeated again and again and again. And again. Often on the same page. Rather than let the characters show us through their actions that they’re interested in one another, or that Alek has thoughts and emotions behind his reserved facade, the author tells us patiently, plainly, and several times what each character is feeling. I ended up feeling as if I was watching someone describe a play they’d seen, rather than reading a story.
Alek is cold and reserved, but the author takes pains to let us know that, despite his words and actions to the contrary, he’s very interested in Eliot. We are also know he’s a good person because he has not just one, but five puppies. In words and actions, he’s shy and insecure, but when the situation calls for it, the author tells us he’s domineering and aggressive. If only he could somehow shown us, himself. For his part, Eliot is super judgmental and cruel. He hates republicans because they were the party in power when the great disaster hit that brought our world and the mythkin world together.
Normally I applaud an author for including trans characters, gender fluid characters, or characters with non-binary sexuality. However, here the way it is handled in one scene just feels wrong. Shiloh is a side character who doesn’t get along with her father. Upon first meeting her, Eliot asks if they didn’t get along because she is trans. There is no mention or indication that Eliot would have reason to know Shiloh is trans, and it is followed by the other POV character making it clear there’s nothing to give it away, just Eliot being so very perceptive. The way this character is introduced and the way it’s revealed that she’s a trans person feels wrong to me. It’s as if she was made trans for inclusion’s sake.
The world building and the plot were almost interesting, but around the seventh time the author pointed out how gas gremlins are being used in cars because — get it, gas? — or that water mythics have to do with water because of their name, I stopped being interested. I understand wanting to show off the world building and the novel and interesting take on the paranormal creatures, but it was done so clumsily it almost turned me off the book.
What did, actually, turn me off this book was the ‘relationship’ between Eliot and Alek. After having known each other for a week or so, and having had sex once, it’s revealed Alek has had other lovers. Eliot does not like this. He gets instantly jealous and possessive. When he learns that Alek’s ex — with whom he was once in a long-term relationship — knows more about him than Eliot does, knows one of Alek’s secrets, Eliot stalks off like a child. When Alek comes to talk to him, Eliot hits him. He calls Alek a miserable lying weasel, a vile, loathsome toad, untrustworthy snake — and let me remind you, they’ve slept together once. Before that they were work colleagues who didn’t exactly like each other. Alek apologizes and Eliot graciously accepts. Later, Alek promises he’ll change to please Eliot. He’ll stop being himself and be more open and friendly so Eliot will like him again.
So many red flags. Eliot is toxic and the relationship between Eliot and Alek is toxic. It’s alarming that someone thought this was charming and romantic. Love at first sight is romantic. Owning your partner after one night of sex and encouraging them to change who they are to suit you is not romantic. Hitting your partner because their previous long-term partner knows something about them you don’t isn’t romantic. Eliot is not romantic, charming, cute, or stable.
There’s also a scene at the end where plot armor is put on Alek. When captured by bad guys, rather than test an experimental maguffin on him, they test it on themselves. It makes zero sense, especially since Alek is a federal agent and saw their faces. But the plot holes and plot armor, the tedious explanations of everything and any thing — which normally would have kept me from recommending this book — pale next to the relationship issues.
This is not a healthy, romantic, or even erotic book. Though I do want to point out that, before engaging in sex, Alek and Eliot have a good, healthy conversation about limits, positions, safe words, and what they each want out of the night. Does Eliot want to have a scene, would he like to have sex? Would he like the sex to be rough or gentle? It’s a good, necessary scene and I appreciate it being in the story. If only the relationship was as healthy as the sex talk. Due to Eliot’s red flags and the toxic relationship that follows, I can not and will not recomend this book.