Author Rhys Ford is a genius and a devil. That ending—oh dear author, you are such a tease. No, it’s not a cliffhanger per say, so don’t worry and yet…it is definitely a WTF moment for Kai and Ryder and fans of this series. Speaking of which, before I go any further, if you have not read the first two novels in the Kai Gracen series then the review of this latest, Jacked Cat Jive, will definitely reveal spoilers of those preceding it and not make much sense. Now that you’ve been warned and you know there is an exciting ending that is nowhere near the conclusion of this great series in this third book, let’s move on to what I can tell you without giving away the store.
Kai once again meets up with and barely survives men and creatures alike who want to see him dead. Being the stalker for hire that he is, he is often called upon to dispose of the strange and violent things that made it through the veil when the elven world and humans collided. Being the engineered mix of unsidhe (elven–dusk court—bad guys, for the most part) and sidhe (elven as well, but nicer guys, again, for the most part) and raised as a human makes Kai much tougher to kill, but not invincible. His seeming lack of regard for his own personal safety aside, Kai will go toe to toe with anything no matter how deadly to save those he considers his—Ryder being one such person. Those familiar with the series will remember Ryder as the new elven Prince who has come to establish his realm. Not only does he fight his own kin (his nasty, conniving grandmother Sebac comes to mind), but also his penchant for giving asylum to any unsidhe who request it has not gained him much favor in either court.
That pretty much brings us to the cusp of this novel; there is a job that a friend of Kai’s requests he take that will mean going to the border, where life is extremely dangerous and controlled by rogue bands of unsidhe, to rescue a woman and three children wanting asylum. Children are both rare and a real commodity in the elven world so Ryder agrees to give them a home and insists on traveling along—something Kai begrudgingly allows. What neither man is prepared for is a visitor to court who will challenge Ryder’s authority and prove to be more than meets the eye and who will also insist on joining the rescue party. Couple that with the nasty surprises along the route, the hunting party that crashes on the scene who are bent on seeing Kai dead, and the revelation that someone from Kai’s past is back in business and about to make a huge power grab, and you have the recipe for an incredibly fast-paced action adventure fantasy that will leave you breathless. And trust me—it really does and then some.
This world that Rhys Ford so cleverly and painstakingly creates never ceases to provide non-stop danger aimed directly at poor Kai. Just when I think this author cannot possibly create any more bizarre or deadly creatures, she takes the series up another notch by giving us not one, but two or three such nightmares for Kai to kill. But it’s not all fun and games and killing for Kai because in this book we also learn even more about his past and watch as Kai grapples with the imminent death of Dempsey—the man who essentially saved him from becoming his father’s lifelong science experiment. Despite Dempsey being a mean old so and so and the man who made Kai the excellent stalker he is today through sheer brute force, the porch scene between he and Kai is at least a five tissue chapter and will melt your heart, so be forewarned.
We also get a keener sense of just how much Kai responds both emotionally and physically to Ryder, despite his aversion to being near the elven folk. The two of them gain a whole lot of common ground in this novel and little things like that damn chocolate scene will go the next step toward stealing your heart for good. I love Ryder. He is still a touch arrogant, but that attitude is now tempered with a real sense of respect and a growing affection for Kai. So many truths are spoken in this novel and despite Kai pushing them away, they start producing a chink in his heart armor that is really apparent by novel’s end.
Jacked Cat Jive proves the series Rhys Ford is crafting is just getting better and better with each additional book. Kai continues to grow and develop as a character, as do those who surround him, revealing more interesting facets of their personalities and drawing the reader more deeply into their stories. With exacting patience and incredible attention to detail, Ford continues to weave a special kind of magic in this amazing world she has plucked from her vivid imagination. I cannot wait for the next novel in this series. In the meanwhile, fans will find Jacked Cat Jive delivers another incredible chapter in Kai and Ryder’s journey together.
A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.