Ten years ago, a scientific accident caused a rift between worlds, destroying the mythological world of Tariko and collapsing it into the human world. Along with the chaos came many of the creatures of myth and legend — dragons, ogres, mermaids, and even gods — who were thrust into the human world as their own world died. Now, ten years later, there is still tension between the humans and the mythos. Though the mythos have been forced to adapt to their new lives, there are many humans who see them as nothing more than animals that should be rounded up and caged. Violence and crime against mythos is high and goes mostly unpunished. In San Francisco, things are better for the mythos than in many places around the world, but tensions are still high as the city is in the midst of a battle between the current, anti-mytho mayor and the pro-mytho challenger.
Edra works for Mythological Services as a liaison to help mythos navigate the human world and is now working to coordinate with the police. Edra is a lesser dragon, which means he can shift to human form and largely escape notice. But he cares deeply for his fellow mythos and works to help them navigate a world that often treats them unfairly. Jordan is a human police officer and mytho sympathizer. As someone who was bullied for being different growing up, Jordan understands how hard it is to stand out and he quietly supports the mythos as best he can. But Jordan knows that tensions are high in the city and being seen as a mytho supporter can lead to problems.
When a satyr is killed, Edra and Jordan are called in to investigate — though in Jordan’s case, his boss expects him to quietly make the case go away, as they do with almost all crimes against mythos. However, Jordan is unwilling to overlook the murder, even though he knows it will lead to trouble at work. Jordan and Edra get to know one another as they work together, and there is an attraction between them. However, both men are wary of getting involved; human/mytho relationships are frowned upon by most humans and Jordan worries about the repercussions. Edra isn’t so sure getting involved with Jordan is a good idea for him, either. But that doesn’t stop the attraction from growing. When two humans die from an overdose of a mytho drug, tensions in the city ramp even higher. Edra and Jordan must work together to figure out who is behind the crimes before the human/mytho conflict destroys the city.
Lust and Other Drugs is the first book in T.J. Nichols’ new Mytho series and it’s off to a great start. The world building here is just fabulous and so creative. The idea of all these mythological beings suddenly crossing into the human world leaves open so many interesting angles. Nichols showcases the conflict as both sides struggle to adapt to their new reality, and it is clear that even ten years later, neither side has fully come to terms with the situation. But while the mythos are mostly making do as best they can, many humans are still hostile to the mythos, making their assimilation into the human world almost impossible. I liked the way Nichols plays with the idea of standing out and being different, as of course they are so many real world parallels. Here we see that mythos who can “pass” for human have a much easier time being accepted, while groups who have a less human appearance have a much harder time. There is also little acceptance for the different mytho cultural norms, such as various religious observances or methods of conflict resolution. As with the real world, differences are often feared and shunned. We see how that plays out with Jordan, who likes to occasionally dress in a more traditionally feminine style, with makeup and lace undergarments. He hides that side of himself from almost everyone, knowing being different and standing out will cause trouble for him, especially as a member of the police force. So the story delves into some interesting big picture issues here and Nichols does a nice job incorporating these ideas into the story.
I also really loved the variety of mythos we see and the little details that make them all unique. The main focus of the story is on the satyrs, but we also encounter ogres, dragons, mermaids, vampires, werewolves, and more. It is fun to see all these beings come to life and the way they adapt to living in the human world. As a lesser dragon, Edra has had to learn, for example, that people don’t like it when you eat their pets. Nichols has done such a great job here, especially with little twists on familiar beings (in this world, vampires are hideously ugly, for example). I really enjoyed the creativity and how it enhanced the story.
The relationship between Edra and Jordan is nicely done as well. The attraction between them is apparent, though it’s a slow build. First off, both of these men are wary about getting involved. They are also at odds, despite what they would want. Jordan is investigating the crimes, but he is aware that no one wants him actually arrest any humans for crimes against mythos. While he is committed to finding the culprits, it is completely likely that they will face no ramifications. So Jordan has a constant battle to convince Edra and the other mythos that he is serious about his job and is really trying to help, as most of them have given up believing the human police will ever look out for them. Edra operates sort of in a gray area. He is not officially a police officer, but his unofficial role is to help the mythos navigate the human world. This means sometimes his job is to clean up messes before the humans get involved, so he is not always working on the side of human law. So these guys are on one hand trying to work together, but on other other, face conflicts that make it difficult to fully trust.
Despite this, Jordan and Edra are clearly falling for one another. Yet as a lesser dragon, Edra has some very specific issues around relationships; basically, he can feel lust and satisfy it, but that means his attraction to someone pretty much ends afterwards. Or, he can try to build a relationship, but sex has to be on hold during that time if there is a chance of anything more between them. So there is point where these guys decide to move forward with trying for something real, but that means a lot of unrequited lust as they work through it. That said, there is a lot of nice sexual tension here, as well as a growing relationship, so I felt very satisfied. As this is only the first in the series, I assume things will continue to develop in future books.
I found this story super engaging, but I did struggle with the very abrupt ending. The story is very expansive and goes into a lot of detail and layers for most of the book, but it feels like the last quarter of the story is shoved into a handful of pages. I kept watching the time tick down on my kindle and wondered how things would possibly tie up before the end of the book. And while they technically do solve the case and for the most part things resolve in other areas, it all happens very quickly and somewhat superficially. After how nuanced and detailed the rest of the book is, the ending just felt way too fast and took something away from the story for me. I will also say that at times, I found this a hard story to read, as things are so unfair for the mythos and it is one frustration after another. It felt very real, so it is a credit to Nichols for wonderful world building, but the complete unfairness and constant uphill battle can be upsetting. But there is a happy ending here on many fronts, so overall we are left with positive vibes.
I am really excited about this series and found I couldn’t put this book down. I think Nichols has created something really fascinating here and I am very eager to continue on with the series.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.