Aramin “Min” Decourcey is an unrepentant thief who does what he needs to stay alive. Min doesn’t care about too many people, particularly the wealthy of Amberwich and the Gifted magic users. But he does have a soft spot for his adopted nephew, Harry. When Harry gets caught in the bed of one of the wealthy Sabadines and finds himself given a death curse, Min will do anything to help him. That means agreeing to track down one of the Sabadine grandchildren, a Gifted apprentice living in the city of Anhaga. Kazimir was due to return to Amberwich years ago, but the hedgewitch who was training him has not sent him home. If Min wants the curse on Harry lifted, he must find a way to retrieve Kaz in exchange. As much as Min doesn’t want to get tangled up with the Sabadines, Harry has only two weeks until the curse kills him and so Min will do whatever he needs to bring Kaz home.
Anhaga is a dangerous village, as it is occupied by the Hidden Lord, the leader of the fae. Each night the fae come hunting the town and everyone locks themselves up tight for fear of their attack. While Min is able to kidnap Kaz out of Anhaga, the fae follow, attempting to get him back.
It is clear that Kaz is in an impossible situation. On one side are the fae, who are hunting him down. And on the other is the dreaded Sabadine family. Even if the group can manage to make it back to Amberwitch alive, Kaz faces his monstrous grandfather, who plans to wed Kaz off to his uncle. They will keep him in iron, preventing him from using his magic, and want him as a pawn for the king to use against the fae. While not usually a man with much of a conscience, as Min gets to know Kaz, he can hardly bear the idea of leaving him in the hands of the Sabadines. He also finds himself truly growing to care about Kaz. But if Min wants to save Harry’s life, there is no choice. With the Sabadines on one side and the Hidden Lord on the other, the men are in a seemingly out of options. But there may just be more to Kaz than meets the eye, and with enough strength and bravery, the men may find their way to a happy ending.
I’ll admit that I don’t read much fantasy, but when I saw Lisa Henry had fantasy story coming out, I couldn’t resist giving it a try (also, look at that cover!). I have to say that I absolutely loved this one and was totally caught up in the story. The world building here is really nicely done, and Henry provides enough detail on the politics of the land, the magic users, and the fae to build a creative story. Things are just complex enough to make it interesting without being overwhelming. I also loved the ambiguity here between good and evil. There is more going on with just about every character than we think at first, and I particularly enjoyed Min as a man who is unrepentant in his bad behavior, but also clearly caring, not just for Harry, but ultimately for Kaz as well. He is sort of an anti-hero and I enjoyed the way that he cares about those he loves (as well as the good people of the city) and couldn’t care less about the ones who are out to do harm.
This story has a nice road trip feel as the men travel between Anhaga and Amberwich. It gives them a chance to get to know one another and build a believable connection between Kaz and Min. It also gives Min a chance to see Kaz as a person and as more than just a tool to save Harry’s life. It is clear early on how much Min regrets having to take Kaz, but his love for Harry trumps everything else. I appreciated that Henry gives us realistic relationship development here. The men hardly have time to talk and really get to know one another well during the journey, and so having them be suddenly in love would not have felt realistic. But the connection is there and it slowly grows throughout the book to get us to a happy ending that feels well earned. This story goes in some surprising directions and I loved all the reveals and how things came together in the end.
So I really enjoyed this story and found myself totally caught up in Min and Kaz’s journey. I also loved Min’s relationship with Harry, and Harry gets his own nice side plot I liked as well. There is an entertaining bit of an anti-hero vibe going on with Min that I really liked, and the world building pulls it all together. If you are a fan of fantasy stories, definitely check this one out.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.