Hunter Best returns home one night to find his apartment ransacked and the thief still there. The man has stolen an amulet Hunter got from his mother before she passed away. She made Hunter promise to always keep it safe and so he doesn’t hesitate to chase the intruder. However, before Hunter can catch the man, the thief opens up some sort of portal and Hunter follows after him… only to find himself transported from his home in Chicago to some sort of medieval realm.
Hunter quickly learns he has arrived in a land on the brink of war. The queen has become a tyrant and is jailing anyone caught rebelling, creating fear among the people. At the same time, the war the kingdom is fighting against their enemies, the Henerans, is escalating, and it looks like those two things are related. It appears the queen is an imposter — and one who looks just like Hunter’s deceased mother. The thief who stole her amulet is Dax, a leader of the resistance who needed the amulet to prove the queen is a fake.
Hunter’s first goal is to return to his own realm, something made complicated by limited magical resources and the fact that his world runs on a different timeline than the one he entered. For every day he is gone, weeks have passed by at home. Hunter is also under suspicion from just about everyone, as the resistance knows it has a mole and Hunter is a suspect. While they reluctantly take Hunter in under Dax’s authority, Hunter wouldn’t be surprised to find himself stabbed in the back. And even though Dax has saved Hunter’s life, he doesn’t seem too keen on Hunter either.
As Hunter learns more about the queen’s tyranny and the goals of the resistance, he is drawn into their cause. And when one of their own is in danger, Hunter will risk his life to help. Now with lives of the resistance on the line and the country at the brink of destruction, Hunter and Dax will give all they have to save their friends and the kingdom.
The Witchstone Amulet is an incredibly engaging and highly exciting fantasy that kept me drawn in from the very start. The book begins in our contemporary world and we meet Hunter in the aftermath of one of his rugby games. Thomas does a really nice job here of giving us a sense of Hunter, a strong and confident man who has always worked to fit in as a gay athlete and who thrives as part of a group and a team. Suddenly, Hunter is thrust into this alternate world where he is totally out of his element and can barely fend for himself. The story is told from Hunter’s POV and it gives us a nice window into this world from his perspective. As Hunter learns abou the kingdom, the people, the war, and the queen, we as readers do as well, so he is a great lens for the story as he is also an outsider. But at the same time, Hunter has a connection to what is happening that is slowly revealed and it adds a really interesting dynamic to the story.
I enjoyed the world building quite a lot here. We get a lot of rich detail and the story is nicely layered with interesting side characters. I felt like I could envision so much of what was happening and there is a lot of creativity here. At the same time, I never felt drowned in details and the story flows well. The first portion is focused more on Hunter and getting acclimated to the new world and his situation. Then we move into more action as the fight heats up with the resistance against the queen, and things get breathlessly exciting. Hunter attempts a rescue at the castle and my heart was pounding throughout.
From a relationship ends, the story has a bit of an enemies to lovers vibe as Dax is definitely on the surly side and keeps his emotional distance from Hunter for reasons that become clearer during the story. At the same time, we can see that he cares about Hunter and protects him from those that want to see him harmed. There is definitely a bond that develops between the men that I could feel over the course of the story, and a happy ending for them as a couple. But I think the romance side is the weakest point here as there just isn’t as much time showcasing their relationship development as I would have liked. I think more time seeing the two of them together, even just talking, would have helped the romance to round out as much as the rest of the plot.
So I really enjoyed this one a lot and found it an engaging and very exciting fantasy story. The last portion in particular really captivated me and I so enjoyed the world Thomas has created. If you like fantasy, particularly with a fish out of water vibe, definitely give The Witchstone Amulet a try.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.