Mason Kane is a hunter who lost his lover and hunting partner, Jesse, a year ago. Now Mason is injured, out of the hunting game, and pretty much biding his time waiting for his life to end. When Mason meets Toma Shigomina at a bar, the two have a back-alley hookup, but Mason isn’t looking for more. He is not in a place in his life where he wants a relationship.
When Mason is approached by a wealthy club owner looking to hire him for his hunting skills, Mason wants to decline. He is out of that business and has no interest in the work. But when the man offers him a cure for his arm injury and some much needed money to take on the job, Mason can’t refuse. It seems a tattoo artist is drawing demon-raising sigils on his customers and Mason’s benefactor wants it stopped. It turns out that Toma’s background as a magical practitioner and researcher gives him the experience to be a help to Mason, and so the two reconnect again. There is something drawing the two men together, but Mason’s first priorities are to stop the tattoo artist before anyone else gets hurt, to get his much-needed payment, and to make it out of the whole experience alive.
The Demon Design is the first book in Dorian Flynn’s new Souls & Sigils series. The highlight of the book for me is the really creative world building. This is a contemporary world filled with supernatural creatures, as well as with magic. Flynn does a nice job developing the magical side, in particular, showing how magic works with the aid of sigils. There is some nice creativity here to the way the world works and the atmosphere and tone really enhance the story. Mason himself is kind of dark and desperate, a strong man who can handle just about anything, but also someone who is really hurting, both physically and emotionally.The book has one really interesting twist that was totally unexpected and added an intriguing element to the story, as well as a smaller twist toward the end. It all combines for an interesting world and an engaging storyline.
The relationship doesn’t develop as much as I would have liked, however. Mason and Toma meet, have a quick hookup, and then really don’t interact again until almost 2/3rds of the way through the book. While they do ultimately work together, as well as have another sexual encounter, these guys feel more like men in the early stages of a friendship than romantic partners. To his credit, Flynn doesn’t try to oversell this relationship as something romantic or emotional at this point. But I didn’t feel like I was getting any sort of real connection from these guys and certainly not any romance at this point. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that we get flashbacks throughout the book of Mason and Jessie and their fateful last job. It was clear the men loved one another and had a strong bond. So getting these scenes with the two of them throughout the story made the contrast between Mason and Toma’s relationship more noticeable.
The storyline with the demon tattoos also felt a little underdeveloped. Most of the book is setting the stage and building the world, and so this case didn’t feel explored in much detail. We don’t really delve into it for most of the book and then it wraps up quickly with no real explanation of the motive for the crime. Perhaps this is something that may be explored in future books in the series, but I think the case was interesting and would have loved to see it more developed.
Despite these issues, I really liked the world building and was intrigued enough by the set up that I enjoyed this one. It definitely was enough to peak my interest to continue with this series and see what more is to come for Mason. The twist at the end definitely got my attention and I am looking forward to reading more.