Five years ago, Sam Tiller made the best decision of his life … and the worst. Leaving behind a boring 9-to-5 job full of people he hated, Sam took a position that promised adventure and excitement, two things sorely missing from his life. The Community of Species Government (CSG) is certainly exciting. Sam learned about the existence of shifters and vampires, incubi, sorcerers, demons, and so many other creatures he’d never known existed. Now he works with them, is friends with them, and even likes some of them, like his best friend Alistair, who just so happens to be a hellhound.
The worst decision, though? That was when Sam picked up Gideon, a giant, muscular, gorgeous man, from the bar to celebrate the new job and ended up falling for him only to find out that A) Gideon’s a demon, B) they work in the same building, and C) Gideon hates humans. So when a chance comes for a promotion to a new task force, Sam is all for it until he learns who he’s going to be working with. None other than Gideon himself, who Sam still has the hots for.
Sam is tiny, delicate, high strung, snarky, self-absorbed, gregarious, and good at just about everything he does. As the first human admin in his position, Sam manages to make his whole team fall in love with him — so much so that when he’s offered the promotion, he has an entire room of sobbing, weeping, and sniffling monsters who all tower above him all but begging him to stay with them. When he meets his new team members, he charms them without trying, gets a wee bit drunk, makes them laugh, vows to protect them even if they’re useless, and in general becomes their best friend with zero effort. Somehow, Sam manages to do a lot of perfect and wonderful things all with almost no effort.
Gideon is a demon. He’s also — along with the usual 6-foot plus height, cheekbones that can cut diamonds, and a model handsome face — taciturn and unreadable. Until he’s not. When he’s with his friends and co-workers, Gideon can be just as snarky and charming as Sam, but less needy, less witty, and more arrogant and proud. Because the story is all told from Sam’s point of view, and he’s not a terribly reliable narrator, all we see of Gideon is what Sam wants to see. When Sam’s angry, Gideon is arrogant and haughty. When Sam’s all aquiver with love, Gideon is protective and perfect. It adds a bit of of two dimensionality to his character as it can come across as though Gideon is only ever what the story wants him to be
All of the characters have that witty and whimsical personality requirement, which makes it hard to get a feel for them as people. Perhaps because, for Sam, the story is all about him and less about anyone else. While I don’t mind a character with a strong voice or personality who shapes the story through their own lens, it can make it harder to assess the book, especially if you don’t connect with the character on a personal level. I don’t mind Sam, I really don’t. But this book is filled with a certain sense of humor that’s hard to judge because it was so close to my own, but not quite. Some scenes worked for me, and others fell flat. There’s a lot of reliance on cringe humor, such as when Gideon drags out one of Sam’s dildos to wag around in an effort to embarrass him. Or Sam getting drunk and making a fool out of himself. The scenes are well written and Sam is a sharp observer of the ridiculous, but it didn’t hit my particular funny bone.
So, to the nuts and bolts of the story then. The writing is good. Very, very good. Sam is a strong and well-written character, but he doesn’t really grow as a person from chapter one to the epilogue. The side characters feel like archetypes rather than people, and the plot gets overtaken by Sam being just as special as he knew he was.
Personally, it’s an uneven book for me. I enjoyed the glimpses of world building. I enjoyed the World of Wangs, I enjoyed the hellhounds. But Sam and his need to be in the spotlight at all times meant that the plot, it’s set up, and introduction became a moment for everyone to stop and stare at Sam. And the plot itself is interesting, but it never really goes anywhere, because we have to stop and admire Sam just a little more … and then the book ends. This might be one of those series where it’s better to read the books all at once rather than one at a time. Which, I honestly don’t mind because, again, there are moments in this book that worked and worked well. Just not all of them.