Rhile has one good friend, named Joz, and the two of them work in the garden center at the local hardware store. Despite Joz’s continual attempts to cajole Rhile into coming out with him, Rhile doesn’t date. It’s not that he is asexual, but the desire to hook-up with someone just doesn’t feel right to him. So he always begs off, leaving him with lots of empty nights alone. One evening, Rhile has a vision that some guy named Ezryn asks him to find a place called Rueberry Orchard. He thinks he was just dreaming, but the same man starts to visit him every night. Then Ezryn teaches Rhile some sort of magical spell that enables Rhile to create fire in his hand and it actually works. When Rhile shows Joz the spell, the two of them decide to find Rueberry Orchard and do what Ezryn has asked them to do: cross the bridge.
With a lingering sense of doubt, a bit of fear, and lots of curiosity, Rhile and Joz find the bridge, cross it, and enter a world where they are the hunted ones. Running for their lives, the two men finally meet up with Ezryn and other men he calls enforcers. As they learn more about the magical world of the unveiled, they discover they too can do magic and, not only that, but they are adept at using weaponry and swordplay as well. Everything is so confusing and Rhile can’t be sure if he is hallucinating or this world is his new reality. One thing is certain though: his connection to Ezryn runs deeper than friendship and the world they are now in is a dangerous one to him and all the others.
Michele Notaro unleashes an incredibly fascinating adventure novel with Rueberry Orchard, where nothing is as it seems and magical beings are the norm. With marvelous world building skill, author creates a fully realized alternate “unveiled” world where magic is the norm and a war is going on for supremacy. Rhile and Joz have lost their memories and more is revealed when they cross the bridge. But Rhile and Joz are still left confused, a bit scared, and struggling to make sense everything around them.
The long and short of it is the two of them must work with the enforcer team led by Ezryn and try to find a way to break the spell, restore power to the throne, and rid their world of the evil usurper who has tortured and enslaved the people—a tall order for sure, since they are constantly in danger of being captured or killed. With heaps of action, nail-biting drama, and a romance that is fighting itself back to the surface, this novel never lets up. Each character has unique powers and I sincerely hope that Michele Notaro decides to write more stories set in this universe she so artfully created.
Rueberry Orchard is part of a multi-author series entitled Beyond the Realm: Remember. As such, there is no real indication that Notaro has any intention of writing a sequel to her book, even though there are a few dangling plot points left open by story’s end. This is not a cliffhanger by any means, but there is definitely room for expansion into a series, in my opinion. Either way, I know that I will be watching for more by this author in the future if this book is any indication of their ability to create a rich and fascinating world peopled with interesting characters.