brought to light coverRating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novel

Callum is a hitman, but something is off about his latest job. He and his partner are being forced to take the assignment by some shadowy figures threatening them if they fail. And the target is an adorable barista who seems far to angelic and sweet for anyone to want to hurt him. Callum doesn’t want to hurt him. But if he wants to keep himself and his partner out of trouble, he doesn’t have much choice.

Linden is a fae who escaped to the human realm to avoid an evil sorcerer who believes Linden is prophesized to kill him. When Linden sees Callum, he has his suspicions that the guy isn’t just a regular customer. But when more bad guys are sent to hunt Linden, sticking with Callum seems like the safest bet. Despite the man’s scary exterior, Linden doesn’t think Callum actually wants to hurt him.

While the men manage to escape the latest attackers, they end up back in the fae realm where trouble is still brewing. The sorcerer who wants Linden dead is still after him, and this time he is threatening someone close to Linden. He knows he has no choice but to confront Lord Evalt, but it also means near certain death. However, Linden has Callum at his side, along with Linden’s two best friends, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to save Linden’s family and stop Lord Evalt for good.

Brought to Light is a contemporary fantasy that is part of the Magic Emporium collection. The books are written by a variety of authors and tied together by the existence of a magical shop that appears only once when someone is in dire need. The stories can be read as standalones, as the only connection is the appearance of the shop.

I liked the mix of contemporary and fantasy in this story and we spend time in both the human and fae realms. It gives us a chance to see both Linden and Callum in their elements, as well as watch the super competent Callum be a bit of a fish out of water as he tries to find his way in Linden’s realm. This isn’t a hugely expansive world in terms of world building, but I think Grayson sets the stage well enough to follow the magical elements of the story. I enjoyed the camaraderie between Linden and his best friends, as well as the way Callum slowly begins to fit in and forge a connection with them too. I also really loved the way the Magic Emporium ties back into the story. At first I was a little unsure, as Callum visits the shop early on and not much seems to happen with this thread. He isn’t in dire need at the time, so it didn’t fully seem to fit. But things come back around really well and I enjoyed the way this element of the story ties in. Visiting the shop also serves to give Callum his first taste that something strange is going on, which leads him nicely into the future revelations.

Callum and Linden have a fun dynamic of the gruff hitman who falls for his sunshiney target. It gives us a chance to see Callum’s more tender side, as well as the way Linden challenges him. I just felt like we didn’t get enough backstory or character development on either of these men to really take things to a deeper level, however. We are told the basics — Callum is a veteran who is now a hitman, Linden is the son of a cook who is now being threatened — but it doesn’t go enough beyond that to really develop things. In Linden’s case, I wanted to know more about his life before these events to understand his character better. I also wanted to know how Callum went from fighting for his country to murdering people for a living. We also see Callum willing to sacrifice everything (including his relationship with Linden) for his business partner, Jesse, but we learn next to nothing about the other man, nor about their relationship, their past, or their connection. Nor do we ever really learn any detail about the threat to Callum and Jesse, which is the impetus for all of the early conflict. Jesse knows all the details, but he doesn’t tell Callum or, by default, the reader. So we are just told big, scary things will happen, but not what is actually going on, which diminished the impact for me. I also felt like we don’t get enough information on Evalt to bring him out of generic villain territory and make him feel a fleshed out threat.

I also think the pacing is somewhat off here. We spend a short time in the human realm, and then a very long time with Callum and Linden wandering around before connecting with Callum’s friends. Then the book takes on sort of a road trip feel of watching them journey to where Evalt is holding Linden’s loved one hostage. The actual conflict at the end happens quickly and without any real plan on the part of Linden and his posse, so it left me feeling like most of the story was sort of the “middle.”

In the end, I think what worked for me here outweighs my concerns. I enjoyed the mixture of the two realms, as well as the fish out of water element for Callum as he tries to find his way in the fae world. The men have a sweet relationship that I liked, particularly when Linden asserts his inner strength. So if you are looking for a nice contemporary fantasy, or want to check out more books in this collection, give this one a try.

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