Rating: 4 stars
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Royal spends most of his time behind the computer, managing the cyber side of things at RELIC, a group of dino-shifters who help stop fossils from falling into the wrong hands. But when the group needs someone to head to Canada to check out reports of a potential new shifter “awakening” into human form, Royal is called in to handle it when no one else is available. While there is, in fact, a new Albertosaurus shifter at the dig site, there are also thieves — and another big shifter. Before Royal knows it, things have devolved into total chaos.
Blaise has hopes of making it as a science communicator, educating people about dinosaurs. He is hoping that checking out the dig site will give him some scoop to share with his followers and help him build a name for himself. But he is totally unprepared to encounter three dinosaurs engaging in a massive battle. He just barely makes it out alive, with the help of Royal in his dino form, and the two escape together. Blaise can hardly believe the story Royal tells him about RELIC and his shifter “brothers,” but Blaise knows what he saw, and the dinosaur lover in him is thrilled.
Royal knows that they have to find the new Albertosaurus, as the shifter will likely be confused and disoriented to wake up human after his millions of years of hibernation. They also have to track down the thieves and figure out why they are stealing sliced off pieces of the fossils. So Royal and Blaise head out on a road trip, attempting to catch up with the thieves and rescue the new shifter. As the men spend more time together, their connection is intense. But Blaise has been hurt too many times and is wary about getting involved. He knows his life is going in a different direction than Royal’s and he can’t bear to have his heart broken again. But the feelings between the men are strong, and it might just be enough to build something lasting between them.
King & Queen is the third book in Maz Maddox’s RELIC series, featuring a really fun world of dinosaur shifters. The premise here is that the shifters went into some sort of hibernation state way back when and are now awakening in human form for the first time. So far we have met a lot of the RELIC team, but they have all been “awakened” for a while, so it was fun here to see the story highlight a brand new shifter just becoming unearthed. The highlight of this series for me is the obvious love Maddox has for dinosaurs and the way the books have such rich detail, without being overwhelming. I enjoy the way the shifters have some of the dino traits in human form, and the insight into their minds when they are shifted. I find myself getting excited about dinosaurs too as I read, and Maddox really brings them to life.
Royal and Blaise are fun together and I liked their relationship development. Things start out with the tried and true “club hookup that turns up in your life the next day” set up, which gives us a chance to see the chemistry between them. Royal is big and muscular and seems kind of intimidating at first, but he is silly and a bit geeky and really a big teddy bear, particularly for Blaise. And Blaise is, as he describes himself, “a messy genderqueer darling who’s in the middle of a life crisis. I’m interesting in the way a flaming dump truck of sparkles is entertaining.” So I pretty much loved him immediately. Just as Royal may look threatening but is sort of mushy for Blaise, Blaise may appear small and weak, but he is tough as nails and gets shit done. The two of them are a great match and I really enjoyed watching them together.
I also enjoyed seeing the rest of the RELIC gang, and we spend time with Dalton and Simon, in particular. I didn’t always love Dalton in his own book, because he is a lot of character, but I am finding I really like him in a supporting role and so it was fun to reconnect here. I think you can read this story without the others, but the basics of the world building, as well as the introduction to RELIC, happens in earlier books, so I think your experience is richer knowing the background.
My only struggle here was with the larger storyline, in that nothing seems quite resolved. We never learn why the thieves are taking these very specific pieces of fossil. Royal and Blaise track down the bad guys, but we never get an answer as to what they are up to. We also never learn why they kidnapped the Albertosaurus. While there is some intensity at the end, a lot of the story is the guys going from place to place, so it is more internally relationship focused than the others and didn’t have quite the same energy as the first two books. I just don’t really understand why the whole set up when there are no answers at all, and very little resolution. Perhaps more is to come in future books, but this story doesn’t present it as an ongoing problem the guys are going to continue to investigate. So it just felt too open ended and I wanted answers to the questions the story establishes.
However, I am definitely looking forward to where things go next with this series. I find these characters so intriguing, and I am particularly interested to see what happens with the new dinosaur shifter. So this is another fun installment in the series and I am eager for more.