After his last big case, Parker Ferro had hoped things would settle down, but instead, his life is even more chaotic. As the new Windrose, Parker is constantly at the beck and call of the fae court and finds himself trying to navigate the difficult job of keeping the peace among the kings and queens. He is also trying to solve the mystery of the spirit of the town of San Amaro, which claims to be missing its other half and wants Parker to figure out what happened to it. Parker barely knows where to begin and the spirit is getting cranky — a particularly bad thing in an area prone to earthquakes. And to top it off, Parker’s boyfriend, Nick, is involved in a high profile case that is keeping him away at all hours and the men barely have time to see one another.
Then Parker gets a new case to track down a fae artifact. The job should pay well — something critical after Parker was swindled out of a big payday from a previous client. But as Parker begins to dig further into the artifact, he learns that previous client is somehow caught up in the new job. And soon all the various threats seem to start coalescing. With so many things happening at once, Parker is barely hanging on, and one problem seems to lead to the next. But with some help from Nick, as well as Parker’s skills in both fae magic and as a private investigator, Parker may just find a way to sort out the conflict and keep the peace — as well as his life.
The Oak Wood Throne is the second book in Kai Butler’s San Amaro Investigations series and picks us back up with Parker and Nick in the aftermath of Parker’s last case. One of the hallmarks of the series that continues to shine here is Butler’s creative and detailed world building. The books combine the world of the fae and the various courts with different types of magic, assorted paranormal beings, and a mystery/investigation. Butler does a really nice job of taking these elements that often stand alone in other books and weaving them together in a way that really works. I find Parker’s magic, in particular, really interesting. He has fae magic and can communicate with various elements to get them to do his will, like making a cardboard box revert to stronger wood. It is not something I have ever seen before and it really adds a nice touch to watching Parker work. Both the first two books also take seemingly disparate plot threads and weave them together to connect in a skillful and interesting way. Butler has really taken the time to develop the lore and there is a lot of nice detail here that brings the story to life.
However, I did also find all these plot threads somewhat of a stumbling block for me here. This book just has so many different things happening I found myself overwhelmed trying to keep track of everything going on. The first book, Wormwood Summer, used a similar style, but that story had a strong main thread of the investigation, with smaller plots surrounding it that eventually connected. But here, there isn’t really a strong central thread, just what seemed like a million smaller things happening, most of them at once. Just off the top of my head, Parker is dealing with the spirit of San Amaro threatening to level the town, the fae courts making him crazy with their demands, a representative of the Winter court who keeps forcing him to duel, unknown demons appearing from another realm, a succubus who needs rescuing, the fae artifact he needs to find, and Nick getting caught up in his job. And I feel like that is just scratching the surface of the things happening. So it just got kind of overwhelming trying to keep track of everything and how it interrelated, particularly as there is so much magic and fae lore running through things. I feel like the story would have benefited from some paring down of the many elements to give it a little more focus.
Parker is such an interesting character and I continue to really like him here. He grew up in foster care and had a rough go of it until coming to live with his last family. So Parker bears a lot of emotional scars and coming to believe in his own worth isn’t easy for him. We see some nice progress here, both for Parker personally, as well as in his relationship with Nick. Parker has a lot of dimension and I enjoy his voice as the POV character. That said, I continue to feel that Nick is just not nearly as well developed a character. He feels very flat and seems to exist mostly to be a partner for Parker, rather than a character in his own right. Nick helps out on cases and bolsters and encourages Parker, but that feels like about it. I never feel like we get to know him as a person. Nick and Parker’s relationship also seems undeveloped. I know they are boyfriends because we are told they are, but not because I feel any real connection between them or much development of their relationship. All of which is a shame, because Nick is set up to be a really fascinating character. He is alchemy royalty and he basically ran away from home to get away from his difficult family. Nick is also a cop who has a very strict moral code that keeps getting shifted as he and Parker encounter various problems. There are so many interesting elements with his character that could be explored, but we barely get to know him at all. It just feels like Nick is there to give Parker a boyfriend and someone to encourage him, but Nick doesn’t feel developed as his own character.
Even with these issues, I continue to find this an interesting series. For me, the strength really lies in Parker as an engaging main character, as well as Butler’s detailed and unique world building. I feel like at times there is too much going on, and that Nick needs more character development. But I finished this one curious to see what comes next, and think it is a nice choice for urban fantasy fans, as well as those who enjoy stories featuring the fae.