Artificer Jackson Pryde doesn’t have much magic himself, so in keeping with his family’s tradition, he makes objects that can tap into and amplify magical power. It’s a dying art, as many artificers have given up the trade. But Jackson is determined to make something of himself. In the meantime, he’s a hunter, tracking down magical reagents that mages need. It nets him enough money to keep funding what he does.
The mage across the street, however, hates all of Jackson’s banging in his workshop. When they were young, Jackson and Xander Wright were friends. But when Xander went away to a prestigious school to learn magic, that friendship died, leaving two men who are often at each other’s throats. Despite their attraction to each other, they can’t help but get under each other’s skin.
When Xander and Jackson are tasked to work together to find a magical flower, they find the mystery goes much deeper than they first thought. And what’s worse, people living in the Black Market are dying under suspicious and terrifying circumstances. As the connection between Jackson and Xander grows, the murder hits close to home. It’s up to Jackson, Xander, and a few friends to figure out what’s going on. Before it’s too late.
Nazri Noor is a new to me author, so it was the perfect opportunity to pick this book up for New-to-Me Author Week for Reading Challenge Month. And I was not disappointed. Noor crafts an interesting and inventive world here with his new series, urban fantasy at its finest, and the story kept me engaged to the end. I was invested in the characters and story right from the start, and while it wasn’t a perfect read for me, I greatly enjoyed it.
The world building, as I said, is inventive and interesting, taking the norms of the genre and giving them a slight twist. The Black Market is where a lot of supernatural beings live, and it’s a bazaar of sorts that caters to all their needs. But it also travels around the world, so you never know quite where you’re going to end up should you venture into the mortal realm. Mythological creatures, gods, and magic users all exist, and some live in the mortal realm, though they stay hidden. The author manages to give all the pertinent information without it ever feeling like an info dump
The story is told through Jackson’s first person POV, and the narrative has a great feel. Jackson has snark and sass, confidence and charisma, but also enough arrogance and insecurity to make him feel real. The style is one that also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, with Jackson speaking directly to the reader. That’s not normally something I enjoy, as it often pulls me from the story. But Noor makes it work well, and it’s fitting for the characters.
Xander, on the other hand, is filtered entirely through Jackson, so we don’t get to know him as well. There’s definitely layers to the character though, and they are slowly revealed as the story progresses. These guys were friends as children, and have been sort of enemies in their adulthood. It’s not exactly enemies to lovers, as I wouldn’t say the MCs were truly enemies. But they definitely irritated each other, and some of that stemmed from childhood hurts. They do work through this in a believable way, and Noor shows the attraction underlying all of their interactions. So the romance feels believable, as they get back to a good place and then are able to move into something more. I was definitely rooting for them, and the book ends, romance-wise, with a solid HFN.
As for the other plots of the mystery and the flower, I think Noor did a decent job tying it all together. Some points were a bit obvious, but there’s a comfort in that. I also found some plot points had resolutions that seemed a bit too easy for my liking and would have liked to see them explored a little more. In the end, though, the murders are solved. But it opens up a whole new host of questions, especially regarding the agency that oversees and protects the Black Market. This is the first of a trilogy, and the subsequent books are scheduled to release in the next couple of months, so that part, while left unfinished, sets up the rest of the books nicely.
All in all, I enjoyed this book. It had a few moments and plot points that didn’t work as well for me, but it’s a really solid tale. If you’re looking for urban fantasy MM romance, with great characters and engaging writing, pick this one up. I’m glad I found this author, and will definitely add more Nazri Noor books to my TBR.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of TEN great book bundles from almost 100 authors (you can see the details on the bundles, including the fabulous authors who donated books, in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here.