Eden Monroe is the daughter of a powerful leader in the magical bureau, Hexa, yet she has no power of her own. Eden’s relationship with her mother has always been tense, as her mother, Brianna, doesn’t seem to care for her at all. Eden is bullied at the magical school her mother forces her to attend, and now Brianna is insisting Eden attend a magical college as well. Eden can’t take it anymore and runs away from home, only to nearly land in the clutches of deadly beings who are hunting her. Fortunately, she is rescued by a mysterious dryad named Cedric Esteban, who is determined to protect her, as well as find out why she is being targeted.
When Argonaut gets called into assist with a serial bank robbing case, Cassius Black and Morgan King are assigned to the job. It is unclear what the thieves are looking for, as many valuable items are left behind, but they seem to be searching for something particular, most likely some sort of magical artifact. When Brianna comes to Argonaut for help looking for Eden, she reveals secrets about Eden and her past, as well as the deadly magic Eden has locked inside her. It soon becomes clear that the cases are related and whoever is hunting Eden is also likely the same group that is searching for the artifact. The group is also likely connected to their past case with Chester Moran and the Eternity Key, but they still don’t know who is ultimately behind it all. Now it is a race against time to find Eden, protect the artifact, and stop the thieves before they kill Eden and gain untold power to destroy the world.
Spellbound is the second book in Ava Marie Salinger’s Fallen Messengers series. I really enjoyed the first book and meeting Cassius and Morgan, so I was excited to continue on here. This story does a nice job of picking up the threads from the first book, while also giving us another exciting suspense plot. There are lots of intense battles, as well as a nice build as we learn who is behind it all and their motivations. We also expand the world building here as we learn more about Eden’s bloodcursed magic and how it plays into the larger series arc. I really enjoy this creative world Salinger has built and I continue to feel like it is one of the strongest aspects of the series.
Cassius and Morgan continue to be an engaging couple and their bond is growing ever stronger. They have learned some things about their past, but there are still a lot of questions as to how they are connected, as well as who exactly they were before the fall. They are intense and sexy together, as well as playful, and I really enjoy them as a couple. I wish we had more time with them in this book, however, as the focus is really split between their journey and Eden’s part of the story. We don’t progress much in their arc in terms of learning more about them or their bond, or even in advancing their relationship. In some ways, they feel like side characters here rather than driving the action like they did in the first book.
The story splits the POVs between Morgan and Cassius, as well as Eden and Cedric. Eden’s journey is very much tied into what Morgan and Cassius are investigating, as well as the bigger series arc, so I think it was helpful to get her POV. It also allows the plots to run parallel for a while until things all connect and come together. I enjoyed learning more about the secrets of Eden’s past (as well as Cedric’s), and seeing her come into her own. Eden has not only always believed she has no power, but that her mother hates her. So I enjoyed the way the story unfolds and all the pieces come together.
That said, what really didn’t work for me is the “romance” between Eden and Cedric. Eden is a 16-year-old girl who has two years left in high school. Cedric is a 1000+ year old dryad and a clearly grown man. When they meet, I assumed Cedric was a protector, or even mentor of sorts, rescuing this lost girl and helping to take care of her. Eden notes how handsome Cedric is, but I just took that as teen girl crushing on an attractive older man. But then other characters start teasing them and talking about them like they are a couple, which just seemed weird, and then they actually end up together. By the end of the book, they are sharing a passionate kiss while others look on approvingly, and even more crazy, they end upAgain, Eden is a 16-year-old girl! She is referred to as a “girl” in the story, including by Cedric. I just don’t understand the choice to try to create a romantic relationship between them and it made me super uncomfortable. I am not one to shy away from age gap stories by any means, but for all of her toughness and power, Eden is not an adult, nor written as an adult. The story barely even acknowledges that this is a grown man dating a teenager and why that might be problematic. To be clear, there is nothing explicit here other than the kiss (nor even implied). In fact, there is not much romantic relationship development at all until suddenly they are a couple. But I just couldn’t get behind this at all and it left a somewhat sour taste in what was otherwise a really engaging journey for Eden.
I’ll also note that Salinger has a habit of using descriptive terms in lieu of names frequently throughout the book. It isn’t a style I really enjoy in general, and at times it made things very confusing. For whatever reason, I struggle keeping all these side characters straight and I definitely not able to match their magic with their names in all cases. So having descriptors so often used in place of names just made for awkward phrasing to me, as well as confusion about who was doing what. Just as an example:
The Aerial made a face and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Er, April Fools?” he said in a fake jovial tone.
“It’s October,” the sorceress said flintily.
“I can’t believe they withheld that kind of information from us,” the dark-haired Aqueous demon murmured to the Terrene angel, his tone somewhat hurt.
“I know,” the blond wizard grumbled. “We should ground them.”
“Please,” the enchanter muttered. “Coming from you, that sounds like you want to tie them up in some dungeon and do sexual stuff with them.”
His friends gaped at him, Cassius included.
“What?” the enchanter snapped. “I’m having a shitty day, okay?”
I just found it so difficult to keep track of everyone this way.
While I had some issues with this story, particularly the relationship between Eden and Cedric, I still enjoyed this one overall. I continue to love this world that Salinger has created and I particularly like Cassius and Morgan as a couple. I love that this is a creative urban fantasy with some great battles and lots of magic and interesting characters. This story ties up nicely, resolving the immediate case, but still leaving the larger series arc to be further explored. It looks like there are at least two more books to come and I am definitely excited to dig further into this series.