Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: Zachary Johnson
Length: 7 hours, 18 minutes
Jackson Pryde comes from a family of artificers, people without much magic of their own, but who build devices to control and magnify their power. Jackson’s parents were well known in the artificer world before their deaths, and the craft used to be well respected. But now it is a mostly dying art and looked down upon by those with their own innate magic. Jackson does his best to make ends meet by taking on various jobs, particularly in retrieving magical objects, so that he can support himself and his workshop.
Jackson’s most recent job is for the Garland, the guild for those with magic over plants and flowers. They are offering big money for retrieving a magical flower on top of a remote mountain. The catch, aside from how hard the flower is to reach, is that it is being guarded by a magical creature who has so far killed or injured everyone who has tried to retrieve the flower. Jackson is not to be deterred, however. He can definitely use the payout and he is not afraid of a little hard work. He even has a plan for how he can succeed where others have failed. What Jackson is not expecting is that the job will require working with mage, Xander Wright. Xander and Jackson used to be friends, but after growing up together, they went their separate ways when Xander got sent to an elite magical school and left Jackson behind. The two men can barely stand each other now, as their houses are next door and everything one does annoys the other. However, in order to get the job done, they have no choice but to work together.
As the men venture out to retrieve the flower, slowly things begin to thaw between them. Both Xander and Jackson realize there is more to the other than the public face and remember that friendship they once had. In fact, as they return home from their quest, Xander and Jackson begin to act on their attraction, and soon are finding themselves building a relationship. But retrieving the flower isn’t the only problem they have to tackle. A dangerous fever is sweeping the Black Market, the magical city in which they live. People are turning mad, killing their partners, and burning to ash. The situation is terrifying and Xander and Jackson want to do whatever they can to help. And when their friends find themselves caught up in the case, they are even more determined to get to the bottom of what is going on. Solving the mystery will require taking on a goddess, figuring out a complicated prophesy, and staying a step ahead of someone who wants power regardless of what lives it might cost.
A Touch of Fever captured my attention when Kris reviewed it here last fall, so I was really excited to see that author Nazri Noor had published it as an audiobook. This is the first book in the Arcane Hearts series and Noor has created such a fun and creative magical world. I am a sucker for original world building and I really think Noor has something so special here for this series. First off, I loved the set up with the artificers versus the mages and the way the two groups use magic, but also have a competitiveness between them. Which of course plays so well into the enemies to lovers dynamic between Jackson and Xander, but also the whole artificer idea is so creative and fun. We learn a little of the history of the speciality and I think there is a lot of ways this can develop as the series continues. I also loved the idea of the Black Market, a city of magic users that exists outside our world, but sort of “docks” in various places around the globe. So one day, it might be in California and another it could be in Morocco. There are various guilds representing different types of magic — plants, weavers, bakers, etc — who live and work in the Black Market. There is just so much detail and thought put into the world building and it made this book so exciting as we discover all these clever little bits.
The romance here starts out as enemies to lovers, but what I really liked is that things settle fairly early for Xander and Jackson, allowing them to then team up for the second portion of the book focused on the mystery of the fever. Both of these men are skilled with magic in different ways, and it is fun to see them work together (along with some of Jackson’s friends). We get some high intensity battles, as well as a bit of a mystery investigation. The whole story just comes together so well at the end and I just loved this couple and this world.
I listened to this book in audio with narrator Zachary Johnson. This was my first time listening to his narration and I think overall he does a nice job. Johnson conveys the emotional and intensity of the story as well, and gets Jackson’s slight chip on his shoulder, prickly vibe nicely. I found his voices for Jackson and Xander too similar, however, or at least not consistently different, and I struggled at times to tell who was speaking. We are only in Jackson’s POV, which does help with this problem, but it was trickier in conversation. For some reason Johnson’s voice just didn’t totally work for me, but I think this is a personal preference, your mileage may vary situation rather than any specific flaws with his delivery. That said, the audio was an easy listen and I would definitely pick up the next book when it comes out.
So overall I am really excited about this series and finding a new-to-me author. I love urban fantasy and think this series has great potential. Definitely give this one a try.