The human and fae realms used to be open to one another, allowing for easy travel back and forth. But rifts began to open, letting dangerous creatures enter from beyond, and the only way to stop the rifts was to close passage between realms. However, the rifts recently began to open again and fae prince Caspian has ventured to the human realm in hopes of creating an alliance and finding a way to stop the rifts for good.
Now, six months after entering the human world, Caspian is entering into an arranged marriage with human prince Ash in order to form a political bond between their people. Things got off to a rocky start between the men, and while both are willing to do their duty, neither feels any sort of connection with the other and things are awkward between them. But no sooner are the men married than they must venture out to attempt to close the rifts and figure out a way to stop them from recurring. Along the way, Caspian and Ash begin to see one another in a new light. They also form an unexpected bond that neither man thought possible. But now that the pair are beginning to open their hearts to one another, they face a danger that could destroy it all.
A Magical Arrangement is a short fantasy novel featuring fae, magic, arranged marriage, and a touch of mpreg. I tend to enjoy the arranged marriage trope and Wise does a nice job here taking Ash and Caspian from mild dislike (or at least uncertainty about one another), through the early stages of friendship, and ultimately to love. There are some interesting elements as the men learn more about the ways they connect that neither anticipated. They are both kind, good men who want to do what they can to protect their people. Caspian has a nice ethereal quality, a sweet calmness that belies his inner strength. Ash has been brought up to rule, but has a desire for adventure and is eager to set off on this quest with Caspian. They are a good match and things come together nicely between them. However, despite the shorter book length, there did feel like a repetitious quality to their relationship development. They both seem to get stuck in this cycle of moving forward and then holding back, worried about getting too emotionally involved. So even as they start to actually like one another, they worry about putting their feelings before their quest, or second guessing the other’s feelings, and it felt like the same issues coming up over and over before the men finally get on the same page and are open about what they want.
For a shorter work, I think the basic world building comes together here and we get enough history about the rifts, the relationship between the human and fae realms, and some bits about fae customs and magic to develop the story. The exact nature of the threat still wasn’t completely clear to me even by the end, but we get enough to make it work. However, some of the early story set up felt confusing. We are told Caspian’s sister had planned to be the representative to go to the human realm, but that things are happening so fast it has to be Caspian. But we aren’t told WHY things happening quickly means she can’t be the one to go. Then once Caspian arrives in the human realm in the prologue, the story jumps ahead six months to their wedding day. There seems to be this super urgent threat, and the men must set off the next day to deal with it, so I didn’t understand why they waited six months to address it. Why did Caspian and Ash need to be married before they could go on this quest? And if they did need to be married, why not have the wedding much sooner? Why wait so long if things are so dire? Also, Ash seems to be totally unaware of the threat or any of the political discussions or strategies with regard to how to handle the problem until he is told the day after their wedding. I was unclear why Ash had been totally left out of these meetings Caspian and the king had been having all along, given that he is the one being tasked to deal with the problem.
As a last note, there were some small editorial issues (that were potentially fixed before release as I am unsure if I had a final copy). Nothing major, but enough that I started noticing, so I just will mention it here. For example, some misused words, off punctuation, and a discrepancy in the amount of time Caspian had been in the human realm. Like I said, no huge issues, just a small note.
This was my first book by Toby Wise and I found this one an entertaining introduction to his work. The story is fairly short and I read it mostly in one sitting. If you are looking for a light fantasy with arranged marriage trope, fae, and just a brief mention of mpreg, this one may be for you.