Five years ago, Elena fell from a tree on the island of Lukos. She awoke by the river of the dead with a boy, Evander Akti, who suffered a fall like hers, but in his own country of Arktos. The river was calling to both of them, but they walked together, and ultimately Elena was called home, brought back from the brink of death. She awoke with two coins in her hand, and her best friend, Aleks, by her side. Aleks saw Elena fall, and he watched Death try to take her, but Aleks somehow stepped in and stopped it. Ever since then, Aleks has had a connection with the spirits, called to be a ferryman and help lead them on to their next stage of life, but he is wary about telling anyone the truth about what happened.
Now, Elena and Aleks are leaving Lukos and sailing for Arktos. Elena has not been able to forget about Evander, feeling a connection to him that she knows she must see through. Aleks has been in love with Elena for years, so he is eager when offered the chance to go with her. They expect tracking down Evander might be difficult, but as it turns out, he is now the leader of the Arktos people. Evander remembers Elena and feels the bond between them just as strongly, and he too has held off on settling down with anyone in hopes that they may one day be reconnected. When reuniting in person, Elena and Evander quickly act to join together as mates.
While Aleks had hoped traveling to Arktos would allow him to leave behind his burdens as a ferryman, it turns out something is wrong with the dead in Arktos. There is a group that is interfering with the spirits crossing over, and Aleks finds himself compelled even more strongly to help. To their surprise, it turns out that Elena and Evander also have a connection to Aleks’ calling and he needs them in order to fully complete his duty. At the same time, the three of them begin to realize that they are a fit for more than just this task, but that there is an attraction and a romantic connection among all of them. Evander and Elena are both dominants, and Aleks could be their perfect fit as a submissive. But he is also wary, worrying he is just satisfying their need for a submissive, that they don’t truly want him for himself. But the bond among all three of them is clear, and as Evander, Elena, and Aleks work together to save the spirits and stop those disrupting the natural flow of death, they also find their way to love and happiness together.
Summer of the Wanderer is the third book in Iris Foxglove’s excellent Seasons of the Lukoi series. The first two books take place on the island of Lukos and we learn about this community of former exiles who have grown to thrive in the harsh, frozen landscape of their new homeland. Both Elena and Aleks have been regular side characters in the series, but since this book moves the setting to Arktos, I think it would work as a standalone. That said, the larger series lore all plays together, so I think this one still works the best as a complement to the rest of the series.
We have seen the friendship and close bond Aleks and Elena have in previous books, as well as the hints that Aleks has feelings for Elena, so it was fun to see them find their way together here. They have such a fun, playful way about their interaction that I really love. It is easy to feel the bond that the two have together, even when their relationship is just close friendship. Aleks brings out a more lighthearted side to Elena and their banter and teasing gives some fun to their dynamic. Even as Aleks cares for Elena, he encourages her connection with Evander, wanting whatever will make her happy. And Elena and Evander are like fire together as they finally reconnect after years of waiting for one another. They are hot and intense and all need and I enjoyed seeing these two different dynamics in the relationships. And then, of course, we get to see them all three together and they fit so well as a triad. Aleks is a great balance for Elena and Evander’s intensity. He is a bit bratty, constantly babbling, and often easily overwhelmed and I found myself totally charmed by him. Like I said, Aleks is a great balance for the other two and I enjoyed them all together.
There is also a nice element here as we see Arktos and can compare it to life on Lukos. It is not just the contrast of the desert country versus the frozen one. It is also the way these two groups have at the same time both strong similarities and differences. There is a shared intensity and fierceness among the people of both countries, a determination to get things done and not back down. But we see how living constantly on the edge of life and death leaves the Lukoi seizing the moment, taking action because you may not get another chance. On the other hand, the people of Arktos are a military country with no one to fight. They are all about strategy, planning, order, and organization. It makes for a fun contrast and plays into the ways we see the characters approach the challenges they face.
This story takes a different direction with the lore and world building, though it builds on some things we have learned in the earlier books. The focus here is largely on the aftermath of that event five years ago (at least, five years in Elena and Aleks’ time, as time has passed differently for Evander). Something happened that not only bound Elena and Evander together, having survived death, but that also changed Aleks and gave him this connection to the spirits. In Arktos, something has gone wrong with the balance of death and the spirits are not passing over as they should. It means Aleks must learn more about his abilities, as well as accept this responsibility for death that he doesn’t really want. It also all ends up connecting nicely with some of the bigger picture elements with Lukos and their past and I liked the way these threads all came together. That said, I found the details of the world building challenging to follow. I feel like I caught parts of it, but a lot of it just seemed so complicated that it went over my head. It just left me feeling like I wasn’t fully understanding what was happening and struggling at times to keep up. However, I do think the big picture themes work well and it does come together in a lovely way in the epilogue.
It looks like the final book in the series will bring us back to Lukos and I am very excited looking at the blurb and seeing who will be featured. I find this series just has a lovely tone that really draws me in and leaves me feeling just warm and satisfied. If you enjoy fantasy, particularly with a light kink element, I can highly recommend this series.