Kiran and Nick have escaped, at long last, the decaying realm that has been both their safety and their prison. But it has come at a cost. For Kiran, the long centuries of privation, abuse, assault, and starvation have left him teetering on the edge, ready to surrender to the embrace of death … if it weren’t for Nick. Nick is his scion, the beat of his heart, the grounding force that keeps him sane. If Kiran lets go, he will pull Nick down with him. But one selfless act may change everything.
In this new world, Kiran reaches out his hands to heal a bloody and broken Wolf, helping both the broken body and mind recover after a brutal, magical assault. There, in a shattered mind where the man and the wolf have been separated and drowning in pain and memories, Kiran and Nick bring warmth and healing, and find themselves with a new shadow as Toby —still sundered, still damaged — has found in Kiran and Nick something that he and his wolf can agree on.
Toby and Nick circle around one another in a gentle flirtation, leaving Kiran to pull ever further away. He wants Nick to be happy, and if the Wolf will make Nick happy, then Kiran is willing to step aside. But Nick doesn’t want to be without Kiran, and neither does Toby. If Kiran refuses to see the offer of love in front of him, Toby and Nick will have to find some way to convince him.
WitchCurse is the fourth book in the Kitsune Chronicles series and has been offered as a standalone. And while, technically, it can be read by itself (as I did, having not read any of the previous books in the series), I do not recommend it. Too many side characters are shoved forward with offhand mentions as to how they fit into the world, and their introductions are rushed. The big bad of the book has absolutely no emotional impact because all of the bad — the big and the small — that they have done to Kiran and Nick were done in other books, leaving the conflict feeling shoehorned in and the resolution toothless. Honestly, I think this book is best read following the previous three books.
Speaking of three, this polyamorous book has three characters: Kiran, Toby, and Nick. Kiran is a fae prince who has been held captive in his mother’s kingdom all his life. As someone only half fae, he is viewed as less than a person, chained with curses and torment. Fae feed upon magic, using it the way we would food, so they feed on Kiran. He has been abused — emotionally, physically, mentally, and raped over and over — for the countless decades, centuries, or even millennia of his confinement. Is it any wonder his issues have issues?
Kiran has doubts about his physical attractiveness, doubts that Nick — soulbound to him — finds him truly attractive rather than just being kind. Doubts of his ability to protect Nick, of whether or not he deserves Nick, of whether or not he wants to handle the burden of hope being forced on him. Hope has only ever meant more pain, for Kiran, and yet Nick is determined to hold onto it with both hands, all while flirting with the Wolf. Kiran, after so long, after so much physical abuse that his body is numb and broken, has no ability, emotional or physical, for intimacy. But Kiran thinks Nick can have that with Toby, if only Kiran weren’t in the way, and he shoves his jealousy down as far as he can, choking on it, pulling even further away from Nick.
Nick has grown in the fae court, watching Kiran die inch by inch for years. Everything he has done is to try to heal Kiran, to free him from the Underhill and the dark fae who hold him there. But he has never once wanted to be free of Kiran, who he loves. Who he wants, even as he knows Kiran doesn’t, maybe can’t, feel the same way about him. With Toby it’s different. It’s just a matter of flesh and loneliness, not the deep bond he has with Kiran. Until it becomes something more as the three of them are bound together. Or, rather, as Toby and Kiran are bound together.
Toby was changed from human to Wolf against his will, and in the madness of that moment, he and his wolf were divided. Toby doesn’t want to dwell in the past, though. He and his wolf, while disagreeing on many things, agree on this: Kiran and Nick are theirs. He wants them both. He wants to protect them, mate them, claim them, and love the. But Nick and Kiran have a bond that ties them together, and Kiran keeps shying away from him. Toby blames it on the magic curses he can see shackling Kiran, so he decides to do something about it, but breaking Kiran free of his chains might unleash something more than any of them are prepared to handle.
In this book, Kiran is a powerful figure capable of eating magic, called a kitsune. He’s also afraid of either turning into a monster, or of turning Nick and/or Toby into monsters, not that Toby and Nick care. Or believe. And that’s one of my issues with this book. Kiran is full of thoughts, dark and despairing, snarky and cynical, sad and melancholy. And no matter how careful he is about respecting the privacy of his bondmates, they never once give him the same respect in return, constantly listening in on his thoughts. And, at times, gaslighting him rather heavily. Yes, Kiran has unhealthy thoughts, but having other people accusing him of constantly lying, of telling him he’s wrong, isn’t the way to handle that. And when the three of them begin to dance around the idea of sex, both Nick and Toby are aggressive, getting into Kiran’s physical space, telling him what they want to do to him, even mentioning taking turns. It comes across as objectification of someone who has been viewed as an object all of his life, and it also feels akin to bullying.
Now, being in his head as they are, both Toby and Nick know Kiran isn’t actively trying to say no, he’s just avoiding saying yes because he’s afraid of changing the relationship between them. But Nick and Toby don’t seem to really want Kiran’s input, they just want sex. With him. And while they work to heal him, it’s very much with the undercurrent of getting him healthy enough so that they can safely have sex with him without hurting him. It feels like they are not caring that perhaps he’s not ready, because they are.
Then there’s the author’s writing style. The word “male” is used a lot. This male, that male, the other male, and not just by the author, but by the characters, as well. There’s nothing wrong with this, certainly, but the constant repetition of it stood out to me and, personally, and it’s not a style choice I’m all that fond of. I do not care for the stilted, adverb heavy writing with broken sentences and tense shifts. Overall, I simply did not connect with the writing style or the characters’ methods and that very much colored my impression of this book.
The world building is strong in parts, but lacking in others, and I wonder if this is because I hadn’t read the previous three books. Even so, with all those nitpicks, I was interested enough in some of the ideas and the execution of the magic system that I would very much consider reading future books in this series. So, my final review is this: If you’ve read the other books, you’ll probably enjoy this one, but I found the relationship between the three men to be borderline unhealthy and did not personally enjoy that.