Things are going well for mage Bel Adams and his two human familiars, Nico di Rossi and Garen Dallarosa. The three men are in sync, both on the job fighting magical mayhem, as well as in their personal relationship. As good as things are between them, Bel is still feeling some stress surrounding the failure of his first familiar bond. He is so happy with Garen and Nico, so he doesn’t regret their bond, but he can’t help feeling upset that his bond with Spencer was such a disaster. With the anniversary of the dissolving of their bond coming up, Bel is feeling more anxious than usual and Nico and Garen are determined to help where they can.
When there are a series of unexplained disappearances near an Australian military base, Bel and his team are called in to investigate. No one knows just what is harming people, but based on the gruesome scenes, it appears to be something big and scary. The fact that even Bel has no idea what the creature might be just adds to the chaos, but they are determined to track it down and stop it. The job requires the help of the local military, which puts Bel right in the sights of someone from his past, adding to the stress of the situation. But with Nico and Garen by his side, along with the rest of his team, Bel is determined to stop the monster before it kills again.
A Mage’s Guide to Aussie Terrors is the second book in A.J. Sherwood’s R’iyah Family Archives series. Bel is a rare type of R’iyah mage, meaning he has demon blood and human familiars. I loved the first book and really enjoyed both the world Sherwood has created, as well as the relationship among Bel, Garen, and Nico, so I was super excited to find the author was continuing on with the series. This book takes the trio to a new location as they hunt a monster in Australia that is killing people around the military base. It is a chance to not just reunite with the three men, but also their larger team. There is such a fun dynamic among this group. Sherwood does a great job not only building three very different men among our MCs, but giving them a great group of secondary characters as well. I love Nico as basically a human golden retriever — happy, enthusiastic, full of energy, and always getting into trouble. He is fun paired with his new BFF, Wicky, who is equally energetic and full of trouble. This story is a little lighter on the world building than the first, as the basics of Bel’s magic and the familiars have already been laid out in the first book. I felt like it might have been nice to get more details on the creature (once they figure out what it is) and how it fits into the magical lore. The adventure also ends a little anticlimactically. We get some great fight scenes early on, but the final battle seemed a bit mild for the culmination of the adventure, particularly compared with the first book.
In addition to the magical battle, the focus here is also on both the connection among Bel, Nico, and Garen, as well as on Bel dealing with his past with Spencer. I think the foreshadowing (and the blurb) will keep this from being much of a spoiler, but just in case…Bel encounters a situation that forces him to really confront his past with Spencer. He still feels the pain of that rejection, even as he is incredibly happy in his current relationships. Things develop in a way that gives Bel a chance to move forward, recognizing he is truly over his pain from how things played out with Spencer. So there is some nice closure here for Bel, as well as a chance to highlight how Nico and Garen support him. Nico may be sort of comic relief at times for his antics, but it is still clear how much he loves Bel and that dedication to each other really comes through from all three men.
It looks like the next book in the series will focus on Wicky, which I think will be a lot of fun. I really like these books and enjoy the lighthearted tone to these paranormals.