Ever since the explosive events that led to the dissolution of the coven Guardians of Night Grove, things have been strained for Sparks. He misses the sense of belonging and camaraderie. He misses how the coven rituals grounded his powers. And he really misses his coven brothers, Dev and Tully. Sparks jumps at the chance to share a meal with the couple. He even springs for a nice bottle of wine…and if he puts a little spell on it to encourage more interactions with his witchy brothers, so what? It turns out Sparks had the right idea about hoping for more togetherness with Dev and Tully. Not only does their god Cerunnos bless their relationship, he binds the three men together in what basically amounts to matrimony. It’s a lot for Sparks to get used to. All three men are clearly attracted to each other, but Sparks is worried they’re moving too fast. When Dev and eventually Tully also admit to feeling a bit out of their element, Sparks is as relieved as he is horrified. The last thing Sparks wants is to come between an established couple. Yet being with the other two just feels…right, comfortable. All they need is time to adjust. Too bad there are foul things afoot that threaten their safety and their happiness.
Despite months of living amongst his fellow fae, Cam cannot wrap his head around one whit of his new lifestyle. Not even threats from the queen of the fae herself are enough to get him to learn his history and practice his craft. On top of all that, the queen demands he impregnate her. Not out of any tender feelings, but because Cam is the only fertile, royal male fae. There are two problems. First, Cam absolutely cannot perform with a woman. Second, Cam only wants his werewolf Everton…a creature banned from the world of the fae and who stubbornly refuses to interact with Cam despite always being just out of sight. Things get sticky for Cam when his insolence gets him banished from the land of the fae. He and his questionable control over glamoring his appearance into something human need help and fast. But when Cam turns to Everton, the werewolf reveals that everyone in the whole town is at risk because Addas. Being born a witch, infected from a werewolf bite, and clandestinely given fae fluids have turned Addas into an extreme supernatural being. Now that his werewolf infection is complete, he’s lost control of his impulses to hunt. Fueled by bloodlust, Addas’ mere existence risks exposing the entire magical realm to humans. It’ll take Everton, Sparks, and all the others to try to save their town…but the cost will be steep.
Cursed is the second installment of J.P. Jackson’s Magus Malefica series. The story continues to swap between two main veins of action: the witches Sparks, Dev, and Tully are in one thread, while Eldritch fae Cam and werewolf Ev are in the other. In this installment, I was very pleased with the sense that both threads contained elements that were crucial to the plot. At the same time, each thread also did a lot of heavy lifting in exploring Sparks’ relationship with Dev and Tully, and exploring Cam’s and Everton’s inability to talk about their feelings for each other (their lust, though…). All together, it felt like these two threads were moving in parallel, dipping and weaving, but without much interaction. Yet it was clear that the two threads would converge at some point.
I was curious about Sparks in the first book, since both he and Tully volunteer to be Dev’s blood brother when Dev gets initiated in the Shadow Realm. This is the book where the three of them explore the depths of their friendship, feelings, physical relationship, and romantic connection. After drinking some spelled wine, the three of them all seem keen to spend more time developing their friendship. But when one of their patron deities, Cerunnos, steps in and basically weds them, the three spend a sweaty, semen-soaked night together that leaves Sparks both exhilarated and cautious. I think the caution and consideration with which Sparks approaches changing how he relates to and sees Dev and Tunny were one of the best parts of the book. Of course, under the influence of a literal god, their first night of passion was amazing. The morning after wasn’t the most awkward thing ever, but in the absence of that divine dazzle it was clear Sparks was entering uncharted territory. Eventually, all three witches reveal they don’t want sex to damage their relationship, but they also know they want to explore being more connected, emotionally and physically. I just thought it was great that this polyamorous relationship wasn’t being propped up by amazing sex and each of them wants to make sure they build something solid.
Side note: I was very put off by how the whole spelled wine thing goes down. Basically, Dev and Tully drink spelled wine without knowing it’s been spelled by Sparks. And Sparks had every single opportunity to not go through with it. The concept of nonconsensual consumption of things played a pretty big role in the events of the first book, so it felt weird to basically recycle that concept here and play it off as no big deal. It doesn’t even really do anything for the plot because whatever effect the spelled wine had, it got blown up when Cerrunos went beyond “unity” to “matrimony.” So yeah. It sat wrong with me.
I was delighted with Cam’s thread. As a character, I find him pretty insufferable and annoying, but that made it all the more enjoyable to watch him (not really) try to learn about his fae abilities and (fail to) assimilate to the fae world. Even with all his shortcomings, he ends up learning just enough to be helpful when it counts. And part of that “counts” includes trying to seduce Ev. The Cam and Ev slow burn felt like a wonderful dark horse. They way Cam talks, you’d think he can’t go 5 minutes without sex. But Ev has already fallen for Cam and is worried his heart will get broken by someone who acts as carelessly as Cam. Of course, the readers know they’re both too afraid to admit they have deep feelings for each other because they are afraid of rejection. So if that’s your bag, you’ll really enjoy the Cam and Ev dynamic. And after the big battle, Cam finally realizes how big a deal it is for a fae to be cut off from their ancestral home. Honestly, I was surprised how much sympathy I had for a character I generally wasn’t too fond of. Cam and Ev’s ending-for-now in this book is a lot more bitter than sweet, but it will be exciting to see where they go in the next installment.
Overall, if you liked book one (or, like me, tolerated it), I think you’re in for a treat with book two. You will absolutely need to read the first book for the second book to make sense and a lot of the emotions stem from relationships and experiences built up in the first book. And like some series, while there is a certain amount of closure in this book (i.e. Addas gets dealt with), there are still absolutely plot points that remain unaddressed. If you’re looking for an exciting read that features sometimes vapid but stupid-sexy characters figuring out love, while also coping with upheaval in their secret magical world, I think you’ll enjoy this book.