Now that the truth about his identity is out, Gillian Hamilton has been left to rot in an asylum for the magically insane. He has been stripped of his job at the Federal Bureau of Magic and Steam, and they are hiding him away, pretending he just left his position when instead they are lying about his mental health and have locked him away. The conditions are horrid and Gillian is near freezing and starving to death. Even worse, he has not heard from Gunner and has no idea what has happened to the man.
Before the FBMS found out about Gillian’s past, he and Gunner had uncovered the truth about Tick Tock’s identity. But they know that the gangster wasn’t working alone. Someone was creating the mechanical men for him, and someone has figured out how to use magic in a new and dark way. The are rumors of a doctor involved, a man known as Sawbones for his crimes during the war. When Gillian manages to find a way out of the asylum, he knows that he must find and stop this doctor, who is not only violent and dangerous, but destroying magic.
Fortunately, Gillian is reunited with Gunner and the two are determined to track down the doctor, even without the help of the FBMS. But staying ahead of the authorities who want Gillian recaptured isn’t easy, particularly when there is corruption all around. The situation is also bringing out ghosts from Gillian’s past, a past he had hoped to keep hidden. Even as the men get closer to catching Sawbones, the doctor is turning the tables and their lives are on the line. But Gillian and Gunner will not rest until they catch a madman and find a way to stop the devastation he is leaving in his wake.
I am absolutely in love with C.S. Poe’s Magic and Steam series and The Doctor is another fabulous installment. The story opens in the aftermath of the revelations that Gillian has been lying about his name and his past, and he has been captured and imprisoned by the FBMS. Over the course of the story, we learn the details about the person he used to be, why he changed his name, and what happened to him in the past. Poe does such an amazing job here building this backstory and developing Gillian’s character as we learn the truth. It is horrifying and we learn about his very difficult younger life, as well as the atrocities he was forced to commit. It is clear that Gillian holds himself responsible, despite the fact that he was put in an impossible position when he was too young to have any control over his abilities or his fate. But it haunts him and we see that Gunner is working to help Gillian through that trauma, to help him understand that it is not his fault. The backstory is fascinating and tragic and I was completely engrossed in watching it all unfold. We also start to learn more about Gunner’s past as well here, though the focus is mostly on Gillian. But we learn how their pasts have intertwined in unexpected ways and, as this story ends, it leads into some shocking revelations that involve Gunner as well.
The mystery/suspense side of things is exciting and intense, as the men attempt to track down those at the heart of the magical abuses from the prior book. Again, things are slowly unveiled throughout the story, and we learn who is behind it and what they are trying to accomplish. Gillian and Gunner find themselves in danger time and again as they boldly attempt to find the culprit, even as FBMS seems to be mostly ignoring the problem. One thing that I found a lot of fun here is watching Gillian really make full use of his powers for the first time. We know he has been holding back and masking his abilities so that the truth about his past would stay hidden. Now that all is revealed, Gillian has no reason not to use the full scale of his magic and so we get to see him really let it all loose here. He is powerful and intense and brave and I loved seeing the magical side of things really develop here.
Of course, the true heart of this series is Gillian and Gunner’s relationship and I so adore the two of them together. The are firmly in love and committed to one another at this point and both are willing to risk all to protect the other. So I loved seeing them team up here on tracking down Sawbones, but also love the way that they take care of each other. This is sort of an odd couple, opposites attract kind of relationship and I really enjoy these men together. They are so solid, even as the world is in chaos around them, and I love the sweet tenderness they have for each other.
So I totally loved this one and just adore this series. If you enjoy paranormal stories, particularly with magical elements, these books are a must read in my opinion. We are left with a nice resolution to this main storyline, but we get another fascinating (and horrifying) revelation at the end that leads into the next book. I absolutely can not wait.