The Shackles that Hold Us is the second full-length novel in the Magi Accounts series, and these book need to be read in order. As such, there may be some mild spoilers for the first book in this review.
Madeo and Cosmo are still finding their feet as bonded mates, but it’s going better than it ever has. Of course, Cos wants Mads, along with Mads’ dyad Jude and their adopted little brother Logan, to move into the pride house, but Mads isn’t ready. For all that Cos considers the three magi part of his pride, Mads and Jude worked too hard to gain the little independence they have. More than that, as much as Mads trusts Cos and the pride, he still can’t take the leap completely. His past has shown him that the only he can really rely on is Jude, and he’s still working on letting down his walls.
But the Ono-Nai pride has Mads’ and Jude’s backs, especially the part that are his on their TRD team. And the breaches in the veil are increasing in number and size. What’s worse is that the magi are finding witch magic at the sites of the breaches. When one particularly horrible breach has the team working harder than ever, things take a turn when Mads and Jude willfully disregard a direct order. The magi are the lowest class of citizens, and the consequences are harsh.
In order to get Mads and Jude back, Cos has to take drastic action, and even then it still takes a long time and tons of red tape. But there is no way Cos will leave his pride members enduring the kind of torture Mads and Jude face. Cos is prepared for the fallout, as long as the magi are healthy and whole again.
But the tears in the veil are getting worse, and the hundreds of shifters being killed is despicable. Mads, Cos, Jude, and the rest of the team will not stop until they can get to the bottom of things. They will put everything they have on the line in order to save innocent lives. But it may not be enough.
The metaplot of the Magi Accounts series continues here, and the events from the end of the first book are a foreshadowing for worse things to come. This book is long and, at times, heavy. There is on page torture of main characters, and a quite a bit of the violence of war. The dystopian world Notaro has created is extreme in a lot of ways, especially in regards to the treatment of the magi. We saw a lot of that in the first book, but here it goes to a whole new level.
The first half of this story is more heavily focused on the relationship development. I felt it could do with some tightening up as it covers the same ground in several different ways. Mads has a huge chip on his shoulder, and it’s completely understandable why. And he softens here some in this book, and definitely has huge growth in the trust department. The action in this section serves minimal clues, and the focus is more heavily on Mads and Cos, as well as the magis’ growing relationship with the pride. And while this was necessary to some degree, especially as Mads’ walls break down and he comes to trust Cos and the pride more, I was wishing for a tighter narrative here and not so much repetition.
They mystery that plays out through this book builds on the situation at the end of the first, and shows Cos and Charlie’s captivity was an even bigger deal than originally thought. Witches are doing some horrible things, and their black magic is even worse than anyone suspected. There are scenes in this book that are truly graphic. The author has created a world where it works, and manages to invoke the right kind of outrage and horror with the narrative. I will say, however, that there’s not really a resolution here for this and, instead, a twist that wasn’t wholly surprising, but that sets up future books and a formidable enemy.
I’m definitely invested in this world and this series, and this book adds new layers that I appreciated. I really liked seeing Mads becoming more comfortable in his skin and learning to trust the pride and Cos, who have shown that they are worthy of that trust. If you like dystopian novels that don’t shy away from the horrors of the world and an interesting magic system, I suggest giving this series a try.