Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Kirt Graves
Length: 4 hours, 22 minutes
Best Beast is a novella set in the Enchanted Occasions universe, filled with mythical creatures of all types intersecting on Earth and other realms via portals. It is a prequel to the main series and enjoyable as a standalone. Please be aware that I only had the audiobook, and therefore had no spellings for any of the many unusual names or races of supernaturals that are used in this story. However, I did do significant research to get names as correct as possible.
Jovan Kos is an “H-er”, which means he’s half-human and half-supernatural being. His father’s humanity allowed Jovan to take a mostly human existence as a Ulfhednar, or Viking Berserker who can shift into a wolf warrior. This fearsomeness has been a boon in Jovan’s calling as an Interstitial Law Enforcement (ILE) agent, where he defends supernaturals from other supernaturals. Because of anti-H-er bias, Jovan is not allowed to reveal his half-supernatural status or he risks expulsion from the ILE ranks.
Kai Shiffer is also a “H-er”, being half-Klabautermann, a race of invisible helpers aboard ships and watercraft. Klabautermann assist the crew diligently until the ship is going down, and then they become visible, perhaps to help evacuate. It’s not clear if Klabautermann are the harbinger of doom, or the cause of the doom, but in any case, seeing one is a super bad omen. Because he’s only half-Klabautermann, Kai is actually visible under normal circumstances in the Earth-realm, but not in the interstitial bridges and portals between realms, and this is where the bulk of the story takes place.
Jovan is the best man for his dear friend Ola’s wedding to Radka. Ola is a frost goblin and Radka is a veela, and their families are not super excited about this union. Radka’s best friend is Kai, and while she’d have liked him to be a big part of the wedding, the nuptials are taking place in an interstices and Kai will be invisible there. Though they are not part of the planning of the wedding, Jovan and Kai have become close over the past couple of years attending other formal and informal gatherings in the interstices during Ola and Radka’s courtship. In fact, both men are pretty gone for one another, even though Jovan has never seen Kai.
At the bachelor/ette party, they strike a bargain to ensure Ola and Radka get married, no matter what shenanigans arise. It’ll be hard for Kai to help much; his movement stirs up wind, which is seen as a bad omen by Radka’s suspicious and prejudiced grandmother. Radka’s family is angry she divorced her first husband, a cheating light elf, and it becomes clear quickly they are doing everything they can to ruin the wedding. Before all that really gets going, however, Radka encourages Kai to follow his heart, for at least this night prior to the wedding, and make a move on Jovan. He does, and Jovan agrees to join him in Earth-realm Vegas, where Kai is fully visible, for a night of mutual passion.
The morning after, Jovan and Kai are loathe to separate, but Ola calls first thing needing Jovan’s help. The bridesmaids have started their assault on the wedding and Jovan finds he needs Kai’s insight to help Ola. They lean heavily on the Enchanted Occasions magical staff, but one snafu after the next crops up—leading to comical catastrophes. Through it all, Jovan and Kai work tirelessly to resolve the issues and save the wedding, growing closer than ever. Jovan thought he wouldn’t be able to spend only one night with the man he’d loved for going on two years, but after spending nearly 36 continuous hours working side by side and catching some irrepressible kisses, he’s ready to walk away from his calling with the ILE for the chance to make a life with Kai, who absolutely feels the same.
As an audiobook, this one was a little tricky, most especially because of the character names and race types. These were very foreign to me, and their spellings/phonetics are difficult to understand just from the audio. Hats off to narrator Kirt Graves, who made this all come together and make sense to my naïve ears. Jovan is beautifully gruff, while Kai is suave and sassy; meanwhile, there are about 17 other characters in all different forms of voice pitch, tone, and accent. Throughout, I really experienced the yearning from both Kai and Jovan, who’ve had strong feelings growing for a long time, and that helped to move the plot forward really quickly. Their big night together is magical and intense, but their close-quarters work for the wedding ramps up the sense of impending loss.
This was less romance and more rom-com, for me, due to the wedding debacle both men are striving to prevent—and it’s not even their own wedding! I loved Ola, Jovan, and Kai, and really wished we’d seen a bit more of Radka in the story, since it’s her family causing all the problems. While this was an Enchanted Occasions story, the EO folks definitely took a very side role in Best Beast. For readers who love out-there supernatural romance fiction, this author is probably one of the most notable. I liked this story, and would recommend it. I liked the audio more each time I listened, mostly because I had better understandings of the characters and their abilities by the second/third time through. It’s short enough for several re-runs in the course of a long road trip.