Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars
Narrator: Tim Paige
Length: 6 hours, 26 minutes
A few weeks have passed since Evan Fournier and Colin Zhang met and bonded, and things aren’t going all that smoothly. Colin is still trying to navigate the new world he finds himself in, and Evan is doing his best to help. But their lives are hampered by the fact that, due to the way the bond occurred, they can’t be very far apart or they’ll both get very sick. Despite their connection on a personal level, and how much they work as a couple, Colin is struggling to feel useful and that he contributes since he has to stick with Evan all the time.
Though Evan and Colin work a few small cases together, Colin is only there because he doesn’t have a choice. And when videos of the paranormal world start surfacing, it throws the whole Toronto paranormal community into chaos. Evan, Hudson, and Wes are determined to get to the bottom of things, not only because it’s affected them personally, but because they need to protect the community. Add to that the fact that Hudson has his brother, Lance, home with him as Lance recovers from an illness and that Lance doesn’t know about the paranormal world. The stress of keeping things hidden at home, and trying to ferret out who is behind the videos, is making things incredibly difficult for the men.
Things go from bad to worse as death comes calling and hits too close to home. Between the personal turmoil Evan and Colin are facing, and the crisis in the world at large, these men are at a breaking point. But the connection between them is real, and if they can rely on that, they can make it through.
House on Fire is the second installment in Burke’s Ashes and Dust series, which is a spin off from the Not Dead Yet trilogy. This series does need to be enjoyed in order, as the larger mystery builds on itself between books. And while I enjoyed the Not Dead Yet series, and highly recommend you read or listen to it, it’s not strictly necessary to enjoy this series.
This book has a nice balance between the larger mystery and the personal relationship between the MCs. Colin has made huge strides in the past few weeks, not only accepting his new lot in life as a phoenix and part of the paranormal world, but also in terms of accepting his sexuality and his relationship with Evan, and adapting to a world he missed out on for 34 years. He’s gaining confidence and understanding, and that’s going a long way to helping him feel secure. Evan is doing his best to support Colin and we get to see Colin support Evan as well. The relationship progresses well; there’s some really good communication between the two of them, and a lot of understanding as well. I really liked seeing these guys moving forward, and how they are bending to one another. It’s certainly not always easy, but they are doing the best they can given the circumstances. The end of this book is romantic and heart wrenching, and makes it clear what the men will face in the next installment.
While they are trying to deal with all of that, there are of course, the videos that are wreaking havoc on the Toronto area. The mystery takes some interesting turns here, and ones I wasn’t always expecting, which is nice to see. The motivation behind it is both surprising and somehow not, and the twists it took to get there were nicely laid out. I also thought the immediate resolution was creative and fitting for not only the story, but the characters. As I said, it does build somewhat from the first book, and leaves things open for the story to continue.
Tim Paige does a good job with the narration, and I found it easy and pleasant to listen to. I’m still hung up on the voices of some of the characters who played prominent roles in the first series, but that’s not the narrator’s fault, as the two series have different narrators. Paige handles all the voices well, and keeps them fairly consistent throughout the book and the series. There were times when narration choices didn’t quite fit the tone for me, but on the other hand, also thought Paige did a really good job with the more tense scenes, performing them with the right emotion. Especially the last chapter. The dichotomy of this made certain parts of the book more enjoyable to listen to than others, but overall, I think it’s a solid narration.
This series is an easy recommendation from me, and if you prefer the audio format, this one works well on the whole.