Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: C.J. Storm
Length: 2 hours, 58 minutes
Madeo and Cosmo have been dating for a few months and things are going well between them. Mads is still getting used to opening up and trusting Cosmo. After spending his whole life being abused by humans and considered lesser by a lot of shifters, it is sometimes hard to wrap his head around the fact the Cosmo and the Ono-Nai pride are actually caring and warm and welcoming to magi like Madeo. Cosmo understands Madeo’s wariness, but it is also hard for him knowing that part of Mads still isn’t totally settled in their relationship. Cosmo also has to get used to the fact that Madeo has a very special bond with Jude, his dyad, which means that they are connected in ways different from what Cosmo and Mads can have with each other.
When a young, unregistered mage uses his magic in public, it puts him on the NHSO’s radar and everyone is hunting for him. Mads and Jude are terrified for what will happen to the boy if the NHSO catches him; they know firsthand what it is like for mages when the government gets their hands on them. When Mads shares his fears with Cosmo, they know they need to find a way to help the boy. But that means finding him before the NHSO tracks him down. Now, it is a race against time, and a dangerous mission to undertake, for Mads, Cosmo, and their pride to find the missing mage before it is too late.
A Kiss to Revive Me is book 1.5 in the Magi Accounts series and is a short interlude that fits between books 1 and 2. It continues the larger world set up in The Scars That Bind Us, so you are going to want to read this one in order and as part of the larger series. This book opens with a prelude that shows us Madeo and Cosmo’s first meeting from Cos’ POV, and the whole story is told with Cosmo as the narrator this time. It was fun to get that first meeting from Cosmo’s viewpoint and seeing his first impressions of Madeo, as well as his feelings about moving his pride and setting up a new life for them. The story then jumps ahead to a few months after the men start dating and lets us see how things are going for them. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into Cos’ view on his growing relationship with Madeo and his own insecurities that he sometimes holds back from telling Mads. Cosmo knows that Madeo needs patience and care and so he doesn’t always give voice to his own worries, so this novella is a nice way to get a look into his head. At times, Cosmo comes across as really naive about the ways of the world when it comes to magi and the way they are treated. Notaro does set things up with Cosmo and his pride moving from a much smaller town, but he seems shocked and unaware of so many of the aggressions against magi, even months into dating Madeo and after Mads has opened up about so many of the things that happened to him. But the guys do open up more here and Cosmo is starting to understand stand Madeo better, and Mads is starting to trust more.
Along with the relationship end, we have the group out looking for this young mage. Madeo and Jude know what life will be like for the boy if he is caught, and they are struggling with their mission to find and retrieve him for the NHSO. They are connected with an underground group that gets young mages out of the country, but they must then be the ones to find him before someone else does and he is out of their hands. So there is a nice side plot here that adds some excitement and gives a chance to explore more in both the greater world building, as well as the bond between Cos and Mads. Cosmo is on board with trying to help the boy escape, but Madeo worries about involving the pride, both for their safety and for the security of the underground movement. I did like how this gives a chance for Cosmo and his pride to show they are on board with Madeo and Jude and where their loyalties lie. But I did find it bothersome how at times Cosmo makes it all about him and his feelings. He is frustrated Madeo didn’t tell him outright about the organization helping magi cross the border, and he insists on being involved, often risking the security of the mission or the other people participating. For example, Mads tells Cos clearly that he cannot come when they pass the boy to the underground group, as if the other magi see him, they will be scared off and potentially ruin the exchange. This boy’s life is at risk if they don’t get him out of the country, but Cosmo is so worried about being left out and Madeo being in danger that he doesn’t listen to Madeo’s admonitions to stay away (not to mention his spying on the exchange means that the other links in the secret chain now have their identities exposed). Cos also insists his pride be involved, not just in helping to hunt for the mage, but going to the safe house with them. Again, Mads has made it clear this is life and death. It is perfectly reasonable for him to not want Cosmo to come to a secret safe house with six pride members, or even not to tell him about the organization at all. I just felt like Cosmo was so focused on himself and what he wanted, with no awareness of the fact that every person in the know puts other people’s lives in danger. That said, the whole adventure does really further build the trust between Madeo and Cosmo and helps to grow their relationship.
I listened to this one in audio with narrator C.J. Storm. If you read my review for The Scars That Bind Us, you know I really struggled with Storm’s narration there. I debated quite a bit about whether I was going to continue this series as the narration just didn’t work for me in the first book. But since this was a shorter work, I decided to give Storm another shot, and I’m glad I did. The issues are still there to some extent — overlong pauses in awkward places, emphasis where it doesn’t seem to belong, the words not always reflecting the emotion that is written on the page, etc. But these issues are toned down significantly from the first book to the point where I still noticed them, but they didn’t bother me as much. I still think Storm often comes across like he is not thinking about the meaning of what he is saying, but the audio is smoother this time and improved over the first story. My only new quibble here is that the book is told solely from Cos’ POV, but the chapter headings are narrated in Madeo’s voice (which I am assuming is more like Storm’s natural voice), which was jarring as it made me expect the chapter to then be from Madeo’s POV. But as I said, the narration overall was much better and while I still noticed the issues, I was able to settle into the story much better than before.
This novella is a nice interlude between the main books, especially as we get a new POV from Cosmo here. I am looking forward to listening on as further books come out in audio.