Thalanil is on leave from his military duties, having returned home to his village in the Redwood. One day, a wolf pack passes by and one of the wolves, Orion, immediately recognizes Thalanil as his fated mate. The pair take some time to get to know one another, and as they can’t be separated for long, Orion plans to come along with Thalanil when he goes back on active duty. But when an elite special force is being formed made of various supernaturals, it is a perfect opportunity for the men instead to work together.
Six years later, Thalanil and Orion not only share a mate bond, but have created their own pack of sorts with their military team and some of the mates. The group has been tasked with helping to take down the rogue Inquisitors who have been threatening the various magical groups. While there have been some inroads against the Inquisitors, it is clear they are entrenched and hidden even deeper than anyone realized. They are still capturing magical folk, torturing them, and experimenting upon them. The team knows first hand the horrors the Inquisitors are dishing out, as one of their own was captured and abused in prison. Now, they are finally getting the intelligence they need to strike back. Together with their team, Orion and Thalanil are determined to do all they can to finally put an end the Inquisitors before it is too late.
An Elf’s Fate is the third book in the Inquisition Trilogy by Casey Wolfe. These books need to be in order, as they make up one long story, though each installment focuses on a different couple. While the first two books came out about a year apart, it has been over three years since the second installment, so I did need to do a bit of catching up on the story. However, I was able to jump back in here and follow along without too much trouble.
This story features an already established couple in Thalanil and Orion, and they are already together when we met them in earlier books. So this one starts in the past to show us the men meeting, then jumps ahead to present day to pick up the main series thread. I enjoyed both Orion and Thalanil and thought the shifter/elf pairing was nicely unique. I liked seeing the way the two men work together when fighting, and how their telepathy with one another enhanced their skills in battle. There is a nice tenderness to the way they interact and the affection they have for one another shows through. That said, the romance side of this one fell somewhat flat for me. The men are fated mates, so they meet one another, realize they are meant to be mates, and it’s done. We skip right over all the getting to know you time to jump ahead to present day, so we never see the men developing an emotional or romantic bond. Even when we are with them during the main timeline, there is very little that makes their interaction feel much different than the interaction between any of the men in their military unit. The story is way more focused on this elite team of men who are very closely bonded, almost like brothers. They spend all their time together and are incredibly connected with one another. So the relationship between Orion and Thalanil didn’t really feel any closer with each other than with anyone else. They express their love for each other, but there is no real sense of romance here. Thalanil describes himself as on the asexual spectrum (likely demi based on how he explains it), so I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of sex. But I wanted to feel like the relationship between the leads felt like something different or above the relationships they had with everyone else. Other than the fact that these guys had the POV chapters, this could have been anyone’s story, versus them specifically. I guess I was expecting more on that front since the other two books definitely gave the romantic relationship more focus.
This story brings the culmination of the fight against the Inquisitors, which has been building from the first book. From a big picture sense, I think the series nicely develops the threat over the course of the books and builds a nice story arc. There are some engaging scenes as the team infiltrates various Inquisitor strongholds or rescues prisoners where we get to see the way they all work together, which I really enjoyed. The team is made up of a variety of supernaturals (mage, shifter, centaur, elf, etc) and watching the way they use their different abilities was really fun. I think the world building is one of Wolfe’s strongest elements in the series and that is done well here too. But I think this book suffered from too loose a plot, leaving things feeling somewhat meandering and more like a collection of scenes than something with clear direction (I had a similar problem in the second book). The vast majority of the story just seemed like little snippets of time, without a real plot thread connecting them. The men hang around the barracks talking. They go rescue some merfolk. They hang out and playing music. They infiltrate an Inquisitor camp. It is just a series of events, with no sense of the aftermath of anything that happens (particularly the battle scenes), how much time has passed between events, or the impact on the big picture plot arc. There is this big war out there and I had no idea how it was going because we are just in this little bubble watching this group of men alternatively hanging out and fighting. Honestly, I didn’t realize that the big battle was actually the culmination of the war until suddenly Orion and Thalanil are back home and it is all over. That is not to say it wasn’t interesting. I found the story kept my attention and I really enjoyed this group. But I think there just needed to be a stronger thread tying events together so it didn’t feel so meandering.
Overall, I enjoyed this series (particularly A Mage’s Power, which was excellent). Wolfe’s world building is great and really creative, so that was a standout for the series for me. I also liked how the overall plot carried across three books, but we got stories for three different couples with varying types of magical abilities. This is a nice mix of fantasy and urban fantasy and an entertaining journey. I think the second two books needed some tightening and more clear plot focus, but overall I think this trilogy has a lot to offer. I will be looking forward for more from Wolfe in the future.