emporium of hearts coverStory Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars

Narrator: Gary Furlong
Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links:  Amazon | iBooks

Ezra Wren runs his family’s clockwork toy shop. Unfortunately, the shop is barely staying afloat and Ezra lives in fear that the bank will call in their loan and he will end up a debt slave. Ezra has hopes that a big event in town will bring in some much needed sales and commissions, but while sales are good, the situation is still pretty dire.

Melvin Kaur is a high-ranking cog in the Clockwork Brigade, a resistance group working to get debt slaves out of Daijal and to a place of safety. One night, while attempting to help some children on their way across the border, Melvin and the group are spotted by the authorities. With the help of magic, they manage to flee, but with the authorities hot on their trail, they need a place to hide. Melvin ends up breaking into Ezra’s shop and imploring Ezra to hide the kids. Ezra can’t help but be wary; to assist the Clockwork Brigade or the debt slaves could mean serious trouble for him. But he also knows he can’t let the kids end up in a life of forced bondage, so he agrees to help.

In the aftermath of that night, Ezra attempts to move forward, but he worries that he is still in danger — either from the authorities or from the Clockwork Brigade who want to keep him quiet about what he knows. And Melvin can admit, he is definitely keeping an eye out to make sure Ezra doesn’t betray them. But that is not the only reason he can’t stay away from the man and Ezra and Melvin just may find there is a chance for a happy future for the pair of them.

An Emporium of Hearts is a short prequel story in Hailey Turner’s fabulous Infernal Wars Saga. The story was originally released last year through Prolific Works, but now has been republished in both ebook and audio, with no content changes. This story takes place about 15 years before the events of the main series, so there is no character crossover here. I think this one could work very well for readers new to the series who want to get a bit of the flavor before jumping into the longer books. Turner gives enough background here that I think new readers can follow along with this story and get to know some of the elements of the world. This story is much simpler, with one storyline, versus the vast and complex moving parts of the novels, so it is a great way to get a sense of things. For fans of the series, I think this is a fun way to continue enjoying this world and meet some new characters.

I really enjoyed Ezra and Melvin and their adventures here. Ezra is a struggling inventor and Melvin is a noblemen/spy, but they share a hatred for the debt slavery and a willingness to help when needed. Things start out a little tense, as Ezra first meets Melvin on the street in the company of some bullying noblemen, then Melvin shows up bringing danger into his shop. But once he really understands the situation, Ezra is all in trying to help. And when Ezra needs him, Melvin is right there to help in return. We get some adventure, a nice dose of sexiness, and a great happy ending for the pair. The story is short, but it feels very complete and is a great example of a tight and engaging short story.

I listened to this in audio with narrator Gary Furlong and he does a good job with the book. The men have distinct voices and the tone fits well with the characters. There is a nice energy to the narration that I think keeps things moving well. I do feel like at times the characters sound angry when I don’t think they are meant to be, but overall, I think this is a solid narration and a great way to enjoy the story. This one is very short and, at around an hour and a half, I listened to it all in one sitting.

If you are a fan of this amazing series, come check out this fun little story. And if you are new to this world, this book could be a good chance to get to discover this wonderful series.