Rating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

Five years ago, Mondo lost his hunter’s dagger … and his memory. Something happened to him that night, but he doesn’t know what. No one does. The mind witches of the coven aren’t able to pierce the blackness in his mind, or find out where his dagger is. With no other choice, Mondo simply accepts his fate and continues on with his life, protecting witches, killing demons, and handling any task he’s given. This time, he’s sent to Salem, where rumors of missing people and demonic tattoos have the council concerned.

Eliphas is a witch working at Enchanted Ink, placing magical spells into the skin of customers. Lately, a demonic tattoo shop has opened up nearby, and they seem to be targeting the fated mates of witches, interfering with the mate marks, as well as stealing their souls. But Eli’s personal issues are getting just as bad. His familiar is keeping secrets from him, and one of his crystals shows signs of tampering; the large quartz piece is missing a rather large shard and he has no idea how it happened.

Pierre is bound as Eliphas’ familiar and mate. Five years ago, he found their third captured by demons. However, no matter how much he tried, Pierre wasn’t able to save him, getting caught himself. Eliphas had to make a choice, as he only had enough power to save one of them. Pierre lives with that loss, with that pain, and that guilt. Because he’s the one who caused the disaster. He used Eliphas’ crystal to try to find their third — forcing the hand of fate. And now, where there should be three, there are only two. But Fate isn’t done with them yet.

This book is not a standalone novel and is intended to be read directly following the first book, Only Skin Deep, as it continues the story. However, the first quarter of the book deals heavily with the events of the first, as Luca, Colby, and Ash’s story is told and retold several times, along with a lengthy info dump as the events are explained to Mondo. All of this leads to a rather confusing and clumsy introduction of the three characters who are, ostensibly, the main focus of this book. But past that first quarter, the book flows more smoothly.

Pierre is insecure, sensitive, needy, and reckless. He’s a creature of emotions and impulses who feels every slight, wilting at the mere thought of Eli being unhappy with him, and blooming like a crazed rose when Eli smiles at him. He’s all the highest of highs or the lowest of lows, but he’s not without courage or intelligence … when he’s not wrapped up in his feelings. He’s also a skunk shifter with no control over his body, filling the air with noxious fumes seemingly by simply blinking. (Okay, an exaggeration, but not much of one.) This lack of control is played for laughs, but for me it felt more like people laughing at Pierre rather than the situation being amusing on its own.

Eliphas is entitled, arrogant, possessive, and controlling, with an utter lack of trust where it comes to Pierre. He uses his magic to keep a constant watch on Pierre and his emotions which, okay, might be slightly fair, given the demons trying to kill them, but is framed in a far less than well meaning way. When Eli thinks, after a fight, that Pierre might be with someone else, he breaks into that witch’s home to look for him. He casts a spell to see what events happened there that night to double check, and then wipes away any trace of his visit so he can’t be found out. When he thinks Pierre might be off bonding with Mondo, their third, he tries to force his way into the hotel to catch them. When that doesn’t work, he goes from window to window, looking in, in hopes of finding them. And, at the end of the story, he decides he’s going to put another tattoo on Pierre to keep better track of him. No asking, mind you.

Mondo is intelligent, patient, and good at planning — such as when he tries to rescue Pierre. Other than that, he’s feels like just a witness to events happening, someone to ask questions so more world building and plot points can be explained, and a third body for the sex scenes. He’s far less developed than the other two, and given how strongly the characters of Pierre and Eli were, he just faded into the background.

The power disparity between witches and familiars shows up here, too — it was very present in book one, with the uneasy and at times aggressive power dynamics between Luca and Ash. There is a bar strictly off limits to witches that serves, as the proprietor states, a safe place for familiars to get away from their witches. Considering the inequity and control issues in the relationship between Eli and Pierre, maybe it’s needed. I feel like there’s an unintentional toxicity in these relationships that leaves me slightly uncomfortable and, I’m going to be honest, reluctant to continue the series.

Along with that is the writing itself. I’m going to be be blunt, there’s a lot of filler and a lot of redundant conversations. The exposition dump detailing the events of the first book doesn’t feel organic. It almost works, the few times characters discuss the matter in-world, but the constant asides feel more like flashing neon signs saying “remember this!?!?!” rather than naturally occurring conversations or story beats, and the page-long recap several chapter later is dropped down like an anvil. So many conversations take place for the sole purpose of laying out plot points — such as demons boasting about missing bodies not being missing because they, the demons, have killed them — which make things feel clunky and heavy handed. Why are they telling other demons things they already know? The answer is they’re not. They’re doing it for the sake of the unconscious man on the floor … and for the reader. Events that happen in one chapter will be recapped in the next, explained again in another chapter, and then yet again for the sake of another character brought in. All this redundancy leaves the book padded with filler, leaving me tired of the whole thing as I read the variety of conversations going over the same grounds and same events again. And again. And again. The writing isn’t smooth and several plot threads are forced together rather than coming about due to character thoughts or actions.

The magic in this book is more interesting, more developed. Eli’s crystals and how he uses them are interesting, as is the greater look at the mind magic used by several of the coven’s witches, and the hints of how the magical world works, such as the council and the black market. But, for me, it feels a little lost, like finding one shiny coin in a pile of gravel. The plot is muddled, the pacing is very bumpy with days passing in one paragraph while some scenes take chapters, and I didn’t enjoy the relationship between Eli and Pierre. I think this is going to be where I stop the series.

If you have given the first book a try and enjoyed it, then you should have fun with this one.