As a teen, Komodo dragon shifter Orion ‘Tooth’ Templeton was captured by a witch and forcibly bound, drained of his magic and nearly killed. After his rescue, Orion dedicated his life to stopping those who are kidnapping shifters and using them for their magic. Now, Orion works for the Coven and he and his partner, Jacob, have a new case that may finally bring down the Shadow Board of witches who are behind a lot of the attacks on shifters.
Orion and Jacob are going undercover as bodyguards to a prince, Everest, hoping to lure out Shadow Board members who want to recruit him as a member. Things are complicated because while the pair need to do their job as bodyguards, Everest is also a rookie Coven agent working on the case with them. Things are also complicated on the personal side, as Orion knows that Jacob is his fated mate, yet Jacob doesn’t seem to be recognizing any of the signs that they are being drawn together. It is making Orion’s shifter side near frantic with a desire to be with his mate, but he also doesn’t want to push Jacob into something he doesn’t seem to want. Everest, on the other hand, has made his interest in Orion quite clear, but Orion also knows there is no future between him and a royal prince. Not to mention that Orion is sure that Everest is keeping a secret that may impact things with the case.
The men know they have to put the personal issues aside, however, because this may be their one chance to get inroads with the Shadow Board. And they quickly learn that the Board may not be the only potential target in their midst, and Orion may have a chance for some long-awaited revenge. But the case is getting increasingly complicated and it appears that the agents may be facing adversaries who are one step ahead. Now, it is going to take all they have to bring down the Shadow Board and those who are harming shifters before they lose their lives in the process.
The Spy’s Familiar is the latest installment in T.J. Nichols Familiar Mates series. The series focuses on the witch/shifter bond, as witches can bond with familiars who help bolster their magic. In the best circumstances, the witch and familiar are fated mates, allowing their magic to connect and them to form an intense bond. When it goes wrong, however, shifters can be forcibly bound to witches who use and drain their magic. As a series, many of these books stand alone, but this story does tie more directly to The Billionaire’s Familiar, where we are introduced to the Shadow Board, and The Bodyguard’s Familiar, where we meet Orion and learn more about the kidnapping/trafficking of shifters. So having read those stories will give you some background that is helpful here, though the basics are explained in this book.
The conflict here focuses on two main fronts. First, we have the investigation into the Shadow Board and the case Jacob and Orion are managing. The two are regular partners and both committed to stopping the Board, as well as protecting shifters from harm. But getting to the Shadow Board members is difficult, as they are a group of wealthy elite. Now is their chance, as Everest is both a Coven agent, as well as a rich and royal. So he is their ticket into all of this, but it is made a little trickier by the fact that he is a rookie agent (and one not used to taking orders, by virtue of being a prince). Things also get more complicated with the investigation as other players get involved and there are lot of crises to manage. I think the suspense side of things is done really well here and the investigation is exciting and fits well with the series lore. Thing tie up to a degree on some of the big picture issues, but this story is the lead in for a new series that will spin off and deal with some of these threads in upcoming books. I don’t want to mention details, because that will spoil things that are revealed here in this story. But it sounds like a great direction for the series and the characters we meet here are very intriguing.
On the relationship end, this one is sort of a slow burn, as the story is a love triangle of sorts. Given the premise of the series and the fated mates connection between Orion and Jacob, I don’t think it is a spoiler that they ultimately end up together. But they have a difficult start, as Jacob doesn’t seem to recognize Orion as his mate and doesn’t appear to be interested in guys (though Jacob is clear in his own POV that he is bisexual). Orion doesn’t just want a mate who will form a magical bond with him, he wants one in the truest, romantic sense of the word. He is also so hot for Jacob he can barely hold it together in his presence. For his part, Jacob is wary about getting involved with a fellow agent and hasn’t picked up on the bond between them. But once he does, things move forward for the guys pretty quickly and with intensity. However, before the two ultimately get together, Orion does explore his sexual connection with Everest. We get the sense that if circumstances were different — Everest not a prince and Orion not desperate for Jacob — the two might make something more out of their sexual compatibility. But here this is really about Orion letting off some steam with an enthusiastic partner. From a story perspective, it also gives a chance for Jacob to realize his own jealousy, which helps him recognize his interest in Orion. There is no cheating here, as Orion and Jacob are not together when he sleeps with Everest. This is also not a menage/poly story. However, we do see Orion and Everest have sex on page, so be aware if that is a concern for you.
Overall, I thought this was a great installment in the series. I really loved The Billionaire’s Familiar, so I am glad to see this one circle back to that plot and develop things further. I am not sure if this is the last of the series and Nichols will now focus on the spin-off, or if more will run concurrently, like with the author’s Outcast Pack series spin-off. Either way, this book moves the overarching world building forward well and I enjoyed Orion and Jacob’s story.