a non comprehensive guide to sea serpents coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel


Sorcerer Adrien Danvers is finishing a long night working a magical case when he senses a burst of uncontrolled magic. Adrien follows the trail through the slums of London to find a young male prostitute being beaten near to death. Adrien rescues him and is shocked to see he is a young teen who clearly is untrained in magic, far past the age most children are brought under apprenticeship. Adrien knows he can’t leave the young man, Julian, to his dire circumstances. In fact, Adrien would like to take Julian in off the streets and train him as his own apprentice. But when Julian makes it clear that he and his best friend, MacMallin, come as a package deal, Adrien brings both teens home with him.

Adrien is one of the most renowned sorcerers in the world, but adapting to having two young apprentices isn’t easy. Both boys had a rough life after being abandonment, nearly starved, and forced to survive on the streets. Helping Julian and MacMallin adapt to their new lives and showing them that they are now safe, protected, and cared for takes time. However, Julian is taking to magic incredibly fast and Adrien can see he has a bright future. Adrien is also training MacMallin to be a valet, to help him find a path of his own. It is a total change in life for Adrien, but he loves the boys and is finding he really enjoys having them around. After being abandoned by his own family for being gay, Adrien has been lonely, even with his close friends, and the connection with Julian and MacMallin is one he is coming to treasure.

Adrien is hired by Sir Hugh Quartermain to help him untangle a difficult situation on the Isle of Man. Hugh has bought a piece of land containing ore he needs for his medical manufacturing business. However, someone is working awfully hard to make it appear that there is a sea serpent threatening the area to keep Hugh and his workers away. Someone has also erected some sort of magical barrier, keeping Hugh from being able to access the mines in the cave. Adrien and the boys head to Hugh’s home on the Isle and begin to dig into exactly what is happening and who is behind it. Along the way, Adrien and Hugh begin to develop both a close friendship and a strong interest in one another. However, neither man is totally sure of the other’s feelings, and Adrien is particularly lacking in the confidence to believe anyone would ever be interested in him. Luckily for both men, Adrien’s apprentices are more than happy to play matchmaker. But with dangerous battles ahead, fighting against both man and beast, it will take all Adrien and Hugh have to make it out of the ordeal alive.

A (Non) Comprehensive Guide to Sea Serpents is the first book in A.J. Sherwood’s new Sorcerer’s Grimoire series and I really enjoyed it. The world building is just so much fun here and it is a unique and creative take on the magical world. The story is set post WWI, so there is a real world historical vibe overlaid by a world where magic is a known part of life. Adrien is a world-famous sorcerer, being incredibly powerful, and he works to help people with various magical problems. Sherwood has a fun take on magic here in terms of how it works and there are some really clever little elements sprinkled in throughout the story. We also see Adrien working with Hugh to help uncover what is happening on the Isle of Man and who is behind the trouble. It adds some great elements of excitement, danger, and intensity to the story and I enjoyed watching it all unfold.

On the personal side, working together gives Adrien and Hugh a chance to get to know each other better, as Adrien and the boys are staying with Hugh during the case. The men are sweet together and we can see how much they immediately connect. It is clear that both of these guys have a strong attraction to each other, but this story is also the slowest of slow burns, and we are just getting to the point where the men are acknowledging their interest as the story ends. But I think Sherwood does well bringing a sense of connection to the pair and I could feel how well they fit together.

I also really enjoyed Julian and MacMallin and seeing how they began to really bloom once they are taken under Adrien’s wing. He may not think much of himself as a surrogate parent, but Adrien cares about the boys so much, and they just adore him in return. So there is a nice found family element here, particularly as we also meet Adrien’s two best friends who are fellow sorcerers that come to help out.

Things set up nicely here for the series, and by the time the book ends, we already know what the next adventure is in store for the group. This one is a lot of fun and super sweet and I think there is a lot of potential going forward with the series. I am looking forward to seeing what more is to come.

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