Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Blood shade, Reylan, was not enamored of the Arcadia Trust for several reasons. One, the human Patricia Bakker was at its helm and she was as inscrutable as she was unworthy of his trust. Two, Patricia was on a mission to help newly turned supernatural beings avoid being detected by human society. Patricia had also seemingly recruited Reylan’s two proteges, Ross and Isobel, to her organization. All of which meant Reylan was stuck in the orbit of a trust he didn’t, well, trust. Unfortunately for Reylan, his two proteges Ross and Isobel have forged something of a bond with Patricia and the Trust. On top of that, they both seem dead set on proving they no longer need Reylan’s guidance, let alone his protection..

Reylan hopes to find solace in his new companions, a human-turned-mannequin named Brett, who is kept alive by feeding on Reylan’s blood, and his flesh master boyfriend, Jorgas, whose murderous past is something Reylan has lied to protect. As delightful as Brett can be, Reylan cannot ignore how the man still struggles to tame his insatiable thirst for Reylan’s blood. Even more concerning is Brett’s determination to get his girlfriend back at all costs, even as Reylan makes it clear that a blood shade’s mannequin cannot keep any connection to their human life. Reylan and Brett’s relationship is further complicated by the fact that someone in Sydney is attacking mannequins, turning them into monsters. Reylan hoped to wrangle Jorgas into acting as Brett’s bodyguard. That would include having Jorgas move in with Reylan, a dangerous temptation for Reylan, who feels sexual attraction and other confounding emotions for the first time in his 150-year existence. But soon, none of that matters as Reylan and all his found family discover one of their own has unleashed a new supernatural being the world has never seen before. They’ll all have to work together if they hope to maintain the world order amongst blood shades, werewolves, and more.

Orchard of Flesh is the second book in Christian Baines’ Arcadia Trust series. It picks up almost immediately after where the first book, The Beast Without, leaves off. While this book may stand well enough on its own, I think reading the first will give readers a deeper appreciation of Reylan as a character and the connections he has to his proteges, to Jorgas, and to the Arcadia Trust.

One of my favorite elements of The Orchard of Flesh is the development of Reylan and Jorgas’ relationship. It’s clear that Reylan, and blood shades as a rule, are asexual. They are incredibly attractive for the purposes of attracting humans from which to feed, but the blood shades themselves are immune to sexual desire. Except Reylan feels strong sexual desire for Jorgas and it throws him for a loop. On top of that, these two have a brief but intense love/hate history. I would say this resolves clearly on the positive side of that spectrum…but how far does it go? Suffice to say the end of the story left me wondering just how far they really went. The dynamic between Reylan and Jorgas had a broken-in quality to it. The way they push each other’s buttons one moment, then slake each other’s lust the next, know what the other wants and needs and freely give it…it was delightfully intense.

Reylan’s relationships with Ross and Isobel echoes the idea that Reylan is poles apart from the people who should be closest to him. One recurring theme is how Reylan is still coming to grips with the fact that Ross and Isobel are both willingly associating with the Arcadia Trust. Reylan himself thinks Patricia and her organization are bad news; he thinks each group of supernaturals is best left to their own devices and wants as little as possible to do with Patricia’s efforts to provide a safe harbor to newly changed supernaturals. That puts Reylan at odds with his two closest friends, and the developing situation reveals a lot about how level-headed and quick-witted Reylan is.

The plot of the book itself was wonderfully crafted. The events all flow into each other and, in hindsight, the opening chapter and the climactic ones are clear bookends. Yet all the things in between take us seemingly so far away from that plot element. For me, the story didn’t unfold like a puzzle to piece together. Instead, I felt like I was just in Reylan’s head as he grappled with a new and changing “normal.” That means trying to understand his feelings for Jorgas, and Jorgas’ feelings in return, his friends’ new allegiance, and how his former mentor fits into all this. Not to mention the never ending danger as Reylan, the Trust, and all the others realize something nefarious is going on and it’s targeting humans and supernaturals alike.

If you’re looking for a unique take on vampires, werewolves, and all other supernatural beings hiding in plain sight, this is a great story. Reylan is a delightfully nuanced character, one who discovers he cares a lot more than he lets on. If you enjoy stories about found families, overcoming trauma, supernatural drama, and don’t mind a big splash of body horror, then I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in The Orchard of Flesh.