Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars

Narrator: David Lee Huynh
Length: 9 hours, 51 minutes

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


 

Adrien Danvers is a man of both great power and great solitude. Cast out of his family for his predilections, he has learned to rely upon himself and his magic rather than relying on other people (save for his best friends and fellow sorcerers, Anastasia and Cynric). While walking along a dark street at night, chasing a magic trail, he comes across a young prostitute being attacked by his customer. Seeing a child being abused is something Adrien can’t ignore, so with a curse (and a curse), he sends the man running and helps the boy up, only to discover the the powerful magic he’s been hunting for is coming from this beaten, starved, and frightened boy.

Whether it’s madness or mercy, Adrien makes up his mind then and there to rescue the child and take him as his apprentice. When the boy, Julian, doesn’t want to leave without his brother … well, fine. Two apprentices it is, then. MacMallin doesn’t have magic, but he has a good heart and a charming smile, and Adrien soon finds himself rather proud of his new, small family. The boys are wary of him, half expecting him to turn them out on the streets, or set them to ‘work’ for him, but he takes his time, earning their trust and friendship.

While training Julian, who takes to magic like a duck to water, Adrien accepts two jobs. One for the prince, who sends him home to un-curse his cousin’s son, and a second for Sir Hugh, whose mines on the Isle of Man have been blocked off. Then there’s also the problem of the cetos — the sea serpents — that seems to have shown up … wearing boots. There’s a plot afoot, and Adrien is determined to get to the bottom of it.

This is the first book in the Sorcerer’s Grimoire series and, as such, is off to a slow start. The book introduces us to a variety of people in Adrien’s life, from Julian and MacMallin, to Cynric and Anastasia, as well as cousin George, George’s son Sebastian, and Adrien’s sister, Charlotte. We’re also introduced to the prince, who Adrien doesn’t like, and Sir Hugh Quartermain, to whom Adrien slowly takes a liking. Oh, and the dogs, Darby and Captain. There’s a lot of world building and magic lessons to give readers a feel for the rules of this world, so don’t go in expecting a blistering romance. All of this is just setting the stage for books yet to come.

Adrien has never been lucky. He’s reactionary, often pushing people away and assuming their meanings and motives before they have a chance to prove themselves, and he keeps his heart to himself. Even with Julian and MacMallin, for all that he wants to help and truly does care for them, he’s reluctant to let himself care. But when he does open himself up, he falls hard and fast, ending up uncertain and hurt when the two boys — after only a week or so — are still slow to trust. He doesn’t hold it against them, he just wants to be loved the same way he loves, with his whole heart.

Julian and MacMallin, when they realize Adrien is truly a good egg and is honest and forthright about everything, and has no intention of kicking them out or using them, flourish like flowers in the sun. He reads them stories at night, teaches them to read, gives them clothes and food, and asks nothing in exchange. For two boys who, like Adrien, only want someone to love and care for them, they quickly become his devoted apprentices. However, having been sexually abused most of their young lives (the boys are in their early teens), they have issues around men, especially large and angry ones.

Enter Hugh, who is — at the moment — very angry because people are getting hurt, his mine has been stolen, and he has no idea what to do. But when he realizes the boys are frightened, he quickly calms down and apologizes. He’s a good man at heart, and one who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he can’t help but be interested in Adrien. It’s a slow and rocky road for the two, but because both of them are intelligent men who know how to use their words, they manage to talk through misunderstandings and slowly develop a friendship.

In this time period — the story takes place in an alternate world, with magic and sea serpents and hopping vampires — sometime after WWI, homosexuality is not accepted. Hugh has no idea if Adrien leans in his direction, let alone if he’s interested, and this leads to some interesting attempts at flirting. Fortunately, the people who care about Adrien (Julian, mostly), inform Hugh that he’s going to have to be the one to make the first move because Adrien can’t. Or won’t. But mostly can’t, because he chooses to be oblivious rather than be hurt again.

This is a story with strong found family elements, reconciliation, knights in wet shoes, and healing. It’s sweet and fun and a good start to a new world. I was fortunately able to listen to the audio version, narrated by David Lee Huynh, who has an excellent voice for Adrien. It’s light, with a sly and subtle self-deprecation, as well as a smugness that comes with being a powerful and fearsome sorcerer. The narrator manages to do most of the voices cleanly, keeping them distinct from one another but he really made Adrien come alive in particular.

If you enjoy audio books, this is a narrator to keep an ear out for. This is the first book in a series and I am very much looking forward to the next one!