Genre: LGBT Fantasy Fiction
It took me a while to read this book. About two years, in fact. I picked it up, put it down. It played on my mind until finally, with lockdown providing the perfect opportunity to work through my book stash, I could no longer avoid it.
My hesitation had all to do with the multiple POV's and the fact that each one was written in the first person. It would have really helped if each chapter had shown a heading saying whose POV it was. I found fumbling around trying to work out who the story was being told from took me out of a book where concentration is needed. This book was nearly an DNF for me because of it, BUT I am glad I stuck with it. Why? It could have had something to do with the sweary, ill-tempered fae, cheeky incubii or the cute cat. Possibly the wonderfully diverse range of characters or just that the storytelling and writing were so darned good. Whatever it was, there's a lot to love.
The plot isn't as convoluted as it first appears. Basically, a little girl (Ros) has inadvertently summonsed two mage (incubus Inky and fae, Blossom,) and because of her incredible power, has now been kidnapped. Ros and Dante, her protective older brother, live in desperate circumstances, with a meth-addicted mother and only Dante's income, working for a gun runner, to keep them off the streets. Dante joins forces with Blossom and Inky to rescue his sister, but there are dark forces at work, involving Neo-Nazis and other low-lives, as well as powerful mages eager to harness Ros's power.
At first, the storytelling is haphazard. Characters come and go, and there are little scenes that seem irrelevant to the plot, apart from letting Inky and Blossom swear a lot and torment people. The gorgeous cover, with a beautiful fae and their cat companion, Charlene, is stunning, but it does nothing to warn the reader about Inky and Blossom's potty-mouthed, love/hate relationship, or the violence and horror of some scenes. Personally, I love being shocked, and I'm unfazed by frequent uses of the c-word (not crap BTW) and f-bombs all over the place, but not everyone will be. Also, the title is curious. I understand there might have been some irony involved, but if so, it went over my head. Needless to say, this ain't about a cute incubus romance. By the way, kudos to the author for the most inventive death by tree I've ever read. The main characters are interesting, though not all are appealing. Dante is an interesting character. Tough and streetwise, he doesn't take any crap. He is also struggling to understand his sexuality. He is asexual but it isn't until he meets Emrys and Jet that he truly feels valid. There is a lovely scene, set against the awkward yet comic backdrop of enthusiastic sex going on in the next bedroom, where Emrys enlightens him. It's a lovely, lovely moment.
Also, I enjoyed Inky's talents. He has the ability to read peoples' desires and become them, although, as Inky points out, he can't stop people from "being assholes." Meanwhile, non-binary Fae Blossom is busy wafting around being annoying (pronouns they/their.) They're not the most likeable of characters, and that doesn't change throughout the book, but as they adore cats, I cut them a lot of slack. Charlene, the puss involved, is adorable, and she needed a more starring role, frankly. I'd go so far as to say she needs her own book.
The quest gets complicated when Dante's gun runner boss, Raf, gets involved. More characters appear, and seems a bit like herding cats at times. I felt sorry for Corazon, the elderly lady glamoured into thinking Inky and Blossom were her long-gone, wayward sons, come back into the fold, but I was blown away by the action scenes, when Dante and his companions finally storm the mansion where Ros is being held. This is high octane-stuff, a real rush to read. The ending is left open, suggesting another book is in the pipeline, but the story is rounded as well, finishing on a satisfactory, if not entirely final note.
In the end, I was glad to have read it. There really are some beautiful, nuanced scenes, and wicked humour as well as pointed jabs at the state of the world today. It was a shame it took me so long to read it, but I know I won't hesitate if another book comes out. These characters have a habit of lingering long after the reader has moved on.
As the so-called magical creatures go, I’m low on the hierarchy, and my powers aren’t much good to human mages. I’m a lover, not a fighter, through and through. I’m also selfish, lazy, and easily bored. But I’m damned good at what I do.
Too bad that won’t get my arse out of this sling.
Do one—granted, uncharacteristic—good deed, and now I’m held hostage to an arrogant faerie prince, trying to track down the one who summoned him while dodging gangbangers, gun runners, and Nazis. Add the powerful mage guilds scrambling to gather firepower for some doomsday event they’re sure is around the corner, and my cushy life of leisure might be nothing but a memory. On top of that, something’s compelling me to change on my most fundamental level. I’m not sure what I’ve got myself mixed up in, but nothing will ever be the same.
Featuring a new twist on urban fantasy combined with fast-paced action and intrigue, the Arcana Imperii series books are standalone adventures, each completely accessible to new readers.