Magician Stephen Day has good reason to hate Crane’s family. Unfortunately, it’s his job to deal with supernatural threats. Besides, the earl is unlike any aristocrat he’s ever met, with the tattoos, the attitude... and the way Crane seems determined to get him into bed. That’s definitely unusual.
Soon Stephen is falling hard for the worst possible man, at the worst possible time. But Crane’s dangerous appeal isn't the only thing rendering Stephen powerless. Evil pervades the house, a web of plots is closing round Crane, and if Stephen can’t find a way through it—they’re both going to die.
Comment: This is my second m/m read of the month. I've tried the author before and I liked the story a lot, so I've wanted to read more to see if it had been a timely chance or the possibility of a new author to look for.
This is a Victorian fantasy, like the author said herself. Lord Crane returns from China where he's been exiled for a long time, but his return hasn't been as easy as he thought. After the death of his male relatives, the earldom is his inheritance but he can't seem to go past the problems and moods. His friend and worker calls for a magician, who happens to hate the Crane family but made a vow to help those in need so he meets and saves the new lord Crane from a sort of curse.
However, the problems don't go away as supposed and the magician Stephen Day sticks around to discover why. In the mean time lord Crane goes from employer to something more very quickly...
I liked this story. I think it had originality and a good development from the expected which made it fresh and interesting to know more about.
The story has a lot of fantasy elements, not just the use of magic itself, but the support of the magpie legend and the blood and feelings connection that empower magic too. I think the author used these things in a well countable way because each detail in the story didn't feel like an overload of elements which could annoy or make the story heavy. In fact, I think many things were shown without a clear explanation on the moment, things were said after and that did add some confusion - my opinion - to the plot but I think this is due to the author's style and not a plot problem.
The characters were intriguing. We didn't come close to find out all about them, we have glimpses of their pasts, we got a sort of summary of their lives but there is still plenty of information to be gained, which I assume will happen in the following books. Quite clever the author that by giving enough to sustain this story wasn't desperate to give it all away to hook the reader. I have to say the way things are presented, slowly and in pace with the development, was a very good tactic to keep the tone of the story without making it too full.
Lucien, lord Crane is a fascinating character. The things we know about him aren't enough to make a complete image of how his personality is, but we do get the idea of his honor and decency despite what was done to him, the exile and so on. He gained a fortified shield from his experience but he didn't close off everything, he still cares about those he loves and he still tries to do the right thing. I'm curious to know more about him.
Stephen Day is even more intriguing. He's a magician, he belongs to a group that takes their job seriously and he, like his peers, tries to fight the evil of warlords even in danger to his own person. We know he's very confident in his work, noble and dedicated, but has some shyness when it comes to his feelings, his own personal decisions. It was funny to see him interact with Crane on that level and their relationship got more and more deep. Again, I'm curious to know more and see them together.
This story is well constructed I think. I still think some passages weren't as successful and being a first book without full disclosure on all aspects, sometimes I felt a bit lost, despite the story not being that long. I think the fact this is the beginning of a series will explain the pace and scenes' working. The presence of magpies was interesting, usually other animals are preferred for this type of stories, so it was different to see them have a role here.
I'm happy enough to keep reading. I'll read the following stories soon and I'm very curious about them. This is a recommendable story for historic and fantasy m/m readers.