No day is ordinary in a world where Technology and Magic compete for supremacy…But no matter which force is winning, in the apocalypse, a sword will always work.
Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh is a shadow of the warrior he was, but when he learns that the Iron Dogs, soldiers who would follow him anywhere, are being hunted down and murdered, he must make a choice: to fade away or to be the leader he was born to be. Hugh knows he must carve a new place for himself and his people, but they have no money, no shelter, and no food, and the necromancers are coming. Fast.
Elara Harper is a creature who should not exist. Her enemies call her Abomination; her people call her White Lady. Tasked with their protection, she’s trapped between the magical heavyweights about to collide and plunge the state of Kentucky into a war that humans have no power to stop. Desperate to shield her people and their simple way of life, she would accept help from the devil himself—and Hugh d’Ambray might qualify.
Hugh needs a base, Elara needs soldiers. Both are infamous for betraying their allies, so how can they create a believable alliance to meet the challenge of their enemies?
As the prophet says: “It is better to marry than to burn.”
Hugh and Elara may do both.
So, I read this one after reading Kate Daniels Book 10, Magic Triumphs, which let me know how things would essentially turn out in this spin-off since in the time-line this book takes place before that one. I don’t think that actually spoiled anything since anyone who is familiar with romance tropes can probably guess how this is going to go before even getting into it. That’s right, I said romance tropes. Because, unlike Kate Daniels, which is very much an UF with a good romantic background plot, this book felt more like something in the romance genre, where the relationship is up front and center (that’s not a complaint at all, just an observation). It even has a ton of classic romance tropes–arrogant dude that’s kind of an asshole but has a heart buried somewhere down inside (Hugh), contract marriage (I do LOVE me a good contract marriage), a strong woman trying to prove herself and afraid of appearing vulnerable (Elara). Honestly, it’s a pretty great recipe, and it works well here.
The writing team of Ilona Andrews writes fantastic characters, no doubt about it. Hugh has always been fascinating to me, ever since meeting him first in the KD series. He’s an enemy, but you get the impression that if things were different maybe he and Kate could be, at the very least, frenemies. There’s always been something about his character that felt magnetic to me, despite the fact that he’s not a very nice guy. (I’m not sure what that says about me, tbh, but let’s move on.) I do appreciate what she’s done here to develop his character further. We get a lot more of his backstory and discover that maybe Hugh isn’t evil incarnate after all. Maybe what we thought we knew wasn’t the whole truth. This is great because, frankly, it makes wanting to root for him, much more palatable.
Elara’s character is great as well, and also has a magnetism all her own. She’s got some powerful magic that’s a bit of a mystery at first and it immediately makes you want to know her story. She’s a tough woman, holding down the fort, quite literally, and taking the responsibilities of the safety of an entire community on her shoulders. She’s got a lot of obligations and she’s in danger of losing herself completely to them. She’s also exhausted from the weight of all these things, but still a bit of a control freak because she feels like everything is on her. It’s clear she won’t be able to sustain things much longer, she’s on the verge of breaking soon when Hugh enters her life. I also appreciate Elara’s character development, letting her realize that it’s okay to trust others and rely on them once in a while–it doesn’t always have to be her alone taking on all these burdens.
Like many great romances, it’s really through getting to know each other, that they’re able to see finally the faults in themselves and grow as people. It’s one of the things I do appreciate about the romance genre, but I don’t know if it’s very true to life. It feels good though!
Ok, so aside from the romance aspects, this has some really great action and the pacing is fantastic as well. This is another strength of the writers and one of the many reasons I think they’re such a great team. The danger that our protagonists and their friends are facing is pretty significant and there’s a good amount of tension throughout the story while they’re trying to navigate how to best handle things. When things finally come to a head, it feels pretty epic.
Overall I enjoyed this one a lot and look forward to reading more by Ilona Andrews in the future! I think there’s plenty here for fans of the Kate Daniel’s series to love and even for new readers that want to read a good UF with a little bit of a heavier romance aspect to it. 4/5 stars.