A spellbinding story of truce and trickery from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician series.
Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.
Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.
Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.
THANKS MUCH TO THE PUBLISHER AND WUNDERKIND PR FOR PROVIDING ME WITH A COPY FOR REVIEW PURPOSES, THIS DID NOT AFFECT THE CONTENT OF MY REVIEW IN ANY WAY.
I knew I’d probably enjoy this book because I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Charlie N. Holmberg so far. She just writes the type of stories I like–fantasy with a dollop of romance. This one very much reminds me of the first book in her Paper Magician series, although the setting and characters are completely different. I think it’s the themes expressed, and the way the romance plays out puts me in mind of it for some reason, with the journey near the end and the struggle to save each other because of love.
This is a book that above everything else is about the characters and their own personal journeys. I really loved Enna’s character. She and her father are not exactly outcasts but they certainly don’t have a lot of friends in their village/town. They’re thought of as a bit odd and maybe that’s true, her father isn’t always of sound mind and Enna is educated for a village girl and likes to study mystings and magic. Enna is tenacious, and I really appreciate that about her. She sees a goal and goes after it. She’s also a problem solver. But sometimes these things combine to land her in hot water, as they do in this book. Because she decides to go ahead with some magic and make a pact with a mysting in order to protect herself from other mystings she ends up in a worse situation. Then the rest of the book is spent trying to find a way out of that situation and the clock is ticking. As for the other main character, the mysting Maekallus, I rather liked him even though he is shown to be a trickster, a liar, and very dangerous. From the get go he lies to Enna, first intending to take more than he told her while striking their bargain and then later about the nature of their bond and what it means for her. This is explained away as his nature–he’s a soulless mysting and does not have human feelings so he can’t be expected to care. But as he absorbs more and more of Enna’s soul he has more and more feelings. It’s here that he begins to realize how much of a jerk he’s been and have regrets about his lies. I liked watching their relationship play out although I do also have some criticisms of it, more on that later.
The world building in this is not super detailed but we are given enough information for the story to work. We don’t see a lot of what the greater world looks like but we get a sense of things and the level of technology and what kind of society it is enough for the story to make sense within it. And honestly for stories that focus so much on the characters, like this one, this is just the right amount of world building. Sometimes I would like to know more about a world because my curiosity gets the best of me, but I also don’t want to get bogged down in too many details. For a story like this it’s just the right amount. We get little bits of information here and there from Enna’s journal on the mystings at the start of each chapter and as Enna goes on a fact finding mission we learn a lot more about mystings, the different types, and how some of their magic works. I also loved how the mystery of it all makes it feel a little more dreamlike, as if there are some pieces of the puzzle just out of reach.
My only criticism of this, and it’s more of a pet peeve more than anything, is the whole ‘exception’ thing for the ‘my monster boyfriend’ trope (or perhaps the ‘you sexy beast’ trope on tv tropes fits here too). Especially the ‘transforms him through the power of love’ bit. There’s nothing wrong with this trope, but perhaps it’s me and I’m just a little tired of it because I’ve seen it so many times. It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer where all the vampires are evil except Angel because he gets a soul or maybe even Spike is a better example in this case because he definitely starts out as one of the ‘bad guys’. I do think there are higher things at work than just the ‘power of love’ thing because there are souls involved as well and I’m sure there’s a metaphor here that I’m deliberately choosing to look past. I guess the thing that I don’t like about this trope is the implication that without that ‘love’ or ‘soul’ they’re still just a monster and unable to love which feels like BS to me. It also means, as I said earlier, that all of his being a jerk is kind of passed over as ‘well he didn’t know any better because he wasn’t his true self then’ and that doesn’t feel right to me either. Even so, like I said, this is just a pet peeve of mine and it didn’t have a huge impact on my overall enjoyment of the book because I love a romance, especially when it’s a forbidden type, and I’m willing to overlook some things that might otherwise drive me crazy were I to examine them in more detail while reading. 🙂
Overall, this was an enjoyable read for me. I really loved the main character and thought the world was interesting. Definitely looking forward to more of Holmberg’s work in the future. 3.5/5 stars.