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For me, when I think S.J. Frost, I think either musicians or vampires; so I was immediately interested to see how she worked with fantasy. Her novels usually contain romance, music descriptions, a world building, sex, and a deep emotional commitment between a group of friends. When you read a Frost book, you can expect a large cast of characters.
With all of these descriptions, it could easily translate into fantasy. I believe that she succeeds here.
Garrett is a biologist and environmentalist who attempts to save a portion of forest before it becomes deforested. In his quest in the remote wilds he finds something supernatural and beyond anything he could expect. Bryson saves him and takes him back to his world where even more danger lurks. Can they make their relationship work and will they have enough time to save both worlds?
I suppose that we identify with Garrett as our point of view. He is just a normal man, no special powers, no special skills, just a simple man who wants to do good. It really is his heart and human spirit that is so unique:
He’d been to and traveled through every type of land imaginable — deserts, plains, mountains — but no matter the beauty of them all, it was the forests he loved most. He supposed he was a bit of a nemophilist that way. Even growing up, every chance he had, he was in the forest, wandering. There was something about being surrounded by the trees rising so high above him that made him feel calm and safe. And in the forest, he was never alone. He was surrounded by the company he preferred much more than his own human race; birds, squirrels, rabbits, and so many other creatures.
What I enjoyed most about his character was his courage and his instinct to do the right thing, even at a cost. We see that in his passion for animals and the world, and we see it as he crosses over to the other world into Bryson’s. He is also a bit of a loner, no real connection with friends, other than his boss. He seems to have difficulty connecting with people, and we see that he uses all of his energy in his work.
I see Bryson as the typical healer, his focus in life is to protect the Gate between the worlds and to take care of those who are in need. He is a witch, a good witch, but there are magical humans who only want to use the “dark side” of magic for evil called warlocks. But in Bryson, he is the light side.
“Honestly, it’s hard to meet anyone, being … well, what I am. I live between two worlds, and even though I go into both frequently, anyone I meet on the Earth-side I can’t exactly bring here. And on the Terra-side, it’s hard to find someone who really understands me, because of not fully being from their world, having grown up on the Earth-side.”
So we have someone who is an extraordinary person who felt that he would never find someone to live his life with.
From a romance perspective the theme surrounds finding your one true love. Is there someone out there for everyone? In Bryson’s case, he has plenty of friends, plenty of passion for his job, but has yet to find someone who can satisfy his need for both worlds. His job as Gate keeper forces him to remain there to protect it, and travel to both worlds. So, can he find someone who could fit into both worlds too? We see how Garrett handles learning all about this magical world:
Really, he was sure his acceptance of their existence came from something even deeper; the little boy who’d always searched under logs and peeked in tree holes for gnomes, who would look at the forehead of every white horse he saw with the hopes of spotting a horn.
I wouldn’t say that the fantasy has much of a theme, other than good versus evil and how every good has an equal bad reflection (ex. witch versus warlock).
The strong points in this novel is in the writing and descriptions. I love how Frost describes these magical things like dragons and unicorns. Take this first look at the new world by Garrett:
No larger than a cat, the dragon pushed off its side to sit up, and was scooped into the man’s arms. Its scales were white, but as the light hit them, an iridescent sheen glistened over them. Two ivory-colored horns spiraled out from the back of the dragon’s refined, small head, which was held up on a long, slender neck. Triangular spikes, the same ivory color as the horns, ran down the back of its neck, back, and tail. The tip of its tail ended in a spear-like point.
Another strong point is something that we see in all of her series, the concept that friends are your family. In both Conquest series and her Instincts series, she builds families out of friendships. I love how she shows love and affection easily given between men. The fact that this friendship is so passionate and strong, but it is not written in a sexual manner, rather in comfort and camaraderie.
What could be better?
Believe it or not, this is not a 5 star review because there was too much sex. One of the greatest things about Frost’s writing is that she is not afraid of giving the readers some sexy and hot scenes. The emotional connection between Jesse and Evan is one of the most intense scenes through sex (Conquest series). But maybe it’s just my image of fantasy books, but I tend to want a great deal of world building and not a lot of sex.
That being said, I will say the sex wasn’t until about 1/2 through the book, so there was plenty of time for us to get the world building and plot established before they jumped into the bed. My complaint is just toward the end I started skimming the sex scenes, and I was not overwhelmed with their emotional connection. To be fair, I could be spoiled by Jesse and Evan.
Overall, this is an amazing story and I am very excited about seeing this world unfold. I think that Frost has built a solid foundation for a series and I wonder who the next story will revolve around. I loved the descriptions, the friendships, and the love story. The action scenes were incredibly vivid and there were times when I felt like I was watching a movie.
I recommend this book to anyone who has read a Frost book and I certainly think that any fantasy M/M readers will like this book as well.