Other Reviewers: Goodreads
For full disclosure this novel was given to me for review by the author, Rhys Ford. However, my review is unbiased and based on my opinion only.
Kai Gracen is a “Stalker,” a licensed hunter of bad things like Black Dogs, feral animals: mercenary for hire. When he gets a job he can’t refuse to pick up a pregnant human, he finds more than he bargained. With him is a sidhe lord name Ryder of the Clan Sebac, High Lord of the Southern Rise Court and Third in the House of Devon. But without Kai’s help, the mission will fail and Kai must learn to rely on the help of Ryder.
There is much world building and back story. While the beginning of the book starts in action (a Ford trademark), there is a chapter or so needed to get into the world.
This is an alternate universe type world set in California. However, there are things like Black Dog (vicious killers created by the unsidhe folk for hunting), breeding dragons, magic, and elfin races.
We see the story through Kai’s eyes. This writing style heightens the mystery and tension. However, it is also makes our understanding based on Kai’s views which is tainted by his self-contempt. This perspective from Kai is a man never pushing for more of a life, as if he feels he does not deserve more.
While Kai might be gorgeous on the outside, it is the quality of a man’s interior that he reflects:
A real Stalker knew all of the tricks and never played them. Having a firm reputation for being reliable and honest was nearly as good as being a keen shot.
As we see with Ryder’s character, a true hero is measured for what is within him not without.
We gain insight from Kai at first only by what he sees in Kai, which is superficial at first:
He was handsome and strong-featured. Eons of fine breeding carved his face into the beauty an elfin was known for; a sensual mouth and strong aquiline nose provided a foundation for his deep green eyes. In a human, they’d be unnatural, a fiery emerald with flickers of opal and black set into the folds of his pupil. For a sidhe, they were pretty but unremarkable, save for their thick dark lashes.
Ryder is begins as ordinary, but what because extraordinary is his devotion to his own mission and his friendship with Kai.
For me, I found the theme of the series quite early in the novel:
“It’s one of Aesop’s fables; once again, your poor education shows,” Dalia corrected. “The fox is never contemptuous of the lion. The moral of that story is acquaintance softens prejudices. So maybe, my black fox, you’ve just met the one lion you’ve needed to meet.”
I could go into detail here, but that would mar the enjoyment of the mysteries within. We are given small pieces at a time. I have a feeling that this time will be expanded as the greater series plot unfolds.
The writing, as with all Rhys Ford novels is the strong point. She manages to give us a rich portrayal of the world around the heroes and yet does not make it bogged down with details. She gives us just enough detail to keep our interest, but doesn’t spoil the mystery. There is much I would like to put here that I can not because to ruin that would ruin the story. Needless to say, I suspected many things that were not uncovered until 2/3 of the way through the novel.
I also love the philosophical quotes sprinkled throughout demonstrating the Ford’s skill:
“Good luck with that,” I said. “There’s always crazy and mean in people. Doesn’t look like it matters if they’re elfin or human.”
What could be better?
A Five Star review gives me very little to find wrong with a novel. I suppose the only thing that I wish I could have the viewpoint of Ryder, but this one way perspective is the way Ford writes. So, there is very little that I would change about it.
It is hard to really say how this will end as this is only the first book. While we are left with a “satisfactory” ending, it definitely is a cliffhanger. Also keep in mind that while there is a romance aspect to this book, it feels more fantasy than romance. I imagine that the relationship will build when we get into book two.
I very pleased with this book, as always I love how this author writes.