“There now ensued a series of incidents which transported me to the opposite extremes of ecstasy and horror; incidents which I tremble to recall and dare not seek to interpret.” – H.P. Lovecraft
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 159 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Magic in the blood. Danger in the streets.
Lord Crane has never had a lover quite as elusive as Stephen Day. True, Stephen’s job as justiciar requires secrecy, but the magician’s disappearing act bothers Crane more than it should. When a blackmailer threatens to expose their illicit relationship, Crane knows a smart man would hop the first ship bound for China. But something unexpectedly stops him. His heart.
Stephen has problems of his own. As he investigates a plague of giant rats sweeping London, his sudden increase in power, boosted by his blood-and-sex bond with Crane, is rousing suspicion that he’s turned warlock. With all eyes watching him, the threat of exposure grows. Stephen could lose his friends, his job and his liberty over his relationship with Crane. He’s not sure if he can take that risk much longer. And Crane isn’t sure if he can ask him to.
The rats are closing in, and something has to give…
Review: Anyone who’s ever read and loved a book knows words have power and ink has magic, and words and ink together create portals of imagination through which we follow the lives of the characters we come to love, traverse time and distance to go where the author leads us, and become lost in the fantasy of a world in which the metaphysical is commonplace and the only thing to fear is the unknown. That is, if one isn’t too busy trying not to die at the hands of the horror that’s revealed itself to fear what might still be hidden.
KJ Charles has penned an extraordinary sequel to the utterly brilliant The Magpie Lord, delving back into a Victorian England that never existed the way it does for Lucien Vaudry, the Earl Crane, and his justiciary lover Stephen Day, an England that is home to practitioners of the arcane and manipulators of the norm. It’s a fathomless world in which nothing seems impossible, and the author pushes the reader again and again to see how vulnerable we mere mortals are against the powers unleashed when hell and earth collide.
It’s a very human attempt at extorting money from Lucien that begins the story, but it soon evolves into a murder mystery when a most gruesome discovery is made that gave me my Indiana Jones “why did it have to be rats?” moment and carried right on through to people showing up dead in a most heinous sort of way. As it becomes evident that Lucien himself may be caught up in the maze of sorcery and a sinister plot to heist something from him far more irreplaceable than money, and infinitely more encompassing than the heart he’s already lost to Stephen, the plot twists into a battle against an unknown and powerful enemy.
All the action and suspense and horror of the story play out beautifully against the tension and uncertainty of Lucien and Stephen’s relationship as they attempt to navigate the complications of being in love in a time when the law had no tolerance for it. Start to finish in this short but all consuming and richly drawn novel, there isn’t a moment the pace slows down, nor is there a single word in the narrative that didn’t serve to build upon the next or build upon the story as it played out in my imagination.
This book didn’t leave me wanting more at the end because KJ Charles opened and closed it fittingly. What it left me wanting for is the next book in the series, because the magical ink in these books is entirely too provocative, and now the magpies have arrived by the scores which can only mean something interesting, and most likely evil, looms large on the horizon.