Whore or mercenary. That’s pretty much how life is. – Kai Gracen
I want to preface this by saying I am a dedicated Fangirl of Rhys Ford. I love her writing style and I always get her humor. Even with saying all of that, I was a bit leery of reading this book. I do like some fantasy, but it really isn’t my go-to genre. But, since it was Rhys Ford, I gave it a try. Boy, am I glad I did.
The universe Rhys Ford built for Kai’s story was not only magical and scary, but also much like our own. The elvin world, Underhill, has merged with our world; however, it wasn’t a smooth merge. While driving down a two lane highway in the desert you can suddenly find yourself in an ancient elven forest. Whole towns are turned into wastelands and some wastelands are turned into lush meadows.
Since the merge of the two worlds, Earth is also introduced to the creatures of Underhill. There are dragons, shadow dogs and many other out of this world things that go bump in the night. These creatures are what makes Stalkers a necessity.
Stalkers are the hunters of the things that go bump in the night. The Stalkers are government licensed hunters tasked to take out the creatures that have crossed over. They are paid basically by the yard for the pelts of the animals they hunt. It’s not an easy job, but it’s a living. Some of the jobs are optional, but some of them are not. If a Stalker turns down a government assigned job they can be stripped of their license and lose their source of income.
We first meet Kai Gracen hunting a small pack of the shadow dogs. Kai has been raised by Dempsey, a human Stalker who won Kai in a poker game. Kai is elven, an outcast, who was kept like an animal until Dempsey won him and trained him to be a Stalker. When Dempsey retires due to an injury Kai decides to keep up with the job and moves his home base to San Diego.
Kai has tried to distance himself from any other Elvin people. Actually other than a couple chosen Stalkers, his close friends are Dalia and Newt his cat; he tries to stay away from just about everyone. He wants nothing to do with the Elvin people which is very understandable after hearing his story. Kai would be happy to never have to deal with any of his kind again.
While Kai is turning in his pelts from the recent hunt for his pay he finds out that he has been tasked with one of those not so optional jobs. It seems while he has been keeping as much distance as possible from the Elvin world, a Sidhe lord has set up a new Dawn Court right under his nose in San Diego. The job is to pick up a pregnant human and bring her back to San Diego for sanctuary at the Dawn Court. Easy peasy, except for the fact they will have to drive through the dragon mating lands, which are also volcanic wastelands inhabited by the black dogs. The worst part for Kai is the fact that Ryder, the Sidhe Lord, will be riding with him. Ryder has awakened some needs in Kai that he has never felt before.
During the ride, Kai’s heritage is exposed, a dragon is killed, and some babies are born. All of this happens while Kai is being tracked down by his past, a past that follows him all the way to San Diego. Kai fights his feelings for Ryder as hard as he possibly can. Ryder is not going to give up easily and the chemistry between these two is amazing.
The final scenes of this book show so much of Kai’s strength, and it is astounding. Kai overcomes the abuse of his past long enough to save two innocents, he finally stands up to Dempsey and he realizes that he may care for the people around him more than he ever thought.
Now if you are in search of a happily ever after, this isn’t the book for you. There is very little if any true romance in this book. It is not a love story. This book is about Kai. We meet Kai, we get to know the ins and outs of his inner voice. We see his weaknesses and his strengths, and I for one loved him all the more for it. One thing that shone through clearly was Kai’s sense of right and wrong. There were many times that he could have collected his fee and left, but he stayed to help and did the right thing. I also got the feeling that beneath all the self loathing Kai is trying to redeem himself for things that happened in his past that were no fault of his own. In this book we truly get to know Kai, we see where he comes from and we see a possible future for him. There are a few avenues that Kai could travel; only time will tell where he ends up. I for one will definitely be along for the ride.
Reviewed by: Jackie