This seems like a fun challenge to participate it. Let’s see how many letters I can get.
Q is QUEENS.
Grand Canyon – Eti
Tired of his boss picking on him at any given opportunity, Kasey resigns from his job to go on a backpacking trip. He meets Dave, who from the very start is cold and rude towards him. As the two get closer, Kasey grows more and more attracted to Dave. But Kasey wasn’t supposed to stay in one place for long. What will happen to his backpacking trip? What will happen to them?
Dave could be on the autistic spectrum.
Hexworld: Hexhunter – Jordan L. Hawk
Detective Bill Quigley fell in love with the familiar Isaac the night they met. But after more than two years, it’s time to admit to himself that Isaac doesn’t return his feelings.
Isaac knows he’s too broken by his experiences for anyone to fall in love with. Especially someone like Bill, who deserves a partner unplagued by Isaac’s nightmares and doubts.
When children go missing from an orphanage, Bill and Isaac must work together to find them. And as years of yearning threaten to ignite into passion, they must decide once and for all whether to take a chance on love.
Hexworld is a brilliant Jordan L. Hawk creation set in alternate New York run by hexes and magic is channeled through a combination of witches and familiars. Any witch and familiar may bond but the strongest magic comes from the bonding of a fated familiar and witch pair. There are three books and some novellas released so far, each couple bringing their own unique dynamics. I loved all the stories!
Hexhunter stood out for having a witch and familiar pair not fated to each other. In this world, familiars have the raw end of the deal, forced to bond with a witch or not even considered human. In book one, Hexbreaker, we learned Isaac was treated horribly by his fated witch and he was forced to quit the Metropolitan Witch Police. He was later forced bonded with another, kept imprisoned in his mastiff form and drained of magic. He was rescued by Tom and Cicero with the help of Bill Quigley, who quickly fell in love with Isaac.
Isaac and Bill slow-burned their way through several books and every Hexworld fan has been waiting for their moment. After several books, the plot has gotten a bit predictable but I don’t really mind. I’ve been rooting for these two.
The familiar has PTSD and the book dealt with Isaac’s journey to recovery. Because of past abuses, he is slow to trust and thinks he is tainted because his magic is drawn to bad men. He constantly puts himself down and considers himself unworthy. Bless Bill and his big heart! He was exactly what Isaac needs. With infinite patience and a lot of TLCs, he showed Isaac his true worth. Theirs was the softest romance of them all. Those years finally paid off!
Isaac ran his hand lightly over Bill’s chest. “Worth the wait?”
“Aye.” Bill kissed Isaac’s hair. “ Worth everything.”
The abuse of familiars and the desire to control them has been the main conflict in the series. This book once again tackled this threat. The big bad villain who remained unseen and only spoken in secret, masterminded a plot of manipulating familiar forms with hexes. Children from the orphanage were kidnapped and thought to be subjected to this inhumane treatment. As with other JLH books (e.g. Whyborne & Griffin), long lost relatives were not to be trusted and some parental units are just not worth it.
The world-building is top-notched as usual and skillfully interwoven with actual historical events and mythological stories, that of the 1900s archaeological excavations in Knossos and the story of the Minotaur. I love how this part was put into good use in the climax. Bill blindly running around in the dark, creepy noises, monsters lurking, all classic edge of your seat fun.
A big hoorah for all the appearances of the rest of the gang, Tom and Cicero, Owen and Mal (my favorite couple), Nick and Jamie, and Dominic and Rook. Of course, Cicero and his big mouth stole the show in every scene he is in. He got Isaac in trouble once again, this time causing friction between Isaac and Sionn, an owl familiar and Isaac’s officemate, who was also interested in Bill. Sionn’s a good guy so I hope he gets his own book and *fingers crossed* it’s him and Valentine, the journalist.
All too often, Hexworld magic is blind and connects a familiar and witch seemingly at random. Unlike the other books where it plays a pivotal role in the pairing, Hexhunter is about healing and making a choice. Because sometimes, it’s better to choose a good witch than the right witch.
Magic ain’t everything .
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
“It’s over, then.”
“Some things are.” He touched Bill’s cheek tenderly with his fingers. “But you and me…we’re just beginning.”
Vampire Kachou – Natsumizu Ritsu
A chief who is strangely attached to the newbie co-worker because it reminded him of Fukuzawa Yukichi-sensei. A one odd company with a vampire as department’s chief and a werewolf as the president.
Humorous slice of life that can hardly be called romance. Would be really interesting if the mangaka took it further.
Soulbound: All Souls Near & Nigh – Hailey Turner
You can’t bargain with death if you’ve already sold your soul.
Special Agent Patrick Collins has been reassigned by the Supernatural Operations Agency to New York City. Navigating his new relationship with Jonothon de Vere, the werewolf he’s now soulbound to, is nothing compared to dealing with territorial disputes between the vampires and werecreatures who call the five boroughs home. But the delicate treaties that have kept the preternatural world in check are fraying at the edges, and the fallout is spilling into the mundane world.
Manhattan’s club scene is overrun with the vampire drug known as shine and the subways have become a dumping ground for bodies. When the dead are revealed as missing werecreatures, Patrick and Jono find themselves entangled in pack politics twisted by vampire machinations.
Learning to trust each other comes with problems for both of them, and the gods with a stake in Patrick’s soul debt aren’t finished with him yet. Bound by promises they can’t break, Patrick and Jono must find a way to survive a threat that takes no prisoners and is stalking them relentlessly through the city streets.
Old and new betrayals are coming home to roost but the truth—buried in blood—is more poisonous than the lies being spun. Trying to outrun death is a nightmare—one Patrick may never wake up from.
All Souls Near & Nigh is a 104k word m/m urban fantasy with a gay romantic subplot and a HFN ending. It is a direct sequel to A Ferry of Bones & Gold, and reading the first book in the series would be helpful in enjoying this one. Please see the disclaimer at the beginning of the book for content some readers may find triggering.
***Trigger warnings include a character forced to take drugs then later sexually molested and an alternate version of the holocaust.***
I absolutely loved the Soulbound universe Hailey Turner created. It the kind of richly realized, highly immersive world where literally anything’s possible and a typical day goes from morning sex to adopting a dragon to going toe to toe with the Goddess of Death.
All Souls Near & Nigh is the second book. It brought the Aztec pantheon into the scene. Dead were-creatures were found and Patrick was called in to investigate. He and Jono crossed paths with a certain DEA Agent ‘Juan Delgado’ who was really Quetzalcoatl or as Patrick liked to say, ‘Pretzel’. The god revealed that his brother Tezcatlipoca was currently courting Santa Muerte and was using the independent were-creatures as sacrifice. This last part had Jono butting heads with the New York City god pack alphas who were not doing their jobs protecting the were-creatures. And, as if dealing with gods weren’t bad enough, Lucien, the master vampire, was calling in Patrick’s debt by demanding he helped him take over the Manhanttan night court. In the midst of it all was a teenage dragon who can’t stop eating.
One of Patrick’s defining features was his inability to say no which time and time again entangled him in one dangerous scheme after another. He rushes head first into a situation, rarely pauses to think or ask for help and all too often ready to sacrifice himself to save others. Good thing Jono’s got his back. The god pack alpha was always there to pick him up and patch him up and the mage is now allowing himself to rely on the werewolf. Pat’s learning to trust. Attaboy!
A major part of the story was Jono’s character development as he confronted the NY god pack alphas and his own pack grew. I loved how he’s so loyal, caring and reliable. He came through for Pat and their pack every single time. Very much looking forward to seeing him unleash Fenrir, hopefully in book 3. Time to own it, Jono!
In this installment, we get a lot of Jono’s POV and I enjoyed seeing their relationship progressed through his eyes. There were a gazillion other things going on but Patrick and Jono’s tender moments when they came were subtle and sweet. As I said before, I really liked how the romantic subplot was done. It was beautiful and memorable without taking over the entire story.
Like in the first book, A Ferry Of Bones & Gold, the second book has magic up the wazoo, which is how it should be done if you have a book filled to the brim with magic users and mythical creatures. It’s a peeve of mine when the books about magic users skimp on the magic, like, a couple of minor spells here and there, a big spell for the grand finale. Also, if the practitioner is a beginner, you have to deal with learning curves. That’s meh. So extra points for the series starting with Patrick already an active mage and quite a powerful one even with his damaged soul so we can expect big bad-ass spells early on.
The book has a huge cast with many recurring characters plus new appearances as well. Even with this many characters, Hailey Turner did a great job making most of them stand out. Though there were still some confusing parts, a glossary was helpfully provided at the end of the book. Also, bits and pieces of information was revealed throughout while making a conscious effort to avoid info-dump. The pacing was fast and the momentum was maintained consistently even with all the numerous need-to-knows. The author was also able to deftly juggle multiple major and minor threads and brought them together in an explosion of magic and blood. All in all, it was an outstanding sequel to an epic series.
All Souls Near & Nigh closed with some loose ends left open for a third book and another dangerous mission for Patrick to risk his life for. Huge changes were afoot. Gods have risen and fallen. The vampire leadership has shifted. The god packs are in a fractious state. The Dominion Sect has stolen a powerful artifact and War is owed her due. Will Patrick and Jono survive what’s coming?
Book I, A Ferry Of Bones & Gold here
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away