The Reanimator Mysteries: The Reanimator’s Heart – Kara Jorgensen
A reluctant necromancer, a man killed before his time, and the crime that brings them together.
Felipe Galvan’s life as an investigator for the Paranormal Society has been spent running into danger. Returning home from his latest case, Felipe struggles with the sudden quiet of his life until a mysterious death puts him in the path of the enigmatic Oliver Barlow.
Oliver has two secrets. One, he has been in love with the charming Felipe Galvan for years. Two, he is a necromancer, but to keep the sensible life he’s built as a medical examiner, he must hide his powers. That is until Oliver finds Felipe murdered and accidentally brings him back from the dead.
But Felipe refuses to die again until he and Oliver catch his killer. Together, Felipe and Oliver embark on an investigation to uncover a plot centuries in the making. As they close in on his killer, one thing is certain: if they don’t stop them, Felipe won’t be the last to die.
This year, I developed a soft spot for underdog necromancers, with books such as Malum Discordiae and The Necromancer’s Light showing that the much-maligned death magic, like any ability, can be used for good, too. As Cassius from Malum Discordiae said, among magic users, necromancers are the most respectful of the dead.
The Reanimator’s Heart introduces us to another cinnamon roll necromancer, Oliver Barlow, a neurodiverse medical examiner for the Paranormal Society. A lover of solitude and quiet, Oliver is also lonely, socially awkward, and acutely aware of people’s unflattering opinions of him. His only friend is Gwen Jones, a telekinetic who works in the library.
Oliver has been secretly crushing on veteran investigator Felipe Galvan for ten years. They don’t have much interaction at first but are soon prompted to work together on the case of the mysterious death of a nun.
Later, after many encouragements from Gwen, Oliver gathered courage to ask Felipe to dinner only to find him dead in his room the same way the nun died. In his shock, he accidentally reanimated Felipe. Now, they were tethered to each other and must remain close at all times.
The book opens The Reanimator Mysteries. The series is set in an alt-New York where some people have magical abilities. Many of them work for the Paranormal Society, an organization that handles cases relating to anything supernatural. This is a world where anything from vampires, shifters, demons to magic users exist.
There are some very light steampunk touches, such as steamers, which are their cars, and the presence of pneumatic tubes as means of communication. The Paranormal society is housed in a huge building with dormitories, archives, offices, and a fantastic magical library I would LOVE to explore!
Homosexuality is still considered taboo, but members of the Paranormal Society pretty much do as they please. Women also hold positions of power within the its ranks. Other than these liberties, it’s stays true to a vague 18th?19th?-century setting.
The story is written in dual POV in an omniscient third person style, where Oliver’s perspective is presented, and then immediately shifts to Felipe’s in the same paragraph or section. I liked this style a lot because I don’t have to wait for the next chapter to know the other character’s thoughts. The pacing might be a tad too slow for my liking, but there are no info-dumps, the need-to-knows flow seamlessly with the narrative.
I am also glad we get experienced magic users from the get-go. Although I’m mildly disappointed there are no bombastic displays of magic here, the kind that makes your jaw drop. Magic is used sparingly and are mostly muted affairs deployed when murder is being committed or the dead is being raised.
Oliver is especially careful not to show how strong his powers really are, knowing full well the stigma. He has a very nuanced code of morality when it comes to using his necromancy following rules he set up for himself. At the same time, Oliver doesn’t actually know much about his magic because of lack of books on the the topic and because he doesn’t use it enough to test its limits.
Felipe is a healer, a skill useful only to him because he can only do it to his body. Much, much later, he was able to channel his healing abilities to help Oliver. It’s only the first book, so I’m expecting more spectacular magical developments in the later installments.
And I’ve got to say, Oliver and Felipe are two of the most endearing people you could know! I just loved them individually and together! I’m happy Oliver finally found the person who understood him and let him be himself. And Felipe finally have someone worth staying home for and introducing to his unconventional family.
Majority of the plot focused on Oliver and Felipe’s magical connection and their blossoming romance while they investigate the murder. The mystery was very intriguing, especially as the opening scene shows the murder happening. It was a phenomenal opening, and it set my expectations high. The book delivered most of its promises and made me excited for the next one.
My favorite part was how Oliver, ostracized for being different and strange, grew in confidence and strength with the help of a loyal friend, the love of a good man, and most of all, the indomitable spirit of a lone wolf. As a solitary creature myself, I find our boy pretty inspiring and relatable.
One thing, though, the conclusion wasn’t clear on what the bad guys’ goals were. Was it to raise an undead army? Open a portal to another world? Or control people through magic?
While I’m glad there are no villain monologues, I was hoping Oliver and Felipe would have a dialogue about what exactly were the bad guys’ endgame. Also, I’m not sure whether this thread is connected to the sequels or if it was all wrapped up.
The Reanimator’s Heart is a sweet story of love and friendship, an uplifting portrayal of understanding and acceptance, and a gripping tale of magic and death. Don’t mind my juvenile wish for magical flash and bang, overall, this book is suspenseful, fascinating and deeply heartfelt!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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Devastating Magic: Imperfect Illusions – Vanora Lawless
A drafted empath. A dreamwalking poet. A world at war.
Idealistic, aspiring poet, Elliot Stone can make people feel euphoria or horror with a simple touch. But that’s only part of his magical abilities. He can also wake in the dreams of people he cares deeply for.
Stubborn, fiercely independent Warren “Sully” Sullivan is an illusionist with a secret of his own: he feels the emotions of others as visceral sensations. That, and a lifetime of fending for himself, has left him guarded.
On their last night of freedom before shipping off to training—military and magic—Elliot and Sully indulge in an explosive, emotional night together. Elliot assumes it’s a one night stand and nothing more, until he awakens in Sully’s nightmare. The urge to rescue Sully is impossible to resist. And when dream-Sully begs him to keep coming back, something Sully would never do while awake, Elliot can’t resist that either.
As real life draws them into battle, their shared dreams become a refuge that only Elliot recalls. So when Elliot has the opportunity to recruit Sully to the secret elite unit of magical soldiers he leads, he’s willing to risk everything for the man he’s fallen in love with in dreams. But being away from the front lines doesn’t mean Sully’s safe. Now they battle enemies with twisted magic where their secrets are a liability.
Can they bring their dreams—and love—to life? Or will the war cost them everything?
Historical MM romances set during WWI are few and far in between. Add to that super soldiers with magic, and it’s definitely a must-read!
Imperfect Illusions is the series opener of Devastating Magic, set in an alt-universe where some people developed magical skills. At first they were shunned, but with the war, governments realized their skills could be useful, and they were drafted into military service.
Our heroes, Elliot Stone and Warren Sullivan, a.k.a. Sully, were men of certain inclinations who met and had a wonderful night together. They parted the next day for service, thinking they wouldn’t see each other again, but to their surprise, they were training together along with other recruits.
Elliot has the ability to influence people’s feelings through touch but can also secretly dreamwalk. He comes from a wealthier family and so was made captain. He’s a passionate man who likes writing poems, not really someone you would expect to be a soldier, much more an officer.
Sully is an empath and has the ability to create illusions. A man whose temper easily runs hot, he frequently has to tune out other people’s emotions, or else he would go mad. He suffers from nightmares caused by childhood traumas, something that Elliot helps him with whenever he enters his dreams.
The premise is built on the romantic idea of meeting your lover in dreams when far apart in real life. Elliot walks into Sully’s dreams, and there, they talk about things they can’t talk about in their waking lives. Their interactions are free-er, without fear of the homophobic society of their time.
Thing is, Sully doesn’t or refused to remember these times. Elliot keeps his extra ability a secret, or he’d be put to work even in sleep. Dream Sully is more accepting and more honest to himself and his lover, confessing fears and secrets to Elliot. Real world Sully pushes and pulls, confused about his feelings for a man he’s so drawn to after spending only one night together a lifetime ago.
As a romance, the book delivered a compelling story of forbidden love between two men who constantly put their lives at risk. Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, with precious stolen moments and a swoony HFN that made it so much worth the risk and heartaches.
As a fantasy, the world-building is adequate enough to establish that it is WWI and that there are people with superpowers governments are using as special forces. Beyond that, it didn’t delve into details like, magic systems, origins, classifications, etc.
The setting reminded me a bit of the long ago TV series Young Indiana Jones, but this being alt-universe, there were some liberties taken with the historical elements. In truth, I didn’t feel the 1917-ness of it. The writing didn’t provide many historical details that would have made the era come alive. It feels more like they just borrowed WWI military clothes and did something vaguely WWI-ish.
Also, Elliot and Sully were from Chicago. I thought Americans only joined during WWII. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, this is a fantasy book, so no biggie.
In terms of storytelling, it was slow going at the start. It got to the point that I had to put the book on hold for a couple of months. I’m glad I gave it a second chance because it hit its stride about time the boys finished training and were deployed in separate countries.
From here, the plot was mostly about Elliot’s and Sully’s missions, how the war took its toll, and how the two men were reunited again. One of the more interesting threads is the German plot to deploy a nerve gas that turns people into zombies.
I thought it would be more exciting if the story started with the MCs as established soldiers and focused more on the mission to stop the nerve gas. It would made the story more dynamic and action-oriented. But it’s understandable the book opened with the one night stand and went through the training to establish the connection between Elliot and Sully. Also, I think the consequences of their mission might be connected to the events in the sequel, which I am looking forward to.
Imperfect Illusions is a story of love that endured nightmares, stigma and war. The pace is slow in the beginning, and the writing glosses over some details. Imperfect it may be, still, it’s an emotional book that grows on you, and you’ll find yourself rooting hard for Elliot and Sully!
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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