Dear Ms. Martine:
The thing I appreciated the most about this book was that it was different. The world building presented a somewhat unique twist. Gwen Carroway is part of a massive corporation known as the Company. They sell a special concoction called Mendacia that works like a glamour, fooling the human eye into believing an amputee has all his limbs or an aging actress is forever young.
Gwen and her Company come off as high scale drug dealers, working in secrecy and the dead of night, selling a product of Ofarian magic. The Ofarians pass as humans (or Primaries as the Ofarians call them) but the alien Ofarians are like water benders. They can control water and they can transform into water. Gwen has another skill, one that hasn’t manifested in the last three generations. She is a Translator.
She can learn a new language effortlessly. Gwen’s skill as a Translator has allowed the Company to expand their reach internationally and increase profits for the firm. But the increased trade avenues means increased danger for Gwen. Gwen is trying to prove herself as an asset to the Company but her plans for advancement are impaired when her latest deal results in one man trying to steal the drug and Gwen’s bodyguard having to kill him.
Enter Reed Scott, a human and a mercenary known as the Retriever, and completely doomed because he is seriously attracted to Gwen and she to him. When they first meet, Reed does not know Gwen is his next mark. She’s only a hot damsel in distress and he helps her out (and by helps her out, he breaks the leg of the guy who was attacking her in a vicious and cold blooded fashion). “Tell me.” His head dipped lower. “Is it too early in the relationship for you to ask me up for coffee?” Reed asks Gwen after coming to her rescue. Unfortunately, the next time Gwen and Reed meet is when Reed is carrying out the terms of his retrieval contract. He’s already having a hard time living with himself and this task puts him over the top.
There are some shortcuts in the book such as Reed appearing out of nowhere and coming to Gwen’s aid, willing to break some guy’s leg for Gwen. I guess attraction does that to you if you are a mercenary? It’s akin to the cat bringing the dead mouse to lay at one’s feet, a tribute of sorts. Some guys bring flowers. The Retriever will break bones for you. (Note, it did make Gwen feel safe). Reed’s continued involvement in Gwen’s life is also somewhat of a reach. I didn’t fully buy into Reed’s conflicted morality.
Gwen acts irresponsibly in the beginning but I felt that was intentional. She has a certain air of innocence (not virginal) just youthful but that is stripped away throughout the book as one reveal upon another is pressed upon her. While she didn’t have to make decisions about who lived and died in the beginning of the book – Reed and Griffin, her bodyguard, did that – she did later. Gwen grew up in the story but under unfortunate circumstances. Plus, she was smart. She paid attention. She began to think about consequences, actions and reactions.
The Gwen and Reed romance worked primarily because it wasn’t immediate even if their attraction was. I loved the flirtation between the two when they meet in the bar; their mutual love of art; Gwen’s ruminations on Reed’s physicality. She watches his neck move while swallowing his beer and imagines how his torso would twist while looking at her art books. Her fingers itch to trace his leaf and thorn covered vines tattooed around his neck, “the tip of the last leaf resting just below his earlobe.” These small admirations were more convincing than descriptions of a clenching between the thighs so often found in other books.
Their romance is kind of fucked up, built upon her kidnapping, their mutual desperation. It’s a slow smoldering fire at first, but then the situation lent itself to frenzied passion, as if this might be the last time the two will be able to experience intimacy.
The world building relies a great deal on the existing world construct as do many paranormals but there is a great deal of potential in the storyline crafted here and I am excited to read the next book. B
There are two things that I thought I would address in the review but are spoilery thus the spoiler space:
Love triangle thing:
[spoiler]There were some early rumblings of a love triangle in the book between Gwen’s guard, Griffin, and Reed. I felt that this was handled pretty well. Griffin wanted to be married to Gwen because it cemented his position in the Company and he was willing himself to feel something for her. Gwen didn’t have eros type feelings toward Griffin but had resigned herself to the match. Humans were forbidden to them and her eldest sister was actually exiled from the Ofarians because she tied herself to a human thus Gwen’s attraction toward Reed (which she called the Allure) was something akin to forbidden fruit. When Gwen is taken away from her family and her circumstances, Griffin no longer is an issue. [/spoiler]
Bad things ensue:
[spoiler]The plot twist is that the Ofarians are doing something horrible to Tedrans, another alien race. Reed and Gwen become reluctant revolutionaries in freeing Tedrans. Of course, there are good and bad Tedrans just as there are good and bad Ofarians. The future of the two alien races and their interaction with humans are what will take place in the next books. However, the scene in which Gwen is taken to the Mendacia plant where the Tedrans are incarcerated and made to procreate and then tortured again are pretty grim. [/spoiler]