REVIEW: The Witchstone Amulet by Mason Thomas
Protect it at all costs.
That’s what rugby player Hunter Best’s mother told him before she died. But when Hunter surprises an intruder in his Chicago apartment, he discovers her amulet stolen. Hunter pursues the thief—all the way through a strange vortex. He wakes in a bizarre and violent world, a benighted realm on the threshold of civil war.
The queen has become a ruthless tyrant, punishing any who oppose her, weakening the kingdom’s defenses against the brutal Henerans. To survive, Hunter must depend on the man who robbed him, a handsome former spy named Dax, now a leader of the resistance that believes the queen is an imposter—a Heneran disguised by magic… who also looks identical to Hunter’s mother.
There’s no love lost between Hunter and Dax, and even if Hunter grudgingly agrees with the resistance, he just wants to reclaim his property and go home. But he might be the only one who can oppose the queen and end her reign of terror.
Dear Mason Thomas,
I enjoyed your previous books well enough to preorder this story. For the most part I am really happy that I did.
The blurb tells you that what we have here is the kind of a “time travel “story but also a “travel to alternate world/dimension: what say you” story. I say that this was also kind of a time travel story for me because the society in the world where Hunter ends up is loosely based on medieval times (very loosely – no direct associations, I mostly based my observation on Hunter thinking that the society did not seem to evolve past medieval and some things that existed and did not exist in that world.
Warning to romance readers, while the story obviously has romantic elements, romance took a decidedly second seat for me, however I was still pleased with it. I don’t know how it will work with other readers though. To me it was fantasy/adventure and during the course of that adventure the men developed an attraction to each other. It was very understated but to me it worked. Sometimes when I am reading an adventure story and at the end boom the guys decide that they cannot live without each other. In this book I could understand why Hunter and Dax decide to stay together. Hopefully readers who will end reading this one will do so as well.
But let’s talk about adventure. I thought the blurb was written very well – it teases a lot without revealing a lot. Hunter had a jewelry item (or so he thought) left to him by his mother and she asked him to keep it safe. Alas one day after a rugby match, Hunter comes to his house (with the potential date no less) and finds everything completely messed up and amulet stolen. He figures out who did steal it ( which made perfect sense to me) and runs after the thief. The thief is fast enough to jump into something which turns out to be dimension traveling portal and Hunter, being upset that he could not keep promise he gave his mother before he died jumps in.
Probably not the wisest course of action which he immediately regrets, but here Hunter is in a new world and completely disoriented. I have to say that I am not new to “travel to another world” trope and I really liked what the author did with Hunter’s reactions to the place. I liked that for quite some time ( maybe not all that much time wise, but certainly quite a bit page space wise) Hunter is quite disoriented and let’s not mince words – traumatized.
I found it completely believable. I don’t like it when a character from modern times travels to another time/place and right away or almost right away everything is great and the character is not out of place in their new home at all. In fact they are the most heroic people ever, the best in the fights and save the residents of their new home from whatever evil they had been battling.
Of course eventually Hunter gets to show some heroics, but to me what he did felt organic to who he was and in a way was based on skill sets he already had. Plus, he built on something he managed to learn with the help of some of his new compatriots and it is not like he was completely helpless – he didn’t have weapons training so he was not a super hero right away or ever . He was a rugby player so he “knew how to tackle “ but after some training his new skills believably merged with old for me .
Here are some of his initial reactions and as I said most of those reactions understandably did not fade right away.
“He couldn’t breathe. His heart thumped like thunder and the world around him tilted dizzily. Holy shit, I’m having a psychotic breakdown. It was the only explanation. Creatures like this simply didn’t exist. Which meant he had to be lost in some wild hallucination. But did people actually having a psychotic break ever think that’s what was happening to them?”
“The cold weight of conviction landed in his gut. His logic fought against it, trying to cling to any shred of rationality, anything that might explain this in some other way. But he had nothing. He opened his mouth and somehow managed to force words from his constricted throat. “How do I get home?” The thief turned and put his attention on the contents of a crate. “You don’t.” “Excuse me?’””
“Hunter’s jaw clenched. That man was his only hope of finding answers. And Hunter wanted his mom’s broach back. During a match, Hunter was always driven by instinct. Get to the ball, then improvise. Do what was needed to defend the line. Figure out what to do next later. It was a strategy that always served him well. But on the pitch, he understood the rules. He knew how things were supposed to work. Here, he had no idea how any of this was even possible, and he didn’t know anything about the creatures or what they were capable of.”
The blurb talks about it, so I felt comfortable enough leaving the quote above in – Hunter and Dax are forced to have a lot of interaction right after Hunter comes through the portal. Dax does not abandon Hunter to the fighting with the unknown creatures. I speculated that it was because he felt a sense of responsibility because his visit to Hunter’s apartment started the chain of events which led to Hunter being where he was now.
However I didn’t know for sure – we are in the third person limited POV and only in Hunter’s head so we view Jax’s words and actions through Hunter’s eyes only. Actually, scratch that – in the very beginning of the book we are given couple of sentences from Hunter’s potential date after rugby’s match and I thought we slipped in his POV for a little bit. It made no sense to me and I just chalked it up to the editing .
Anyway, what I liked about Dax and Hunter’s initial interactions is that we did not see the insta love happening. As I said before, I thought the attraction was gradual and understated and we saw the signs occasionally, but there was nothing like – “you are so hot” welcome to my world or something like that. At least to my eyes, Dax for a long time treated Hunter as a liability and a liability only. Liability that he doesn’t abandon, but to me it was once again very believable, because Hunter *was* a liability for him.
I thought the pacing of the story was very well done for the most part. The only time when I thought pacing was off was when Hunter finally gets to do some heroics closer to the end of the book. He engages in a deadly and dangerous mission and I thought him getting to where he needed to be took * a very long time* page space wise. I understand I think what the author was trying to do. I think he was trying to keep a balance between Hunter not becoming super powerful suddenly and overcome very danger as it comes along, but during those three or four chapters I became a little bored couple of times. Otherwise I was very engaged with the narrative.
I also liked that the atmosphere was pretty dark, which once again made sense based on the world and what was happening in that world, but ended hopefully and quite happily, but not sugary.
Grade : B/B+