“He crouched beside Michael. The prisoner had vomited from the pain and the blows to his gut. Carefully, Anzhel raised him out of the mess. He drew him into his lap. He produced a spotless white handkerchief with the gesture of unfolding a wing, and cleaned his mouth with tender care.
“Poor Mikhaili”, he said. Then he looked up at Oriel and smiled. “You want me to break him for you.”
I loved the idea of this story and faithfully stuck to my opinion for a good part of this book, stubbornly overlooking the fact that I either raised or frowned my eyebrows a little too often. In the end though, irritation and frustration got the upper hand and I rated 2.5 stars a book in which I had highlighted favorite quotes.
That’s the thing : you have the prose on the one hand, the plot lines on the other hand, the characters somewhere in the middle, and they don’t contribute to the story with the same level of success. It’s my third read by Harper Fox and perhaps not enough sample of her work to state anything, but this pattern that I had disregarded before became really irritating as it became also all too familiar and particularly striking in this read.
I love Harper Fox’s use of language, how words are not just meant to describe, but also to suggest and tell more, to bring the story to another, often mystical, level. This one made no exception. It is a spy story involving an edgy pair fighting war criminals and the lingering consequences of an undercover mission in hell. It is also the tale of a fall, the story of a ruin, of the good in Michael’s life perverted into something potentially evil, and it is a story of redemption. A careful choice of words to set an imagery, names, clues here and there, and the paranormal plot line is shadowing the contemporary suspense. It’s beautiful how she does that.
But, also, threads developed in dotted lines that confuse when they should intrigue, another thread coming out of the blue and a little too late, repetitions instead of construction, easy routes that are not resolutions, and I felt like the story sent mixed signals to finally let me down when the plot lines didn’t work out to build a coherent whole. Paranormal of course doesn’t need to bend to reality rules, but it still follows its own logics; and when it fails to make sense, it is not only annoyingly inconstant, but also suspiciously looking like convenient padding. I’m pleading guilty for rolling my eyes at the redemptive power of love, but still, plot holes are plot holes.
John and Michael could have saved the day. They’re respectively a desperate fool in love and a time bomb, and grabbed me at moments, yet only fleetingly. I don’t know who they are. They’re defined by their respective role in the romance, and it is not enough for me to fall for them and root for the couple.
That’s my experience of this read. Other readers loved it, had a journey made of feels, stretched boundaries for some, and emotional gratification at the end of the road. It might be your case, should the characters succeed in gripping you; the loose story development should less matter, then.