Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Reylan’s last assignment for The Arcadia Trust brought a rebellious human servant under his roof, and a volatile werewolf lover named Jorgas into his bed, leaving the self-reliant Blood Shade–known to the outside world as vampires–in no hurry to risk his immortality for them again. But when a new terror starts disappearing humans from a bad part of town, Reylan must do everything in his power to keep Sydney’s supernatural factions from the brink of war. Having an ambitious, meddlesome human in the mix is only going to make things worse…especially when that human is Jorgas’s father. Reylan will need all his determination and cunning to keep the peace under his roof, between the night’s power brokers, and in his lover’s troubled heart.
Christian Baines brings us back into the world of Reylan and the Arcadia Trust series by means of a mystery. Humans are disappearing from a notoriously bad part of town and suspicions are pointing towards a Blood Shade, the preferred term for vampire. Reylan is asked to investigate and does so because his interests are closely entwined and his curiosity piqued.
By launching us directly back into the seamy undersides of Sydney, Baines gives us the gritty, reality that is sometimes missing from supernatural novels with a romance bent. As I mentioned in my previous review of the first story, The Beast Without, there’s no sparkle to be found anywhere near these Blood Shades, thank you very much. And the werewolves? They are alpha predators to the bone with neither beings exhibiting any guilt or making apologies about who and what they are. Its sort of refreshing.
In fact Reylan is an asexual being..except for the fact that Jorgas seems to negate that whenever they come in contact to one another and then the heat between them is almost combustible. Reylan has to ignore the fact that their union is considered an unholy alliance by all factions outside of themselves. And what is it about this strange and unusual investigation that has so many threads leading back to not only the most powerful Blood Shade in Sydney, but to Jorgas’ father too. Baines has a veritable tapestry of plot threads here, and he’s woven them skillfully throughout the novel that it carries us along, throughly connected to the characters, the relationships that are evolving and the new situations that are being revealed.
One of the things I love is the idea here of mannequins, an undead servant that is adopted by a Blood Shade. It is a big deal, and not done lightly. Brett, from the first novel is Reylan’s mannequin and things are not going smoothly with his transition from human to mannequin. Baines lets us see what might happen when that occurs. Here the person is unprepared and just perhaps, maybe even the wrong choice. Its a fascinating element and I love watching it evolve.
But for all the locations, the mysteries, the grittiness and just the plain, out and out terrific writing, its the characters that stick with you. I know they have since the first time I met them in The Beast Without. I had to wait for this one. And while, yes there is a bit of a cliffhanger, Baines has promised the wait for the third story won’t be as long.
You should read the first book in the series to get all the world building and characters firmly in place before picking up The Orchard of the Flesh. But as that remains a favorite of mine, I would have recommended that to you as well anyway. Pick them both up and get started today. This is an amazing series full of remarkable characters. I can’t wait for the third story now to arrive.
Cover art is quite wonderful and works for the story and character.
Published August 16th 2016 by Smashwords Edition
SeriesArcadia Trust #2 settingSydney (Australia)
Series: Arcadia Trust: