Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I have been looking forward to this book since Smith was introduced in Nudging Fate, the first of the Enchanted Occasions series. This book is not a stand alone, although the MC’s from the first book do not show up outside of brief remembrances in this one. Smith was one of the most intriguing of the talented group of outcasts running the event planning business, and after his one night stand with the ifrit, I knew we would see him again.
The setting is a year after the faerie wedding in the first book, and Enchanted Occasions has survived, and even thrived a little bit. But not so much that they can afford to turn down a request from the North American sector vampires to manage their Centennial Feast. Unfortunately, the Centennial Feast can only be hosted in the Las Vegas Interstices, a place of continuous twilight and ambiguous morals. Vegas has terrible memories for Smith, who had languished there for decades before he was hired by Enchanted Occasions. But there was another reason Smith was apprehensive about Vegas…
Hashim is the ifrit who appeared at the Faerie Prince’s coronation with the dastardly plot cooked up by the Faerie Queen, which was foiled by the employees of Enchanted Occasions. Instead of seducing and capturing the prince, Hashim ended up spending a glorious night with Smith, where they connected so completely that Smith told Hashim his true name – and for Smith, as a fire demon, the owner of his true name has incredible power over him. Hashim left without giving his true name in return, which Smith could only regard as betrayal of the worst sort. When Smith passed through Vegas and saw Hashim performing in a circus sideshow, all of the anger, sadness, and dread came back. Hashim was the last person he wanted to see, and being forced to interact with him to arrange the Centennial Feast was agonizing. In part because despite what he felt was Hashim’s treachery, Smith still wanted him, as the only other being he ever felt so complete with.
Hashim felt much the same about Smith, but his circumstances were much more dire than he was willing to admit. His very nature was something Smith had never considered – remember that classic line from Disney’s Aladdin? “PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER! Itty bitty living space…” Hashim had almost no control over his life, and his master, Ringmaster, was cruel and corrupt. When Smith finally understood the situation, he decided to fix it, because he was the guy that got shit done.
There was definitely a darker twist to this book than there was to the first one, with themes of slavery and exploitation, and the victim’s response to them, probed from both sides. It is always difficult for someone on the outside to understand how an abuse victim could ever think that their abuse is deserved, and both Hashim’s rationale and Smith’s response to it were well done. And there was of course the usual humor and banter, provided primarily by the incredible case of secondary characters. The goblin-berserker Chef was especially good, as were the vampires and all the jokes about them in this post-Twilight era. And for those who wondered how Rion could possibly be so sweet and innocent, the answer was both surprising and absolutely adorbs. That was one of my favorite parts of the book! The search for and discovery of Hashim’s true name was disappointing though, and the primary reason I didn’t give the book 5 stars. Still, I hope there will be more to come in this universe in the future!
Cover art by Aaron Anderson shows a great model for Smith, but I would have loved to see Hashim in there as well.
Kindle Edition, 176 pages
Expected publication: January 8th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press