Review: Silver/Steel (Arcada #2) by Belinda McBride

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Rating: 4 stars

Silver:Steel coverDream Hunter Dylan Ryve has one last mission to fulfill, one last hunt to finalize so his geas is honored and he will be free of the one who has entraped him.  The problem is that the one he hunts is inside the town of Arcada and the town won’t let him inside.  Frustrated Dylan waits outside of town in a bar hoping for a way in when a young shifter looking for trouble enters the bar and promptly finds it.  Travis Feris is young, impulsive, and insecure and he hides his pain behind outrageous behavior and stupid acts of hostility.  These actions often find him deep in trouble and this night is no different.  But the men he chose to offend have a far more ruthless, horrific plan for Travis and only the actions of fae named Dylan saves unconscious Travis.

When the town lets Dylan bring Travis home to heal, the assassin has his way clear to find his target and complete his bounty.  But things are never that easy in Arcada.  First of all there is Travis.  Dylan sees the true nature of the shifter and Travis’ innocence and inner beauty calls to him as nothing has in a thousand years.  And worse, Travis seems to return his interest,and  affection.  Plus Arcada is talking to him, making him question his path and his future. The town makes Dylan remember what it feels like to have a home and people around him to care for him.  But always there is Travis, luring him in, making him question everything. During one night as Dylan walks Travis’ dreams to help the shifter find his path, he inadvertently shares much of his own history with Travis too.  And in his vulnerability, Dylan opens himself up to love and the possibility that he will fail in his mission, forfeiting his freedom and possibly his life.

But the evil that owns Dylan is waiting impatiently for Dylan to complete the last mission and when it stalls, he takes things into his own hands, putting Arcada and its inhabitants in peril.  Will Dylan betray Travis and all of Arcada to finish his bounty or will he make the ultimate sacrifice to save those he loves?

This is a very different book from Blacque/Bleu which started the series I have fallen in love with.  And it is that difference that most readers will have a problem with when approaching Silver/Steel.  I too found I had some basic issues with this story and even, now find myself wavering in my feelings over some of its elements and scenes.  But let’s start with some of the basics first.

I love the whole idea of Arcada, the sentient town that gives the series its name.  In Silver/Steel, the town makes an actual physical appearance, in that it gives itself a temporary shape and we learn a little more about it, but never enough to satisfy the questions that the story brings up.  I love  everything about this town.  Its protective nature, the fact that it nurtures a diverse group of citizenry from gremlins to a pack of wolf shifters and everything in between.  Such a great idea and I look forward to how the author develops this concept further.  This is one of the best elements of the series.

Then we come to McBride’s characters.  I fell in love with Lukas Blacque and Oliver Bleu immediately and never lost my connection to them throughout the novel.  That did not happen here.  Travis Feris initially comes across as a sullen, somewhat infantile brat.  He is constantly picking fights, he’s impulsive to the point of obnoxiousness and although everyone tells us how talented he is, we are given almost no examples of his artistry.  He is just not that likable at the start.  Then McBride pairs him up with a main character his equal in spirit and inability to connect with the reader.  Dylan Reyvn is an ancient fae who gave up his freedom to save others but that is not the person we meet,  Instead we are given a single minded killer on  a mission.  The complexities of this character reveal themselves more slowly and with each revelation, I found my liking for Dylan growing as well.  For me  that never really happened with Travis.  Travis remained a five note character.  Loves Mom, loves Pack, loves Arcada, loves Dylan and some bdsm.  Where as for Dylan, he has a past to equal his many layered persona and I appreciated that.   True, the Travis at the end of the book is far more palatable than the first one we meet, but I never felt that the growth he achieved was realistic within the context of the story.  Dylan on the other hand is on the cusp of a major transformation and I wished that we would have seen more than just hints of what the future has in store for him and Arcada.

Finally, there are two more elements that have me divided about the story.  One is a major scene towards the end of the book where our main characters and the evil fae come together in a traumatic scene that for me was just on this side of nauseating.   It was very well done in terms of the emotions it will bring forth from the characters and the readers. However, that said, it was just not my thing and only my need to get to the end took me through it.  For others, it won’t be a problem at all.  But I found it a little too graphic in nature for my comfort zone.  There are elements of bdsm and dominant/submission here between Dylan and Travis that do fit in with their personalities.  I didn’t mind that so much, but others might.  No, my largest quibble I save for the plot at the end.  We have a major battle going on, we see and hear some of the aftereffects.  This section is very well done.  But where is the conclusion to this part of the story?  I don’t want to give anything away by going into details but what  happened to the instigators here?  I went back and forth, electronically flipping pages and found nothing to satisfy my biggest question. That frustration alone almost knocked this story down into a 3 rating.  But maybe it really is there and I just could excavate it out.  If you know otherwise, write me and tell me where it happens.  Perhaps McBride is saving this for the next novel in the series.  If so, then she could have done better than just vanishing an important thread to the woods and leave it dangling there.

So, yes, this book has some remarkable components and  characters that will grow on you if you take the time to get to know them. Lukas Blacque and Oliver Bleu are back as well.  It is not a stand alone book by any means, you need to have read the first in the series to have a basis for this one.  Not a problem as that is a 5 star rating story.  There are some editing issues here, some vanishing plot threads as well but the town of Arcada is mesmerizing and will keep you coming back for more.  So will the promising stories of the various inhabitants you meet here.  I want to know what happens to them too.  Belinda McBrides offers you so many tantalizing glimpses of future Arcada stories that she has me truly hooked.  You will be too.  So pick this one up, just lower your expectations a little as you find yourself in Arcada once more for another terrific paranormal tale.

Cover is the least favorite thing about this book.  From the models to the poor photoshop work, just awful.

Books in the Arcada series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the plots:

Blacque/Bleu (Arcada #1)

Review: Blacque/Bleu (Arcada #1) by Belinda McBride

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Blacque and Bleu coverRating: 5 stars

Lukas Blacque is a werewolf in a unique position.  A son of the alpha wolf, he prefers life lived on the fringes of the pack, removed from pack politics.  He has a college degree but prefers his car shop, bringing old vehicles back to life as well as performing normal maintenance.  Another surprising element is that he is lonely for a shifter with a pack, but he has a secret.  Lukas Blacque is gay and deeply in the closet and so for that his lifestyle works as long as no one looks too closely.  There is one person who has caught his interest but the  danger factor is too high for him to act on it, and that would be his neighboring vampire in the shop next to his.  But he refuses to act until one night when his father decides to change everything and Lukas’ life is upturned.

Oliver Bleu is a vampire plagued by nightmares from his time on the front in WWI, nightmares which keep him from sleeping and replenishing his strength.  Now he finds himself slowly fading away, even his hunts don’t quench his hunger.  But then there is his neighbor next door to Oliver’s shop.  Oliver knows he is more than attracted to the shifter, Lukas’ blood might be able to bring him back to strength.  The walls between their businesses are thin and he hears the family arguments going on next door when Lukas’ father arrives for a meeting with his son.  When Oliver goes to check on Lukas, their encounter turns into a passionate weekend neither can forget nor wants too as lust turns into love.

But Lukas has made a commitment to his father and his pack, and is determined to honor it even if it breaks his heart and Oliver’s as well.  Lucky for both shifter and vampire, they live in a very special town who  looks after her citizens,  And when evil from Oliver’s past follows him to Arcada, things are set in motion that will have lasting impact on all around, including Lukas and Oliver.

I just loved this book.  It is the first book by Belinda McBride and it puts her on my must have list immediately.  From the start she gives her characters a marvelous world in which to inhabit, the town of Arcada.  The town is sentient and although we don’t know how that happened, her affection for the diverse citizenry reveals itself in a myriad of ways.  Perhaps she makes it impossible for them to leave or her protection manifests itself in prodding others to act in ways that benefits others.  No matter, Arcada is a benign and loving presence and this leaves us just dying to know more about the town and its diverse community of  humans, vampires, shifters, fae and so many others that we are given brief glimpses of.

But the heart of the story is McBride’s characters, Lukas Blacque and Oliver Bleu, a terrific play on words that fits in beautifully in their interactions with each other.  Lukas Blacque is a complex giant of a man, gentle of spirit, lonely and sad because as much as he wants to be a part of his pack due to his wolf nature, the fact that he is gay keeps him separated and aloof.  He is such a lovely creation that we connect to him immediately and we can empathize with him at this point  in his life.  Then we meet Oliver Bleu, in many ways the anthesis of the vampires we have meet in other novels.  Far from the powerful, immortal beings we have come to expect, Oliver Bleu is a victim, struggling to survive.  In a horrific element of the story, we learn that Oliver died from mustard gas in the trenches at the front.  If you were not familiar with the horrors of WWI before, by the time you learn how Oliver was affected, the true evil that man can create in the name of war will be brought home in gritty, pus filled painful authenticity.  Sometimes the horror of the paranormal universe has nothing on the real one we already live in.

Circling around these main characters are others of equal strength and complexity.  From Dane Blacque, the Alpha wolf to Lukas’ sister and Oliver’s great grand daughter (yes, you read that right), McBridge gives us one compelling persona after another to capture our interest and move her narrative forward.  Even her villains have a startling depth to them that enables you to feel some compassion for them even as you hate their actions, past, present and fear what they are going to do in the future.

This is the first in the Arcada series and really after one memorable walk through town with Lukas and Oliver, you can see she has the basis for many books to come in the fascinating town dwellers and their identities as revealed in bits and pieces.  My only quibble is that I felt it ended too soon.  That’s what happens when all the right elements come together in a story that will stay with you after you are finished reading it.  Blacque/Blue is just that story.  Now I am on to the next with great anticipation.  I will let you know what I find.  But pick this one up and start reading.  You are going to love it!

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be  read:

Blacque/Bleu (Arcada #1)

Silver/Steel (Arcada #2)

Cover art is just gorgeous and perfect for the story within.