Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Black clouds of xenophobia gather over Radvadur, the western province of the Empire. The political climate is strained and fragile. A surge of Nymph refugees has stirred widespread hostility towards non-humans. When the investigation of a gruesome triple murder linked to the refugee camp ensues, it takes Inspector Käyru Skaer and his lover, Count Ellydhar Finn-Jánn, along an unusual path, at the end of which a precious gift awaits.
Käyru and Elly are worlds apart in social standing, but they have found common ground in the bedroom—up against the wall and the stable doors, too. The arrangement between them ought to have been temporary and of no consequence. As their circumstances change, will they find the courage to risk their hearts?
Warning: Contains mentions of off page sexual assault.
Kasia Bacon’s novella Don’t Fight the Spark (Soldiers and Mercenaries #1) had included in the Author’s Book Notes a sentence or two where the author indicated that she thought all readers should head to this story first for a better foundation on the characters and then pick up Don’t Fight the Sparkk. I hadn’t but wanted to rectify that as soon as possible. Plus get a better look at Bacon’s Order Universe, which seems to be coming together much the way a quilter completes a quilt, one patch or in this case a story at a time.
Did I find that to be true? No. Yes,The Poison Within (Inspector Skaer #1) by Kasia Bacon fills in some gaps nicely. Like what and who is a Furia and who is that nymph meeting her at the end of Don’t Fight the Spark. We get those answers here. We also meet Käyru Skaer and his lover, Count Ellydhar Finn-Jánn here. And if you play with the names and take into account their looks, then you have a long established couple in Don’t Fight the Spark. However, this couple here is practically at the first part of the path of their relationship, however the fact that they are an established couple given what we know from the other story. There one is practically unrecognizable in some respects. their lives having changed drastically somewhere in between this story and that one.
Which sort of makes this all the more frustrating. The author hands you both one section here towards the beginning of their story, and then another towards the middle or whatever latter part, and leaves you missing huge gaps in between if you have read both books. So I will say it’s hard for me to judge this strictly on it’s own merit.
I do find that the author has a wonderful way with her characterizations. Layered, rich, and full of life, they are easy to connect with. The same goes for the situations they find themselves in, in this case an unequal love affair, officially unacknowledged due to the differences in social strata (The Count’s high birth and Käyru Skaer;s low). Also the fact that the relationship between two men is tolerated only if it appears not to be serious. All of which is placing incredible stress on them both while they try to investigate a local crime.
You can see the author laying the groundwork for the other story and the events that will follow in the men’s relationship. But it ends far too soon for me to feel any sense of completion, because of my additional knowledge past this story. It just felt too short.
There is a nice amount of suspense and drama and the established relationship feels real between the two.
The world building here is good in sections. That is for this section of the world the author does a great job of giving us a feel for the type of culture and political life that swirls around the people and this couple. How restrictive and yes, poisonous it can be.
For the larger framework for the entire world, its history, geography etc. once again you need to consult the Glossary. Something I’m divided about. I need to read more about The Order Universe. Perhaps the earlier books contain within them the foundations I’m seeking like the Elf/Human wars that were so devastating that left the humans on the losing end and rearranged everything. Somewhere there’s a story that folds it all in, rather than resorts to a Glossary for a framework and grounding. I appreciate a patchwork quilt of short stories but would love to see them attached to one overall cohesive novel that jump started it all. I’m still in search of that one.
If you are a fan of The Order Universe, then this is one more short story you must add to the collection. I will be following along to see how this couple got from here to Don’t Fight the Spark status. Should be quite the ride. I will be waiting. If you love fantasy and a series, try The Order Universe. You might find it as fascinating as I do.
Book Cover art is terrific. Bloody wonderful.
Sales Link: Amazon
As of 14th December 2017, The Poison Within also includes a short bonus read titled A Late Bite to Eat
Kindle Edition, 51 pages
Published March 18th 2017
Series Inspector Skaer #1
CharactersInspector Käyru Skaer, Count Ellydhar Finn-Jánn or ‘Elly’