Rating: 5 stars out of 5 ★★★★★
Things are finally going well for Luka Valdari. He’s found a home and family at the Institute for Psionic Research, and he has a job he loves. When a training mission takes him back to the streets of downside Riga, he’s got plenty of reason to be uneasy, and when a psionic cry for help leads him to a nightmare from his past, Luka’s ready to bolt.
Things are not going so well for Damon Korsov. He’s got voices in his head, a hole in his memory, and strange dreams that may or may not be glimpses of his past. The one man who might hold the key to Damon’s past is the one man he can never ask. Because somehow, Luka knows Damon, and it’s clear to Damon that Luka hates him.
Unwilling to expose anyone else to the danger Damon represents, Luka volunteers to train him. He wants to hate Damon, but instead finds himself fascinated. Before they get a chance to sort things out between them, the two men are thrown into the middle of a terrifying plot that puts every human life in the galaxy at risk. Can Luka and Damon confront both of their pasts and work together to prevent disaster? Or will all the human worlds burn in the flames of wildfire psi?
This book takes place right after the events of book three. Initially, there are two parallel storylines: one follows Tarrin and Miko as they continue their mission from the end of book three, and the other follows Luka who has returned to his duties at the Institute. I admit that sometimes it can be hard for me to read books that switch around like that, but in this case I was so involved with both storylines and both groups of characters that it never did. I was always eager to get back to the other couple so the switches never pulled me from the story or made me want to put the book down. In fact, one of the things I enjoy about this series is how we get to follow along with all the characters even when the primary focus switches to another couple. But also, the author did an absolutely seamless job of bringing the two storylines together perfectly and naturally at about 60%.
This book’s main couple is a doozy. I totally did not see this one coming. At all. We first met both Luka and Damon in book one, Psi Hunter, where Luka was a central character, but not a romantic lead. And Damon… well, Damon was someone else. I won’t say who as you should read it to find out.
I enjoy a good enemies-to-lovers story, and if you do too, then you should adore the heck out of this book! This isn’t your typical version of that trope. NO generic enemies where the guys are on the opposite sides of something but after getting to know each other as individuals, they overlook that and become loving adversaries. NO personality conflict that’s offset by intense physical attraction and results in lots of hate sex that gradually leads to the real thing. And thankfully, NO simple misunderstanding that could easily be cleared up by talking (those kinds often make the characters seem sort of clueless for me). Nope. None of those. This is the real deal. Two guys with a legitimate “I hate you because of what you did to me” reason to be enemies. No easy fix kind of hate here! And I loved that.
Since I knew these guy’s background from prior books, I just couldn’t imagine how the author would manage to move those two to a place where they could trust and love one another. Heck, I couldn’t even foresee how she’d make me like one of the characters given what I knew of his past. But she did both. Believably and well.
While the plot and action moved along at a satisfying clip, the gradual change in the relationship between Luka and Damon was built on plausible reasons that weren’t based on physical attraction. I enjoyed the natural development of an emotional bond and the slow formation of a tentative, but fragile trust that made it possible to move past hate. But when the past came back to bite them in the ass, could that trust stand up? The way they built that final bridge, an integral piece of the overall story arc, felt natural and right. A unique and exceptionally well done take on the enemies to lovers trope.
In this series overall, the world-building is complex and exceptionally detailed. While there’s a complex overall story arc running through the series, each book focuses on a new main couple and how their involvement moves everything forward. But past characters aren’t dropped. Nor do the guys from previous books just make random cameos like in some series. They continue to play their own important roles in the overall arc and to grow while still remaining in character.
Which leads me to mention a favorite character of mine ever since book 0.5, the ever-mysterious Draven. The more I know of him, the more intrigued I am and the more I want… well, more. A few of the scenes he had in this book have me absolutely chomping at the bit to learn more about that illusive man. Mysterious, smart, scheming, a bit broken… rather reminds me a bit of Laurent in Captive Prince. And just like with him, I absolutely cannot wait for more Draven.
The cover by Chinchbug shows Damon with the red crystal artifact and aptly represents this story. Also I’d never noticed until recently when a bundle of the first four came out that each cover fits side by side, half faces with the next. Nice touch.
Published January 27th 2016 by Mythe Weaver Press (first published January 2016)
SeriesGuardians of the Pattern #4.0
Guardians of the Patterns Series (with links to BJ’s reviews):
Guardians of the Pattern is a science fiction series in which the line between science and magic blurs. In the galaxy-spanning Federation, psions are still fighting for basic human rights. Some worlds adopt a live-and-let-live policy, but on others, psions are hunted down and murdered because the public fears their psychic talents. When ancient weapons of mass destruction are unearthed on a planet populated by primitive nomads who still believe in magic, psions may be the Federation’s only hope for survival.
Can the people of these two very different cultures come together to prevent disaster? Or will the Federation’s hunger for power trigger a psionic chain-reaction that has the potential to threaten all of humanity?