An Alisa Audiobook Review: The Necromancer’s Dance (The Beacon Hill Sorcerer #1) by S.J. Himes and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 out of  5 stars
In a world where magic is real and evil walks amongst humanity, a young sorcerer is beset upon by enemies, both old and new. Angelus Salvatore is the only necromancer in all of Boston, and his name is whispered warily by the undead and fellow sorcerers alike. He and his brother Isaac are the lone survivors of an attack by an army of the undead, in which Angel used a spell so powerful it forever marked his place in history. Now, years later, Angel struggles to balance his career as a teacher of the higher magical arts, his role as big brother, and a tenuous relationship with an Elder vampire from the local clan. When his brother’s boyfriend is used as a pawn in a mysterious plot to draw Angel out, Angel is once again pulled back into the old hostilities that fueled the Blood Wars and led to his family’s death.

Leaning on others for help is something Angel cannot do, and while he searches for clues into who may be targeting him and his brother, Angel finds his heart steadily growing occupied with Simeon, Elder and vampire. Dealing with death magic and vampires on a daily basis may leave Angel jaded when it comes to life and staying that way, but the more time he spends fending off the ancient vampire’s attention and affections, the more he realizes he wants to give in.

Can Angel find out who wants him dead, and keep his heart safe in the process? How can he fall for a vampire, when his whole family was torn apart by an army of the undead?

Death stalks the streets of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill….and there is no one more suited to battle against death than a necromancer.
This was a new author for me and I was pleased with this.  It is a urban fantasy type story with an interesting world.  I felt the author did a nice job setting the stage of this world without overwhelming the reader with too many details.  The story revolves around someone trying to kill Angel and his search for who the bad guy is.  A portion of the story is about the romance between Angel and Simeon, one of the local vampire leaders.
At first the romance seemed a bit abrupt because while they’d known each other for a few years prior to the start of the story.  It almost felt like the romance just happens out of the blue.  As the story goes on we’re given an explanation as to why that happened the way it did.  That is probably my only complaint with the story.  I would have liked to have seen the romance build and grow on page, not just be told about their prior feelings.
The overall plot was fast paced and entertaining and I enjoyed all the various supernaturals that we saw.  I liked both of the MC’s and Angel in particular was entertaining for me.  I love grumpy MC’s that are totally opposed to falling in love but do so anyways.  Angel was especially grumpy which made the tender scenes even more touching. I was happy for them in the end when they got their hea.  
This audiobook was narrated by Joel Leslie and I felt he did a very good job.  He did a Boston accent (where the story was set) for Angel and an Irish one for Simeon.  Both were distinct and I always knew who was talking.  There were a number of side characters in this story and they were all also done quite well.  
Overall I enjoyed this story.  I felt it was a solid start for a new paranormal series and as soon as I finished this one I downloaded book two.  I thought the narration was well done, also making this a good audiobook option.
The cover was done by Book Cover by Design.  I liked this and felt it was a good representation of the story.  My only thought is that it’s very dark and you have to really look at it to take in all the details.  
Sales Links
Audiobook Details:
Listening Length: 8 hours and 8 minutes
Audible Audio, 9 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by SJ Himes (first published February 25th 2016)
ASINB06XPNZSWS
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Beacon Hill Sorcerer #1

Review of Magic’s Muse (Hidden Places #2) by Anne Barwell

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Rating: 4.5 points

Tomas Kemp and Cathal Emerys have finally returned to Tomas’ home after escaping from Naearu, Cathal’s world in an alternative universe.  And while the men hope they are finally safe from Cathal’s cousin, Lady Deryn and the laws governing his world, neither man really believes it.  The cost of their escape is high.  Christian, another of Cathal’s cousins, has lost almost everything he loved and is confined to the shape of a cat for as long as the magic of his punishment holds.  Cathal is also confined within the boundaries of the inn where they now reside, chained by magic to the oak tree that is the portal between the worlds.

Cathal’s nightmares are increasing now that he and Tomas have consummated their relationship and Tomas seems to be acquiring some magic of his own in the interim.  Naearu’s enforcers, The Falcons, are still capable of coming after them, and nightly Lady Deryn whispers threats in Cathal’s mind, promising to kill Tomas if Cathal doesn’t return to their world and marry her. Cathal and Tomas are struggling with their relationship, Cathal is still keeping secrets from Tomas and Tomas is still trying to overcome his self centered impulses and isolated ways to find a way to have an equal relationship with Cathal.  Only when the portal is closed, can both men feel safe to plan for their future.

Magic’s Muse is the second in the Hidden Places series but the first that I have read by Anne Barwell.  The first book, Cat’s Quill, centers around Tomas’s meeting Cathal and their time in Naearu.  It sets out Anne Barwell’s world and myth building that is so important to the events that occur here and introduces us to characters in the continuing storyline of  the Hidden Places.  That said, I am not sure I wish to  go back and read what must be a very bittersweet story.  If I do, it will be because Anne Barwell has such a beautiful way with the English language.  Her sentences flow with a magic all of their own, transporting us easily to places we have never been to meet people not of this world.  Her narrative is rich in its descriptions and the tumultuous emotions of all the characters involved.  From the lyrical passages of the countryside with its fields and  magical oak tree to the  dust motes in the attic of the inn that has been the focal point of time travel, it makes us feel that we are there, listening to the floor boards creak and the branches sigh with the wind.

Her characters are as rich and complex as the story she is telling.  Tomas Kemp is a author of popular books and initially a tough character to invest your affections in.  He comes across as extremely self centered, oblivious sometimes to the feelings of those closest to him. Tomas’ attention is all about his writing, he is consumed with his stories, one of which will bring him into contact with Lord Cathal Emerys of Naearu. We can recognize Tomas as one whose social skills are sadly lacking and whose focus is always somewhere else, even when someone is talking to him. Indeed while Tomas can come off as quite dour, Cathal shimmers with magic and vulnerability.  Cathal easily endears himself to the reader, for Tomas it takes a little longer.  Cathal misses his family even as he recognizes that Tomas’ world is the only place they will be safe and have a future. Cathal is filled with guilt over his role in Christian’s punishment and struggling to find a balance in his relationship with Tomas.  So much is going on in Cathal’s head and heart that sometimes he is feel estranged from the every day moments in the inn. Barwell imbues all of her characters with so much heart, soul, and intelligence that everyone breathes and bleeds across the pages.

And bleed these characters do.  Whether is it actual blood, or their emotions bleeding out of them, there is so much sadness and loss within these story that your heart hurts from reading it.  Christian is an especially tragic figure.  Condemned to being a cat, he was torn away form his wife and  newborn son.  His beloved wife continued to wait for him to return up to her last breath as what is months in one world is years in Tomas’.  And now his son is dying in a nursing home and his grandson needs him badly.  Christian’s wife’s sketches and paintings pop up throughout the story bringing with them the bittersweet memories of their all too short time together.  He too awaits the closing of the portal, the only thing that will restore his human form.  No character is left untouched by regret or sorrow.  Looming over all the events occurring is the threat that the Falcons can reappear to pull one or all of them back to Naearu for judgment and jail.  Over and over we are told their reappearance is eminent and the foreboding builds incrementally. And that brings me to my only quibble with this tale.

We are left with quite a few dangling ends of the saga, so many that I assume that another book will follow this one.  A child is still missing, two characters have just paired up and all agree that Lady Deryn will never give up on her goal of marriage to Cathal and her need to destroy Tomas. With all that hanging over our couple and their friends at the end, I would classify this as a happy for now, not the happy ever after others see it as.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I think not.  That would let Cathal and Tomas off too easily, something I would not expect of Barwell and her saga building. With descriptive passages and a richly enthralling narrative Barwell conjures up a tale of two worlds and a rising rebellion that will effect both.  This story can only be part of a much larger plan.  I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Cover by Anne Cain is one of my absolute favorites.  As rich in detail and evocative in feeling as the book itself, it is one of my best of the year.

Hidden Places series in the order they should be read:

Cat’s Quill (Hidden Places#1) 350 pages

Magic’s Muse (Hidden Places #2)  294 pages