Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca, June 25, 2019
Genre: Fantasy Romance
“I might still have a future.” -Leena, Kingdom of Exiles
Leena is a charmer, one of a race of beings gifted with the ability to charm magical beasts, and tame them. She keeps them in a separate paradise realm, where she is able to call to them when she needs their magical abilities, for everything from comfort to protection. But she has been exiled from her home city, framed for a crime she did not commit.
Noc is an assassin. A dead one. He rules over Cruor, a shadow realm where the undead assassins make their home and take on murders for hire, with an absolute guarantee, they will kill their mark, or die themselves.
When Noc’s guild is contracted to kill Leena, their paths cross, and a common goal leads Noc to postpone her death. But somewhere along the way, Noc stops wanting her dead, and begins to wonder if she is the key to breaking his curse, a curse that kills every person he has ever and will ever love.
Sourcebooks sent this ARC to me for a review, and while it is not my usual genre, the fantasy aspect and the world Maxyn M. Martineau builds is fascinating. I did feel like it could have been a perfectly good fantasy novel without the romance aspect. Their was a sex scene that seemed like it was thrown in as an afterthought, unnecessary to the story.
I had a few problems with this book. While I loved the characters and the world building, some parts seemed to drag on, and some important parts were left out altogether. Who cursed Noc? Who hired the assassins? I’m sad to say that we never find out. Typical fantasy romance stories do have other characters in them with love interests to lead into the next story. I’m good with that. But you need to finish the story with the original characters first. The fact that we still don’t know who Noc really is ruined the ending for me, and leads me to my next point.
Leena feels a bit like Anna in Frozen. She falls for Noc with a strictly physical attraction. He’s an outright dick to her, because he has to be, or worry that his curse will kill her. But she is drawn to him anyway. Sure, there are glimpses of his non-dickishness (don’t make fun, I like my word!) but not enough to show her who he really is. How can she fall for someone she barely knows? The “love” seems to come out of left field. All of a sudden people call him her “mate” and they just kind of go with it. The sex scene could have been used to solidify the “mating” part of the story, but it wasn’t, it showed up too early in the storyline. I was kind of wanting her to fall for Calem instead, a side character who has a great sense of humor and an obvious good heart. So when the betrayal finally comes, as it always does in a romance novel (tropes be damned), she absolutely expects it and hardly even has a thought that he might not have meant to doom her. And why shouldn’t she? She barely knows the dude!
If you enjoy this genre, this is actually pretty good, in all honesty most of them are absolute shit, but this writer has talent. I just wanted a completed storyline. My rating is comparing this romance novel to other romance novels, not rating it against books outside of this category.
3/5, looking forward to seeing more from Martineau, just hope that she can segue each book into the next with a bit more commitment, a bit more finality for the main protagonists.