As with the first book in this series, Fellfire Summer, the romance takes a backseat to the mission and adventure the leads undertake. This time around we get to see Lir of Bantam–the close friend and occasional bed mate of Everet of Eizenthley from the first story–and Finnian of Layton–an argentsmith and, as far as Lir is concerned, not to be trusted as he was a Lay person; the un-gifted and, therefore, Hold-less Orexians who’d been banished to the ground while the rest of Orexa, upon their Holds, floated on high. Not that Finn’s opinion of Lir was any better, seeing him as a pampered playboy and an insufferably arrogant noble.
The two were partnered at the behest of King Vizick to retrieve Fiona, an M.I.A. mage who was stationed as a border guard tasked with monitoring an area of Orexa that butted up against Ruzian territory. Lir for his running skill–more accurately, the ability to pilot his body about the air–and Finn for his relation to the lost guard. A match made in logic, so believed their King. However, with their clashing dispositions and antithetical fears, their journey towards and into enemy territory was hard to call anything but a nightmare for both. Eventually, though, necessity, safety, and the threat of failing their mission–which had different consequences for the two–got them working together or, at least, not against each other. But more than that, they begin to see that some of their differences were the strengths to the other’s weaknesses and maybe, just maybe, there might be more to each other than meets the eye of closely-held prejudice.
When their mission ended with questionable success, they looked forward to a less eventful return home. However, since Fiona had her own priorities and neither, Lir, nor Finn, nor the King’s expectations, and not even being captured by the enemy was going to prevent her from seeing to them, their trek ahead did not have them facing Orexa, and so began their unplanned adventure. Right around this time is when we start to see teeny tiny sparks of a different kind between our leads. Though, they were still far off from fully conceding. And things slowly pick up from there as they try to avoid death and betrayal on what they hoped would be a round-trip journey.
The story was very good, so I didn’t mind that the courting between the secondary characters was more interesting than the development of Lir and Finn’s romance. Now, once the conflict between them was focused on the whys of things not working between them, I was into it. It was very emotional and fleshed out the depth of the leads. I totally got their struggle and why they were hesitant and why they wanted to protect themselves and where their true fears lied. Not that these things weren’t revealed until then, it’s just that, it wasn’t until then that those demons really felt like part of the characters.
Even though this was less of a page-turner than Fellfire Summer, it pulled me along and I was invested in the story and the characters almost as much. I will say though, even more than the backseat, it felt like the romance was in a trailer hitched to the story with how long it took for me to even want them to be together. As I mentioned, the story was good, so I’m okay with the romance almost being a sub-plot, but it makes me wonder if Delecour is trying to transition the story out of M/M and into general fantasy/adventure. My suspicions were only heightened when I read the summary for the next book. It seems to feature King Vizick, but there’s absolutely no mention of a counter character for him, just political intrigue and looming war. I don’t doubt I’d read it, but I’m just curious.