Survival is a game best played by the hunter… not the prey.
Tobin, the master of deception, has seeded his web of information in almost every stop he has been to. He is an artist of death, painting the rivers of life to flow in the gorges demanded by Bytos, god to the Assassins. While painting his latest canvas and planting his newest seed, he meets someone just as deadly, Queen Marilynn. He is drawn to her as a moth to a flame, never understanding the dangers in front of him. This soon-to-be mother of his child and wife to King William is no mere human herself.
Through godly creation, Marilynn was unleashed centuries ago into the realm with one goal, domination of all and servitude to her and her god, Seren. The price of reverence is steep; in exchange for eternal life, Marilynn believes she must sacrifice her child to Seren every hundred years, something she has come to do without hesitation or remorse.
Smith sets an electric pace as Tobin, Rene, and Dakota race to keep ahead of their pursuers. The world-building is immersive and littered with intriguing hints that connect this fantasy world to ours as the party secures passage across the ocean and heads for Tobin's hometown as part of a merchant caravan. However, those promising elements of the world-building remain mostly ambiguous in this first volume, suggesting that a link to our world may only play a major role in subsequent installments of the Merging Realms series. Readers who prefer clearly explained worlds and magic systems may be frustrated with Smith's immersive, mystery-tinged style.
Smith offers a variety of steamy scenes, which include loving partnerships, trips to a brothel, and dark rituals ending in human sacrifice. The sole non-consensual scene is neither gratuitous nor overly graphic. The heat level leans toward the milder end of the spectrum throughout, and Smith cleverly incorporates characterization and plot advancement into the most intimate scenes. Tobin’s portrayal as being a gifted lover can be heavy-handed at times, which is not entirely mitigated by his more tender traits. Some inconsistencies with character names cause confusion. Fans of dark fantasy and those who enjoy erotic fantasy will find much to enjoy in Smith's debut.
Takeaway: Erotic and Dark fantasy fans will enjoy Smith’s tale of an assassin on the run from a dark queen.
Great for fans of: S.J Sanders' Corruption of the Rose, Guy Gavriel Kay's Sarantine Mosaic, Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: C+
First I would like to state that I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. I really enjoy the authors writing style, pulls you into the book from the very beginning and you don't want to put the book down. It kept me on the edge of my seat reading from cover to cover. All the characters are very well portrayed though out. When you are finished you wish you weren't. A most wonderful read and I highly recommend this book
Folding in elements of dark urban fantasy, Smith whips up a gripping, sinister tale that takes readers on an exhilarating journey into a fascinating world of magic, murder, betrayals, and conspiracies.
Magic rules the lands, and the favored ones of gods hold special powers. Tobin, the master of subterfuge, the artist of death, bows to no one but the demands of Bytos, god to the Assassins. His path crosses with the evil queen Marilynn, who was unleashed into the world centuries ago with one goal, domination of all and servitude to her and her god, Seren. Unaware of Marilynn’s sinister machinations, Tobin begins a torrid sexual relationship with her, but when the latter’s sinister plan for their newborn child is revealed, Tobin must do everything in his power to save the child.
With crisp prose and sharp insight, Smith adeptly combines the ruthless with the tender, revealing both the complexity and fragilities of Tobin’s character. A swiftly paced narrative brings the setup and the characters to life, and Tobin’s bond with Dakota and Rene, along with sympathetic characters of Judith and Nic, lightens the otherwise extremely dark tone.
Smith’s execution of the plot is flawless, the pace is lively, and the heart-pounding twists and turns thrill and gratify. The darkly captivating world of magic and mayhem, endless conspiracies, lethal betrayals, forbidden love, and erotic sex swiftly draws readers in, along with the steady unraveling of hidden secrets and daring escapades and won’t let go until they turn the last page.
Highly recommended to lovers of dark urban fantasy and paranormal thrillers.