*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*
This was the first book in a new series, and between the realistic characters, adorable friendship, unique world-building, and detailed magic system, it’s off to an amazing start!
This book was urban fantasy, but more unique, and I loved it. It took place in New Atlantis, which exists in our world but is like a little country of its own where the Atlanteans live. The story, the city, the characters, and the writing were modern and urban, but it was mixed with magic and the Atlantean society (which consists of noble courts based on tarot cards) and its old ways. It was an interesting combo that sucked me into the story.
The setting itself was also really unique. The Atlanteans literally took abandoned buildings from all over the world, used magic to bring them to this island, and repurposed them. And for many of the buildings the characters visited, the author explained where they came from, what they originally were. There was also the Westlands, which was interesting in its own way because it was filled with wild magic. The anecdotes about things that had happened there, like time paradoxes, were so creative. So much thought was put into this world.
The magic system was interesting too. The scions, or some of them, had a power that related to their house. They also had general magic, but it was limited because they had to use sigils (which were not easy to come by) to store and use spells, and storing the spells took time, focus, and the use of special locations called sanctums.
Now let’s talk about the characters! They were so well-written. Some were intriguing. Some were mysterious. Some were likeable. Some were relatable. All were believable and three-dimensional. That was one of the best things about this book, how natural the characters and all their interactions felt, like I was reading about real people. They kept growing on me until I adored them and kept smiling at their banter and antics and relationships with each other.
Rune had a relatable, slightly sarcastic voice and was easy to root for. I felt oddly protective toward Matthias (Max) and Quinn. I can see why Rune was attracted to Addam, what with his tattoos, and his carefree barefoot dancing, and his compassion and empathy. I will admit, however, that I had mixed feelings about Brand. His answer to everything was violence, and I could excuse some of it (Dalton 100% deserved it), but not his treatment of Max. When a teenager under your care does something wrong, it’s not ok to dunk their head in a toilet or stick them out the window of a moving train. I know things are different in New Atlantis, but that really rubbed me the wrong way. But of course he had good traits too, and I don’t need to like everything about every character in order to appreciate how well-written they are.
Another great thing was the fantastic friendship between Rune and Brand. The banter between them was so much fun and cracked me up, but they also didn’t have issues with hugging, expressing how much they cared, and doing little things for each other, like giving their jacket when the other was cold. And the way Rune sometimes referred to Brand as “my Brand” was touching. There was nothing romantic between them, just pure, adorable friendship.
The blossoming romance was nice too. I got to see the characters spending enough time together and connecting to each other that I believed they were starting to develop feelings. But that’s all it was—the start of something, not a full-blown romance. And what’s cool about this society is that being LGBT+ is common and widely accepted.
I just realized I haven’t even mentioned the plot, but I promise that was good too! It was gripping and filled with plenty of action and just the right amount of mystery.
Last but not least, I want to give a *TRIGGER WARNING* for a couple very brief but explicit mentions of rape. When it was revealed just how terrible (terrible isn’t remotely a strong enough word) that incident in Rune’s past was, it nearly brought me to tears. It was not a thing that was brushed aside. It’s something that will likely always affect him.
Before I wrap this up, I want to thank Tammy @ Books, Bones, & Buffy and Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky for raving about this book since I might’ve passed it by otherwise, and that would’ve been a real loss!
Overall, this was a gripping, unique start to an urban fantasy series with complex characters, interesting magic, and a unique world that I can’t wait to keep reading!
Anyone who likes realistic and likeable characters, adorable friendship, magic, and completely unique urban fantasy world-building.