Reviewed: March 27, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Elder Races, Book 4
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 336 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Grace Andreas never expected the Power of the Oracle to come to her. She never expected her older sister Petra to be killed along with her husband in a horrific car crash, a crash that Grace herself barely survived. She never expected at twenty-three years old to have the responsibility of raising and protecting her young niece and nephew. She never expected the massive debt from the surgeries she needed to reconstruct her knee, or having to drop out of college. But expectations don't pay the bills or feed, clothe, and protect her kids, and they sure don't face three immensely Powerful and achingly ancient beings when they show up on her Louisiana doorstep at an ungodly hour of the night for a counsel with the Oracle.
That's on Grace. It's all on Grace.
So is dealing with the emotional fallout of that session, which included watching someone break the rules of sanctuary and get killed right in front of her, and trusting one of the most Powerful of Demonkind to protect her kids. There are so very many things wrong with both of those things she doesn't even know where to start. All Grace knows is that she no longer feels completely safe in her own home, and an imperious Djinn named Khalil may be her only hope in keeping her kids safe in the long term.
Djinn are known for their honor when they make deals, so if she can just figure out a way to word a possible exchange of favors so it doesn't come back to bite her on the butt, maybe she can relax a little. At least she hopes she can when she finds out what he wants in trade. She honestly doesn't know if she can handle having the irritating, superior, supercilious, fascinating, compelling Bane of Her Existence popping into her house all the time. Then again, the alternative is ever so much worse.
Khalil is quite sure he doesn't care for the impudent human who shows him an appalling lack of respect, but he has to admit, there are aspects of her personality that intrigue him. She's got a fiery disposition and she's completely irresponsible of course, not to mention strong-willed and obstinate. He approves of the concern she has for the little ones, though, and those precious little children must be protected at all costs.
The more time Khalil spends with the children, and through them, Grace, the less annoying he finds her, until he realizes she is stirring emotions in him that are unfamiliar and not entirely pleasant...but impossible to ignore. This young little human with her mix of Power both young and ancient starts to intrigue him as sure as her babies have wormed their way into his heart. It is the grossest of ironies, then, that just as Grace and the children start to matter more to Khalil than he's ever imagined, a new danger rises that threatens their safety. A danger that not even Khalil, will all his infinite resources, may be able to avert in time to save them.
I have loved this series from the moment a changeling named Pia stole a 1962 penny from a creature who is murderously notorious for not liking his horde touched, let alone taken. Dragos and Pia's story blew me away, and while theirs was - and still is - my favorite book of the series so far, I enjoyed the two that came before this one very much. Just for different reasons than I loved Dragos and Pia's.
I'm thrilled to say the magic that was in that first book is back in this one. And it is magic. Fantastic, fun, poignant, wonderful magic. It's the confluence of ancient and young, dour and irreverent, dominant male and feisty female. It's a creature so Powerful it could explode you into a dozen pieces with little more than a thought...pitting wits and slinging sarcasm with a human who has been alive for a mere speck of time comparatively. It is...achieving pancakes and yanking chains just as sure as it is soft pledges of friendship and dictates that those pledges can't be taken back. A unique, precious mix of extreme competence, adorable obliviousness, and earnest confusion. Searing passion and gentle tenderness. It is all of that and more, and it is in every moment of interaction between the mighty Djinn and the wee but fierce Oracle. Just as it was between the dragon and the changeling.
Nobody does that sort of magic like Harrison. Nobody.
The chemistry between Grace and Khalil was perfect. Their characters were perfect. I loved them both. Grace had an incandescent spirit and an admittedly unwise (but so funny!) habit of poking the big, scary Djinn with a pointy stick, but she was also fiercely protective and utterly responsible for and with her niece and nephew's health and well being. I sorta loved seeing her struggle to pay bills and shop with two very young children. It was so fantastically pedestrian, so human and common-life, that it stood out against the paranormal shenanigans like a beacon and served to make her unquestionably believable.
Khalil was perhaps slightly more impressive to me than even Dragos. He was just as arrogant and dictatorial as the dragon, just as pure alpha male, but Khalil displayed a slightly wider range of emotion than Dragos did. He also came across as a little less intense and a little less feral than Dragos. A little more touchable, in a way. Still unquestionably ancient and powerful, but a bit more flexible, too. I found myself favoring that as the book went along.
For all that was awesome about this book, though, I had a bit of trouble getting into it. The first few chapters seemed slow to me (not surprisingly that changed as soon as Khalil stepped in and stayed awhile), and I felt a bit bogged down by too much information overload in other places throughout the narrative. There were also a couple of plot threads I would have liked seeing get more page time and have more influence in the book (Phaedra's in particular).
Most of the story was devoted to character development and the evolution of the relationship between Grace and Khalil. I loved and adored that for what it was, don't get me wrong, but I enjoyed the plot-driven points of external conflict that were more heavily featured in the last twenty to thirty percent of the book and would have been thrilled had a bit more of that been more evenly threaded throughout the book. Doing so may also have smoothed out the ending a bit more, an ending that felt a little overburdened by the many plot thread resolutions that got crammed into a short number of pages.
Still, those are minor issues - nearly insubstantial, really. I can't say enough how much I loved this book. Grace and Khalil are my favorite romance characters of the series since Dragos and Pia, and the scenes with Khalil and the kids were so sweetly tender and wonderfully endearing that I was a big puddle of goo in several places. It's so much fun! Definitely right up there with the first. Not quite as high, but close. Very, very close.
And yeah, I'm practically salivating for the next book after I was stupid enough to read the sneak peak at the end of this one. I knew I shouldn't, but I did it anyway. I couldn't help myself! Now I'm paying the price. Patience may be a virtue, but it's not one of mine. Argh!
Screw pretty. I'd rather be strong. Pretty fades over time. Strength gets you through the bad shit. And that matters, because sometimes there's a lot of bad shit.
It was late, she had poor impulse control, and he was interesting. That sentence probably encapsulated every mistake every female had made throughout the history of relationships.
"You are beautiful," he said with evident pleasure. His pure, gorgeous voice sounded the same. "Clearly bathing suits you."
I started counting time for you.
I want to change who I am for you.You are my Grace.
"Are you having fun?" he asked suspiciously.
"We're on the fucking moon!" she shouted. "There's nothing here!"
He stared at her. "I don't think you're having fun.""No air!"
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