CW: Discussion of edge play kinks
This is a collection of four stories, all in the same world with the same characters. Fictional Port Lewis is filled with witches and magical creatures and it’s so wonderfully queer. I will admit I was originally drawn to this book (and the author, Brooklyn Ray) with descriptive tags of, “queer,” “witchy,” “monsterfucking,” and “knives.” It has all of that and I love it. (The monsterfucking was heavier on the fucking than the monster, but still excellent.)
The first story, “Reborn,” is an F/F short featuring Thalia and Jordan. Thalia is a witch come home, the new matriarch of her clan. Jordan is a necromancer—and her old ex. Despite the concerns of their families (or, at least, Thalia’s family), they are drawn back into each other’s arms. This story does an excellent job setting the mood of a dark, witchy tale filled with sex, drama, and knife play.
Knife play is either explicit or referenced in every single story in this, so if that’s a hard limit of yours, maybe pass. If, on the other hand, that’s your kink? Read this book. Read it right now. I love knife play where the knife and the cutting (and to some extent, the blood) is eroticized, rather than the fear. Fear play didn’t come up here, but blood play did.
Next was “Darkling,” a novella featuring Ryder, a fire witch who becomes a necromancer. I loved his attitude, I loved the little touches of his magic, I loved the descriptions of siphoning his boyfriends magic and the knife play between them, I adored the blend of magic and sex. Holy shit that was possibly the best part (of this whole book, Ray writes excellent sex scenes and blends them with magic spectacularly). I know “darkling” as a term in the book is supposed to be an insult to a necromancer, but it’s such a cute term I want to see used as a pet name between him and his water witch boyfriend. (I might have strong Tamora Pierce associations with that term, I’m sorry.)
“Undertow” featured the same pairing, but this time the POV character was Liam, Ryder’s water witch boyfriend. Their relationship was established in “Darkling” and continues to grow here, but the focus is on Liam’s family drama/family witch clan secrets more than anything else. Have I mentioned how much I love how witchy these books are? It feels so good to read books by witches for witches. So incredibly validating. Also, I love water witches, they are my jam.
Ryder and Liam, the protags of “Darkling” and “Undertow” are in the same circle and one of my few critiques of this is that I want to see what keeps them in the circle. There’s a ton of in-circle conflicts here (not between Ryder and Liam, mostly between both of them and Tyler the circle leader) and not much showing what keeps them together. I’d love to see them work together as a circle. (I’d also love to see Tyler being actually supportive and not a jerkface, but I get the feeling his character growth is coming soon.)
Literally the only other thing that bothered me in this was the lack of safe sex practices (or discussion whatsoever). The sex was hot and kinky and I loved it, but this is a modern setting friends. Diseases are a preventable thing. Pregnancy this a preventable thing. Why is this not addressed? (I know a lot of people don’t think safe sex practices are sexy, but in modern settings I view them as much a requirement as consent. Normalize it and make it sexy.)
The last story of the book, “Honey”, was pure fluff between Ryder and Liam. It was so perfect and wonderful to end on after the darkness of “Undertow” and made me squeal and hug the book.
Overall, I love LOVE LOVE this book. Highly recommended.
Recommended for: Pagan readers, fans of sexy contemporary fantasy, people with a knife play kink, readers who want a trans lead (Ryder), fans of M/M and F/F romance, fans of cross-elemental pairings, fans of necromancers, fans of kelpies