Taste of Air

     Author: Cassie Sweet

     Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

     Rating: 4.5 stars

     Buy Links: DSP  and Amazon 

     Type: Sequel Novel

     Received from Publisher

 

Blurb: The reappearance of necromancers to the Dominincál city-states worries Sadonia prolate Estobán Medovin. Ever since Masters Nico and Theodyne drove the necromancers from his mind three years before, he’s suffered an odd affliction—painting while asleep. It is a secret that, if discovered by his enemies, could bring his rule to an untimely and violent end. On the eve of the demigogal elections in the holy city of Gusan, fearing the new candidate might be under the necromancers’ direct influence, Estobán requests an alchemist well-versed in ferreting out death dancers to join his mission to seek out conspirators.

Evil floods the streets of the holy city, and the elementals are anxious. Master alchemist Jolen Meripen should know; as an aerothant—hybrid of a human and air elemental—he can hear their voices in his head, telling him of the corruption festering under the pristine edifices.

When Jolen discovers a piece of the ruby tablet known as the Elementica in Estobán’s possession and the necromancers bid to collect them all and thus rule over the elements, he knows he must do everything he can—including sacrificing his life to bring peace to Dominicál and save the man he has come to love.

Warning:  This review contains series spoilers!

 

Review:  This is the second book in a series that must be read in order. The wonderful “Eye of Truth” is the first. I read it just a month or so prior to Taste of Air, and was ridiculously pleased that I wouldn’t have to wait long for the next in the series, as I found the characters and world fascinating. While each book centers on a different main pairing, it’s essential to read the first to gain an understanding of the political structure and history of the land of Dominical, the background of the characters (the main characters for this story do have fairly large roles in Eye of Truth), and the culture of the alchemist society. The first book is also where it becomes apparent that necromancers have returned to Dominical to seek destruction and power.

This is the type of story that is right up my alley. A rich tapestry of intriguing characters living in a complex, well presented world intertwined with heaps of magick, political scheming, and supernatural elements. I found the author’s writing style smoothed out from some florid passages present near the beginning of Eye of Truth, and developed into a seamless and beautifully woven narrative.

The story begins with the impending election of a new clerical demigoge, being held in the city of Gusan. All of the prolates of the city-states are in attendance, including Estoban Medovin, who was introduced in Eye of Truth. It is feared that necromancers may be attempting to infiltrate the minds of the candidates for demigoge, which leaves the prolates little choice but to convene with the alchemists and ask their assistance in ferreting out any such nefarious presence. The alchemists, in particular master adepts Theodyne and Jolen, had very personal prior experience with necromancers taking over their minds. In the course of having survived this, the two adepts had learned how to identify the presence of necromancers and drive them out. The added intrigue here is the knowledge that for centuries, the aristocracy had held alchemists in disfavor. In fact, many centuries earlier the great purge had taken place, during which necromancers had initially been driven from Dominical, and genocide of elementals had occurred. Estoban was also very familiar with the power of the necromancers, for his mind had also been previously violated by their powers.

Upon meeting with Estoban, Theodyne and his lover, Nico – who happens to be head of the Gold School for alchemists – agree to provide an alchemist who can walk among the demigoge hopefuls and detect whether necromancers have been at work, and if so, what their plans are. Estoban and Theodyne are very familiar with each other as well, having been lovers in the past. This fact creates an interesting dynamic and helps to demonstrate important and solid character growth throughout the course of the story, particularly for Estoban, who is carrying a fair deal of guilt over how he treated Theodyne when they parted as lovers, as well as in regard to acts he committed while under the influence of the necromancers. Estoban is also having strange dreams, during which he paints fragmented scenes on canvas that he cannot decipher. On top of everything else, he is also dealing with a scheming brother, who is intent on his own corrupt agenda. Estoban is overburdened, confused and vulnerable – yet must remain a strong leader for his people. I felt an abundance of compassion for him.

Jolen is an alchemist adept. He is also an Aerothant, meaning he is of pure elemental descent – in particular, composed partly of air and wind. He is sent to aid Estoban in Gusan by feeling out the presence of necromancers, hopefully unbeknownst to everybody else in attendance for the election of the demigoge. I loved Jolen. He is confident, has a wicked sense of humor, and believes with his whole being that he is a servant to his gifts and his elemental blood. He possesses awesome skills, such as shooting mini storms of thunder and lightning from his hands and making love to another man several rooms away via air currents. His mix of powers, humbleness, and impertinence made him sexy as all get out.

There is a jolt of attraction between Estoban and Jolen immediately, yet Jolen is present to do a job, and Estoban has too much on his plate to consider such a liaison, not to mention, his family and people are unaware (or so he believes) of his preference for men. The chemistry between Jolen and Estoban sizzles, and their emotional connection is beautifully delivered at a slow burn. There is sassy, witty dialogue, and a great build of sexual tension culminating in playful, distinctive and meaningful sex.

The author displays a wonderful gift of painting a picture with words. I love the following passage, so evocative, yet not overwrought.

Estoban grabbed the back yoke of the garment and pulled it over his head, bending forward. He let the shirt fall from his fingers at the look of admiration in Jolen’s eyes.”

Then there is this as Theodyne tends to an injured Jolen:

Sigils both familiar and comforting painted the air, as if they fell from his lips like confetti on a parade route. Jolen reached up and touched the symbols bringing them down to him. They burst across his cold skin like bubbles from a bath and lay there tickling. He wiped a hand across his face to try and remove the residue, but it was tenacious.”

Obviously, there is a lot going on with this plot! Rest assured it is well- crafted and multi-dimensional to the point where I found it all but impossible to put this book down. The main theme of detecting and dealing with the necromancers earns the main focus, however not by any means slighting the relationship arcs of the characters. The cast of secondary characters is well rounded and interesting. The sub-storyline involving Wendro, a servant boy with uncanny abilities, is particularly mysterious as well as gut wrenching. Interesting minor storylines and characters are introduced seemingly as tendrils to be expounded on in the next book of this series. Wendro, I’m looking at you… 😉

The only place this story faltered for me is I felt there were excess similar scenes – gripping as they were – during which the necromancers were expunged or battled. It seemed there was no defined turning point, although to be fair, figuring out and battling the necromancers is definitely going to be an ongoing series arc. There certainly is a completed story arc for this book, as the issue of electing a suitable demigoge is born out, and the future role of the alchemists alongside the aristocracy – in their united goal to defeat the necromancers – is established.

Through most of the two books I thought Dominical to be an entirely fantastical world, but then a few morsels gave me pause, and made me think that this may not be an entirely accurate assessment. I’m excited to discover what happens next, and if any of my theories are correct. Bring on book three for more adventures, schemes, hot elemental action, and reveals!

Highly recommended 

*The cover art by Brooke Albrecht is gorgeous. I heartily approve of the models as proper depictions of Estoban and Jolen!

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