Monday, February 4, 2019

ARC Review: Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court #1) by M.A. Grant

Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court, #1)
Phineas Smith has been cursed with a power no one could control. 

Roark Lyne is his worst enemy and his only hope.

The only human student at Mather’s School of Magick, Phineas Smith has a target on his back. Born with the rare ability to tap into unlimited magick, he finds both Faerie Courts want his allegiance—and will do anything to get it. 

They don’t realize he can’t levitate a feather, much less defend the Faerie Realm as it slips into civil war.

Unseelie Prince Roark Lyne, Phineas’s roommate—and self-proclaimed arch nemesis—is beautiful and brave and a pain in the ass. Phineas can’t begin to sort through their six years of sexual tension masquerading as mutual dislike. But Roark is also the only one able to help Finn tame his magick. 

Trusting Roark’s mysterious motives may be foolish; not accepting his temporary protection would be deadly. 

Caught in the middle of the impending war, Phineas and Roark forge a dangerous alliance. And as the walls between them crumble, Phineas realizes that Roark isn’t the monster he’d imagined. But their growing intimacy threatens to expose a secret that could either turn the tide of the war…or destroy them both.

Todd's rating:

I love a good M/M romantic fantasy and, for the most part, this one delivered.

Phineas Smith, Finn to his friends, Smith to his annoyingly frustrating and critical arch nemesis, was a human studying at Mather's School of Magick, about to graduate, but still unable to control his connection to a powerful and dangerous ley line.

Previous humans able to access the ley line had all burned out like a roman candle, not enough of them left even to bury, so as he's in his final year at college, he'd already outlived all of his predecessors. Yay!?! Small victories, right?

After being roommates for six years, Finn and Unseelie Prince Roark Lynne have come to an understanding. Finn didn't trust or like Roark and the feeling was mutual.

Yet, why did Roark continually save Finn from a host of real-life monsters from the underworld? And from Finn himself, when the ley line was close to incinerating him like so much dry kindling.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. ;- )

I have to admit that quite a few times while reading, I felt slightly lost, as their past history trickled out to the reader in a pretty non-linear fashion. The reader was immediately told that Roark's mother, Queen Mab, kidnapped and tortured Finn, but only later found out how Finn escaped. And at what personal cost to Roark.

Yes, waiting for droplets of information was frustrating as hell, but ultimately so very worth the wait, as the book kept me feeling desperate to find out the why's behind certain aspects of the story.

However, one drawback was that the pacing of the book felt kind of slow and drawn out, when I didn't necessarily feel that it needed to be. Slightly retooled, I thought that this 310 page read could've been cut down by a good 50 pages, with a positive impact on the finished story.

That would've also left room for MORE MAGIC, which was there, but for a story about a magickal college, felt a low on the "OMG, he just turned that annoying asshole into a toad!" quotient.

Don't get me wrong, though. When the Big Bads did go bump in the night, trying to literally *eat* Finn to consume his powers, those were some damn good, exciting pages, where I found it impossible to put the book down.

I did thoroughly enjoy the Yin and Yang mix of fae intrigue and romance, which I thought shared the right amount of page time, without ever neglecting either aspect of the story.

As the story progressed, I liked how Finn's dislike of Roark began to change, but not without some protest and snarky shade thrown back and forth.
“Six years, and you still can’t control your magick. They should have expelled you after the hydra.”

“Sorry I and the rest of the student population at the stadium didn’t have the forethought to rip apart an ancient monster with ice spears so it couldn’t regenerate, ”

“Or ability,” Roark interrupts. “Forethought
or ability.”
But once their developing feelings were out in the open and One Huge Event happened, I was freaking giddy when it seemed as though Finn's ley line began to 'like' Roark, wanting him for their very own.
Three dark speckles in the dust. Roark’s blood. Probably from the blow to his head. He was injured. I press my fingertips to them and the ley line bays like a hound, flinging itself forward. It wants me to let it loose. It wants to hunt and chase and find Roark. It wants to rub against his glamour because nothing else in the world feels as good, and it wants me to be happy.
The ending (and the whole mantle of Knighthood thing), while turning out almost exactly as I'd expected, was still totally epic and a thrill a minute. Let me tell you, you do not want to mess with a guy finally at one with his explosive ley line, but some scheming assholes never learn -- until it's too late.

The steam level in this NA story was fairly mild, and the angst was kept to manageable levels, but I was more than fine with both. I wasn't hoping for an angsty dick-fest, anyway. :- P

The story did end with an HEA for the guys, but this story was the beginning of a new series, with a massive Unseelie vs. Seelie war on the near horizon, so I'm dying to see where Ms. Grant takes the story from here.

Book 2 will be about Finn's best friend, Sebastian, who the reader didn't get to know extremely well, even though he was peppered into the plot line here and there in this book.

Overall, I found this story to be an extremely enjoyable read, with a couple of issues here and there, so I'd rate it at around 3.75 stars and wait with bated breath for the rest of the books in the series.

My ARC copy of the book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.

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