A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: A great wall of text punctuated by interesting ideas.
Everything seems perfect for Daniel Hart, set to graduate with his PhD and in love with the attentive but mysterious Rhys Daveth, a doppelganger and wanted criminal. Daniel’s happiness is shattered when he has to make a painful choice between the man he loves and the vocation he’s meant for. Even worse, a jealous figure from Rhys’ past is determined to remove Daniel from the picture, which for him means taking on Daniel’s shape and killing the original. If Rhys can’t find him in time, Daniel will die, but after their last meeting Daniel doesn’t even know if Rhys is interested in finding him any more.
Some series are loosely connected—the order doesn’t matter and the entire backstory isn’t required to understand the current plot and world. Others must be read in strict order to get the entire picture. Starting here at Book 3 was probably not my best choice, and had I realized at the time it was a series, and tightly connected at that, I’d have read first things first.
There’s enough backstory here to understand what went before, although the presentation comes in big chunks. This affects the perception of the world building—not all of it happened here and a lot of it was presented more organically in books one and two. Here it comes in lumps, along with the mentions of events in the first two books.
Rhys can change his shape, taking on the form of someone he’s “absorbed.” Recognizing him means finding subtle clues—Daniel can pick him out, even if he’s “wearing the shell” of a woman. There’s a magical/scientific explanation for why Rhys and a handful of others can do this, but suffice to say, the government would like to control all individuals with the ability—they’d make formidable agents.
Daniel, on the verge of acquiring his degree, is also acquiring a conscience—he loves Rhys but is growing increasingly uncomfortable with him being on the shady side of the law. Daniel studies and curates magical artifacts—Rhys heists them from museums. Daniel respects Rhys enough to not ask him to change, but their relationship can’t continue as is.
The two of them make great reading, and the peril Daniel endures is very possibly terminal—the story itself is very engaging, and the ideas behind the world are interesting. A “doppelganger” could get into a lot of mischief, and does. The HEA does happen–a matter for rejoicing and some giggles at a third character’s reaction.
Unfortunately, where this story falls apart is the great wall of text. The author chose to work without chapter breaks, which adds to the heavy feeling created with large dense paragraphs and infrequent dialog. About a quarter of the story is information repeated from the first two installments of this series, which is necessary to understand what’s going on now.
Breaking this story into three parts didn’t do the characters and the fascinating ideas of magic and outlawry any favors—characters who played parts earlier pop up out of nowhere in the middle here, and the plot bogs down in the information repeated from earlier sections. I was left wishing I had read one longer but more streamlined work. 3 stars