Series: Best Left in the Shadows #2
Publisher: Self Published (April 15, 2016)
Length: 54 pages
My Rating: 5 stars
Civil Blood is a story which surprised me, twisted me around, showed me I don’t always know what is going to happen, and made me love it. That’s right, love it!
Okay, I realize some of you might point to my fanboy enthusiasm for all of the Echoes of the Ascended stories and imagine this is just more of that, but you’d be wrong. Sure, Best Left in the Shadows was an entertaining fantasy romp (with a definite rom-com feel to it) that I enjoyed. Yes, I do generally love everything Gelineau and King write. However, Civil Blood is special; their best outing to date, in my opinion, turning this series about Alys and Dax into one not to be missed.
As this one begins, newly appointed Justicar Dax and Lowsider Alys have established a shaky partnership of sorts; both telling themselves it is strictly business and that their past romantic relationship will not impact what could be a win-win situation for them both: the new face of the royal law in Lowside (Dax of course) gaining insight into the Lowside criminal elements while Alys gets valuable info on the goings-on of the law, which she can sell to those very same criminal elements. (Hey, I didn’t say this arrangement was logical.)
Things appear to be going fine between the two until the killings start in earnest. Nothing unusual in people dying in Lowside. It happens every day. Crime wars erupting then flaming out on their own, leaving bodies spread around like leaves after a strong windstorm. People just expect it, ignore it when it happens. But this murder spree is different; someone torturing and killing the Cinderman’s fire crews, rousing this crime boss to action! (I know, fire chief doesn’t sound scary, right? Just try to picture a corrupt fire chief who has his own private army and requires regular payments to keep random fires from destroying your property. Much scarier now.)
Quickly, the news of the murders finds its way to Alys’ ears. A mutilated man having returned to the Cinderman and pointed his remaining fingers squarely at Alys as his torturer. The enraged crime boss letting it be known he is coming for Alys’ blood!
Well, all this surprises Alys. I mean, she knows she didn’t do these murders, so it begs the question “Who is trying to frame her for them?” What bothers Alys the most is she doesn’t know the answer to the question, and she always knows. It is her business to know everything of importance which happens in Lowside. And so she sets out to uncover the identity of this person quickly, because no one fucks with her. No one!
Meanwhile, Justicar Dax finds himself in a different type of trouble. Family trouble. Specifically, a friendly visit to the palace to visit his older brother, Marek, turning into a sibling inquisition.
Naturally, Alys is a big part of Marek’s obvious concern for Dax. The older brother trying to gently remind Dax of what Alys did to him before and what she tried to do to their father. Marek carefully warning that she is even more dangerous now, not to be trusted at all, because she is a part of the violent, corrupt, and treacherous world of Lowside; her loyalty more to Pious Black (criminal overlord of the city) than to any friend, even if Dax’s idealistic view of life and Alys wishes it was different. And to show his worry is real, Marek even offers a contingent of bodyguards to guard his little brother — though Dax refuses, declaring that he has everything under control; everything is strictly business.
Once returned to Lowside though, Alys quickly asks Dax to help her deal with her personal problem with the Cinderman and get to the bottom of who is framing her. Why she wants or needs Dax’s help for her plan isn’t clear. His position as Justicar not seeming to help her at all in this endeavor. But the rather star-struck (Dax has it bad for her, even if he tries to hide it.) Justicar doesn’t ask any questions, just heads off into the unknown to help a woman he might not be able to trust completely.
What follows is a lightning quick story of criminal confrontations, old feelings, and rousing fights, which never slows down and never stops surprising. The masterful glimpses of this couples history and their current feelings toward each other and their world transforming what appeared, at first glance, to be a simple rekindling of a forbidden relationship into a complex narrative filled with treachery and dark motives. Each side of this partnership unsure of the other, dealing with remorse about the past, but filled with deep conviction, ready and willing to die in their own personal crusades.
Wow! That was my feelings when I finished this second installment of the Best Left in the Shadows series. My mind trying to come to grips with the noir-like atmosphere, the growing webs of lies and secret choices, the treachery which simmers just beneath the surface, and the growing understanding that Gelineau and King have so much more to reveal before this mesmerizing tale is done.
The only thing which sucks about Civil Blood is that I have to wait months for the next volume of this tale, which pains me almost as bad as having to wait however many more years before George R.R. Martin finishes The Winds of Winter.
I received this book from the authors and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank both of them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.