Reviewed by: Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
I had not heard of the Kai Gracen series before I got this to read and review. It is a testimony to Rhys Ford’s great writing and story-telling that it didn’t really matter. She puts just enough background material in place to orient the first-time reader in the world she has created – a parallel universe in which the magical Elfin world has physically materialized in the Human world, merging the two worlds in a cataclysmic rebirth.
Kai Gracen is a young stalker – a professional bounty-hunter, tasked with eliminating monstrous threats to the human/elfin world. It is a high-risk profession, but Kai’s own unique racial status (half Sidhe and half Unsidhe) and his appalling childhood (which is revealed bit by bit along the way) make his expectation of a long (much less happy) life seem implausible.
This is a world that is both futuristic and very much of today. The San Diego in which the story is set is both recognizable and bizarrely altered (not the least of which is the appearance of an Elfin Lord, Ryder, to stake a claim on Balboa Park as the seat of his Court). This is not “Dune” or “Star Wars:” this is America, more or less now. But really, really weird. Ford does this extremely well and sweeps the reader up into her story line.
As in all her books, there is non-stop action and lots of violence. Ford does it with a sure hand, but it can be exhausting. It is an adventure story first and foremost, a race against time, and a combat between the possibly good and the probably evil (although sometimes this is not clear, either).
But there is also a not-quite romance as a vivid subplot here, as Kai (whose elfin bisexuality is a clear presence) struggles against his strong attraction to Ryder (who is openly courting the diffident and standoffish Kai). Kai has little to make him trust in emotional attachments in this world, while Ryder is, on the surface, an absurd romantic in the most elfin way possible. As in traditional fairy tales, there is a single kiss. But what a kiss.
I’m giving this top marks, even though I might not read any others in the series. The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, exactly – the plotline is tied up quite neatly – but something happens in literally the last line that the reader cannot see. We know what causes it (we think) but we are not allowed to see what it is. Damn. It made me hunger for book 4. It is good to be manipulated so slickly. Bravo, Rhys Ford.