by: Nalini Singh
Guild Hunter #14
It’s not a secret that I’ve been hoping for this book for a good number of years. And trying not to hope at the same time – so I wouldn’t be let down if it didn’t go the way that I was sure it was meant to go.
So many small moments throughout the books, so many intimacies that are had, remarked upon by other characters, and that occur as just everyday, normal moments between Illium and Aodhan fed the fire that burned in my heart for this pair.
But I sheltered that fire. Protecting myself from heartache.
Then I saw the UK cover. I dared to hope. A little. Until I saw the US cover – along with the blurb.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that I screamed in delight. I stalked my emails for, what felt like, months waiting for the download widget from Berkley. When it finally came through, I started reading that evening and didn’t stop until I had turned the last page.
First: This book is DEFINITELY Illium and Aodhan’s love story. It’s their romance. It ends in an HEA (happy ever after). There are no equivocations about this in the book. No possible misinterpretations.
Second: I’ll give you the full disclosure that I received: “the major 🔥🔥 will be in another book.” Reading the book, I think it makes sense for these characters, in this situation, in this time and place.
I loved this story. From page one, where we flash back to baby Illium and baby Aodhan meeting for the first time. And as we continued through the story, alternating between the present and their long, long history together, I cherished every moment of it unfolding.
It was often heartwrenching, regularly beautiful, but always wrapped in the obvious love they have for one another. Fair warning: This book is brimming with angst. So much angst. But it also never felt like too much, at least not to me. It didn’t feel overwhelming. I think, because even though Illium and Aodhan had their personal feelings to work through, they didn’t allow it to cloud every moment and every thing they had. They still had to function as a team, still had to trust one another, still had responsibilities, and oceans’ deep care for each other.
Also, I understood where both of them were coming from. This is one of the things that the alternating history/present storytelling really helps with. It allows us to see the experiences and trauma that formed our beloved characters. Yes, we know they’ve experienced some stuff, and we even know what some of it is, but seeing those things happen? It gives added depth, even while it sometimes ripped my heart out. So I knew that Illium and Aodhan’s angst wasn’t from a place of lashing out at the other without regard for them. It was self-protective, from a place of their own growth and change.
Intent versus impact is a very real discussion that is important to have. I do believe intent matters, but not more than impact. Though Illium and Aodhan never intend to hurt each other, that is sometimes the end result. What makes this bearable, and honestly beautiful, for me is that they’re still constantly fighting towards each other. Even when unsure, even when they don’t really know what the real issues are. Always towards each other.
One of the other things that I really loved about this book were the moments that we spent in the past seeing beloved characters from another viewpoint. Raphael, Dmitri, Naasir, and the others we get to see through young Illium’s or Aodhan’s eyes really adds depth and nuance to characters that we already know so well.
But, as is only right, it’s Sparkle and Bluebell that shine here. Their love story is one for the ages, one that will last all the eons of their existence.