Title: Shadows of Asphodel
Author: Karen Kincy
Series: Shadows of Asphodel #1
She never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer.
1913. Austria-Hungary. Ardis knows better than to save a man on the battlefield. Even if he manages to be a charming bastard while bleeding out in the snow. She hasn’t survived this long as a mercenary without some common sense.
When she rescues Wendel, it isn’t because he’s devilishly handsome, but because he’s a necromancer. His touch can revive the dead, and Ardis worries he will return from the grave to hunt her down. Besides, a necromancer can be useful in this world on the brink of war.
A gentleman of questionable morals, Wendel drops to one knee and pledges his undying loyalty to Ardis. She resists falling for him, no matter how hot the tension smolders between them. Especially when she discovers Wendel’s scars run much deeper than his skin, and it might be too late to truly save him from himself.
“Why did someone as bad as a necromancer have to look so good?”
(I should have known what was coming after that quote)
A book set in an alternate Austria-Hungary 1912. That sounded like it was right up my alley. Unfortunately, it ended up severely disappointing. That started with the fact that for all the influence the setting had on the plot it could just as easily have been set in the Year of the Unicorn in a fantasy land with too many vowels in its name. The Black Hand plays a role but they’re just generic rebels that need to attack so that we get an action scene (one of so many…). There is a mention of an assassination attempt in Franz Ferdinand but it doesn’t influence the plot in any way.
Though, to be honest, I was still entertained for quite a while. Ardis is a mercenary and not one of those where you wonder how somebody that stupid survived that long. She is capable but not super-human. Wendel is a character that has been through horrible things and it still affects him, even at inconvenient times.
And the book is far from boring. A lot of things are happening. Constantly. There is fighting. And more fighting. And even more fighting. Then there’s a big reveal (though one that doesn’t seem to affect the protagonists much). Some more fighting. Then there’s sex. And fighting. And sex. And another reveal with no consequences. Some more sex. More fighting…
The characters are constantly busy. But they don’t develop. And their relationship doesn’t develop. Considering this book is also marketed as paranormal romance that is…unfortunate. At the beginning, Ardis distrusts Wendel because he’s a necromancer and necromancers don’t have a very good reputation. Only he is also hot. And smells good (like a rainy pine forest). Then plot-reasons happen and they end up traveling together. Wendel continues to be hot. And admittedly acts in a way that shows that he isn’t an utter asshole but has just decided to act like a jerk when everybody thinks necromancers are evil anyway. Still, he also doesn’t exactly radiate trustworthiness. But he continues to be hot. Then a lot of people tell Ardis she shouldn’t trust Wendel and even that he’s bad but she ignores them. Presumably, because somebody who is so hot can’t be a bad person. Because nothing in Wendel’s behaviour and refusal to talk about his past screams ‘trust me’.
Now don’t get me wrong: Wendel has some good reasons for not talking about himself. But at the same time, Ardis has no reason for trusting him, especially after several people tell her not to. And this could have been a great source of conflict in the book. But apparently, we only want to read about people getting beheaded with magic swords or people fucking for ages. Now I like magic swords but I also like characters with complex emotions. And the main emotion these characters had was lust. And lust does not carry a whole book.
ARC provided by the publisher