AK Faulkner is the author of the Inheritance series of contemporary fantasy novels, which begins with Jack of Thorns. The latest volume, Sigils of Spring, will be released in November 2019. AK lives just outside of London, England, with a charismatic Corgi. Together they fight crime and try not to light too many fires on the way.
“Faulkner’s lustrous passages turn basic scenery into beautiful imagery”
– Kirkus Reviews
Two lovers discover new paranormal gifts and enemies in this third installment of a series.
Things seem to be looking up for Laurence Riley in San Diego, California. The god Herne the Hunter appears before him and tells him that, along with other abilities like precognition, Laurence is capable of magic. Actually learning magic will necessitate seeking out a man named Rufus Grant, whom Laurence first saw in a vision. Meanwhile, Laurence’s romantic relationship with British Earl Quentin d’Arcy has become decidedly more fervent. Unfortunately, the earl has an unwelcome encounter with his own father, the Duke of Oxford, who Quentin is convinced killed his mother. The duke demands his son return home, and Quentin, who has essentially been hiding out in the United States, suspects his father tracked him down via magic. Sadly, the duke’s presence casts a dark cloud over the lives of both lovers. Laurence subsequently has a glimpse of the past involving 5-year-old Quentin suffering his father’s abuse. The vision is so horrifying it nearly sends Laurence back to his heroin habit. Soon, Black Annis, a “blue-tinged” creature, threatens the youngsters with special abilities whom Quentin has befriended and cares for. Alarmingly, the creature vows to eat the children. In order to defeat Black Annis, Laurence will have to acquire a weapon from the Otherworld, a place outside of the mortal realm. But as he can only use the weapon for a specific purpose, Laurence must resist the temptation to slay both the blue-tinged creature and Quentin’s depraved father with it.
Faulkner (Knight of Flames, 2019, etc.) excels at creating individual stories within a cohesive urban fantasy series arc. For example, this book spotlights Quentin’s frayed connection to his father. But earlier installments had teased this with Quentin’s outburst at his mother’s funeral (which Laurence also sees in a vision in this story) and the earl’s scars, courtesy of the duke. As in the preceding novel, the couple’s relationship and shared intimacy show progress, having begun with virginal Quentin’s hesitancy. This time their scenes are unmitigated erotica, as they’re much more explicit than before. The author beefs up the pages with characters from folklore (including Black Annis) while Laurence’s trek through the Otherworld features a few recognizable faces (and objects) from Arthurian legend. Despite the story’s overall grimness, there are occasional lighter touches, like periodic appearances of the couple’s loyal dogs, Pepper and Grace. Similarly, Herne’s gift to Laurence is a raven egg. The resultant “bald little pink baby” raven, named Windsor, is like a child, as Laurence regularly feeds him and sometimes needs others to birdsit. Eventually, the raven, Laurence’s familiar, will be able to relay messages to the god. Readers anticipating the author’s knack for indelible prose won’t be disappointed: Laurence “lowered his hand to the pendant as he spoke the final word, and the universe became a vacuum….His life flashed from heart to fingertips, and he saw whorls of green flow from his fingers and into the pentagram.”
A grand entry in a consistently gripping and remarkable urban fantasy saga.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019
Page count: 380pp
Publisher: Ravensword Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020
Two lovers with supernatural powers meet others with similar abilities in this sequel.
British Earl Quentin d’Arcy, who’s convinced his father killed his mother six years ago, fled his home country. The 25-year-old has kept a low profile in San Diego, California, which has recently proved rewarding. He’s now dating and in love with Laurence Riley, who lives and works at a flower shop with his mother, Myriam. Laurence, the more sexually experienced of the two, is taking things slowly. Physical intensity tends to spike Quentin’s anxiety, which causes him to lose control of his telekinesis and potentially put Laurence in danger. Laurence has talents as well, including precognition, but Quentin soon realizes they aren’t the only people with superpowers. He catches the attention of Kane Wilson, who wants to know why his mind control doesn’t work on Quentin. Wilson has been “liberating” teens with special abilities and helping them learn to control them. Quentin’s association with Wilson’s group leads to his discovery of another power: creating fire. This unfortunately ties to Laurence’s cryptic vision of the future—Quentin in his arms and both men seemingly on the verge of a fiery demise. Laurence and Quentin begin to suspect Wilson isn’t so much charitably aiding youngsters as he is amassing a team of superpowered fighters. Quentin then takes a risk by accepting Wilson’s offer to join them, with the hope of staying close and uncovering what the man is truly planning. In Book 2 of this lively urban-fantasy series, Faulkner (Jack of Thorns, 2019) immediately depicts Laurence and Quentin basking in an already established romance. This sets a consistent pace from the beginning, which the author maintains by providing expository bits to catch up new readers. The couple’s relationship shows signs of evolving, as they continue to learn about each other’s families and personal histories and occasionally suffer pangs of jealousy. Though their intimate scenes of exclusively kissing may seem straight out of a YA novel, they progressively turn steamier: Quentin “pressed himself against Laurence’s body, stifling his panic against the other man’s flesh, biting down on his shoulder to keep himself from tipping over the edge.” These scenes deftly showcase two men who are savoring their romance. But Myriam, who shined brightly in the series opener, has disappointingly few appearances. Picking up the slack is Quentin’s twin, Freddy, who manages to find his brother in San Diego. Freddy is both smart and helpful as well as a standout character thanks to his affectionate nickname for Quentin: Icky (an abbreviation of his middle name, Ichabod). The supernatural element, as in the preceding book, never completely monopolizes the narrative. Nevertheless, there are plenty of new, intriguing characters in Wilson’s group, who sport varying powers, from electrokinesis to an uncanny stealth capability. Laurence and Quentin, meanwhile, hone their formidable skills, including the former’s attempt to induce a vision that reveals a past, rather than a future, event. The effective final act boasts action, characters in peril, and a denouement that, not surprisingly, teases the next volume.
An energetic urban-fantasy sequel that skillfully expands the saga’s worldbuilding and cast.
Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019
Page count: 388pp
Publisher: Ravenswood Publishing
Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019
In Faulkner’s series-launching urban fantasy debut, two men with untapped superpowers face off against a god with sinister intentions.
Bambi Laurence Riley, who goes by his middle name, can see the future. The first sign of his ability came three years ago during a heroin overdose. He saw snippets of upcoming events, including his father’s death and his own failed stints in rehab. Today, Laurence lives above a San Diego flower shop that his mother, Myriam, runs. He’s inherited her apparent powers of precognition as well as a supernatural ability to grow and heal plants. But although she’s mastered the former gift, Laurence only sees random glimpses of things to come. One involves a handsome man, whom Laurence soon encounters in real life. He’s Quentin Ichabod d’Arcy, a British earl who’s currently in the United States to evade his fame in London. The two have a mutual attraction—which Laurence’s stalker ex-boyfriend, Dan, unfortunately notices immediately. Laurence’s problems get worse when he forgoes his usual prayer for a blessing from the fertility god Cernunnos, and simply asks the Celtic deity for direct help and guidance in his life. Cernunnos responds by manifesting as an emerald-eyed human who insists that Laurence call him Jack. The newcomer’s persistent demands for sexual sustenance lead to him to force a kiss on Quentin, and the latter defends himself with apparent telekinesis. Quentin, like Laurence, can’t control his gift, but both try to hone their skills to combat Jack, who’s cooking up a scheme that could prove devastating. Faulkner’s first series installment offers a commendable introduction to his characters. Laurence and Quentin are flawed but enthralling; the story alternates between the two characters’ points of view, but readers learn a little more about Laurence. His fight against addiction is realistically constant, and triggers such as alcohol sometimes cause stumbles. But his respect for his mother makes him sympathetic from the beginning. Myriam earns this respect as the novel’s best character—a woman who knows the future but wisely doesn’t reveal too much of it to her son. Readers may take longer to warm up to Quentin; he’s initially pretentious, with a palpable animosity toward American customs and vernacular. His background remains somewhat mysterious, but Faulkner makes clear that Quentin has never lived anywhere without a butler before. Stretches of the story concentrate on the two men and their prospective lovers, and they offer sound character development but minimal romance; Laurence’s attraction to the virginal Quentin doesn’t seem to be much more than physical. Along the way, Faulkner’s lustrous passages turn basic scenery into beautiful imagery: “The branches waved lazily in a light breeze and, in parting, revealed a hanging rope, from which was suspended what appeared to be a vast tire from some industrial vehicle.” The story also generates a fair amount of suspense after Jack’s nefarious plan begins to unfold and lives are threatened, and the ending aptly sets up a second book.
Striking prose and characters make this opening fantasy installment worthwhile.
Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019
Page count: 390pp
Publisher: Ravensword Press
Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019
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