Meet Naia, a self-described “introverted hermit” who prefers the company of fictional characters to real people—at least in theory. After her fiancé dumps her for another woman, Naia takes solace in her favorite author’s newest book, an unfinished adventure starring the Shadow Knight, a sexy, ruthless warrior on a mission to strike down 10 kingdoms and a 1,000-year curse in the warring lands of Black Moon Draw. After a night of reading and lots of wine, Naia awakens trapped in those very lands. There, the Shadow Knight insists that she is his battle-witch, a revered magical woman who can determine and influence the outcomes of battles. But Naia doesn’t know how to invoke her magic, nor does she believe this land is even real. Is it a dream? And if not, how can she return home? Gradually, Naia realizes that this adventure is her chance to start over, to shed her meek former self and become a hero—if she can overcome self-doubt and kick-start her magic. In the midst of all this, there’s a “dangerous attraction” between her and the mysterious, oh-so-manly Shadow Knight, who might not be such a bad guy after all. Though the end of this story is unsurprising, the route there is well-executed. Ford has created an exciting, fast-paced tale and a relatable, flawed character whose reactions to her circumstances are genuine and comical. Alas, the juicy sexual tension between Naia and the knight builds and builds but peaks with a vague, incomplete sex scene. Ford also explores the relationship between a writer and her readers: Naia has an ongoing one-sided discussion with LF, the author of the book she’s been pulled into. She wonders about LF’s choices, predicts what will happen next and even mocks spelling errors. The latter is a bit ironic, as Ford has missed a few typos and misspellings herself.
Bibliophiles may envy the protagonist in this fun, if predictable, story within a story.