Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Chelsea's Review: Pyre at the Eyreholme

Pyre at the Eyreholme by Lin Darrow
Publisher: Less Than Three Press, LLC (July 4, 2018)
Genre: Fantasy Romance -- M/M

In Temperance City, the streets are ruled by spelled-up gangsters, whose magic turf wars serve as a constant backdrop to civilian life. With magic strictly regulated, Eli Coello—whip-smart jewelry salesman by day, sultry torch singer by night—has always found it advantageous to hide his magical affinity for ink.

All that goes up in smoke the day Eli is forced to use his magic to foil a jewelry heist, and in doing so unwittingly catches the eye Duke Haven, leader of the fire-flinging Pyre gang. Seeing a useful asset, Duke promptly blackmails Eli into providing unregistered spellwork.

Duke needs Eli’s ink-magic to help him pull a dangerous con against a rival gang. As the heist comes together, Eli finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the Temperance underworld—and, perhaps most dangerously, to Duke himself.

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Chelsea's Review:

“It’s like — people like you and me, we’re hazards first and people second.”

Pyre at the Eyreholme Trust by Lin Darrow was a searingly fun ride of a novel, promising and delivering on major sparks and a killer worldbuilding setup. Working within the confines of Temperance City, Lin Darrow has created a world that lives as an homage to the Chicago of the 1920s, awash with groups of gangsters, heists galore, and a network of smoky bars and clubs that practically glow with burnished wood and brandy. Amongst it all, we watch the slow build, enemies-turned-begrudging-partners-and-beyond romance between Eli and Duke Haven.

While the plot of this book, centered at first on the foiling of a jewelry heist and then the following heist-based solution to the botched first go-round, moves things along at an impressive clip, there were true, slow moments of heart that made this book linger in my memory far longer than I originally anticipated it would! The entire concept of their being people in the world forbidden to magic they’re born possessing, forced underground and labeled hazards because of it, bears so many parallels to living a marginalized identity that it concretely grounded this otherwise fantastical setting. Adding to this is Eli’s differing expressions of gender and gender identity, including the use of different pronouns when expressing their gender differently, and the completely nonchalant way Duke Haven responds to this fluidity, both of which are the aspects of the novel I enjoyed possibly more than any of the others.

I say possibly because, while I love queer and genderqueer stories wherever I can find them, I am a complete and total sucker for found-family tropes in whatever form they come in. So the fact that Duke Haven, our at-first-glance cad of an antihero (and God if he didn’t read like the urduke, the roguish rake with an ultimate heart of gold), is functioning from a motivation of desire to build a safe home for him and those persecuted like him, was just the cherry on the sundae for this reader.

“I just decided I was going to take all those things that made people like my boss afraid of me and make them big and bright and precious. After that — well, when you’re not afraid of who you are, it’s like the world goes from cinema-grey to full colour. That’s why it’s so important to have a place.”

As much as I enjoyed so many aspects of this book, however, it was not a perfect read. I found the ending to be a bit rushed, given the amount of narrative time that is given to the first foiled heist and its immediate aftermath. While I understand using this point in the narrative to set up the bulk of the worldbuilding, and am impressed that Darrow was able to do this in a way that didn’t feel like a massive info-dump, I feel that the writer then needs to make sure that the following events feel as narratively important, or that they take up as much of the readers time. Doubly so in this case, where the ending of the book involved revealing a whole handful of double and triple-crosses, and a rather intensely dramatic conversation with a bigger crime boss.

Because the highest moment of drama came and went so fast, it also made it difficult to really soak in and enjoy the resolution we’re given after that, and the emotional reunion of Eli and Duke fell a little flat because of it. It ended up turning what was a four-star read into a three-star one for me, because I was left with that wanting more feeling in a way that was also just a little unsatisfying.

But if you’re looking for a fun, fantastical, queer closed door romance, this book is one that I cannot more highly recommend! Lin Darrow has built a world I want to play in, inhabited by characters I’d love to go exploring with, and I can only hope that there are more stories of the entire Pyre gang to come!


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Source: Bought

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Thanks for the review, Chelsea! 


Until Next Time,

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