Title: Cruel Enchantment (Dark Magick #2)
Author: Anya Bast
Pages: 336, paperback
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
Standalone/Series: Series (#2)(see my review of Wicked Enchantment here)
Release: September 7th
Publisher: Berkeley Sensation
Received ARC from author
Author info: http://www.anyabast.com/
Spoiler Alert: Small plot spoilers
Blurb: Even the most powerful hands need a delicate touch… Emmaline Gallagher is a master of wielding personal glamour. As a free fae who lives among humans, she must hide her true self at all times as she works undercover within the powerful Phaendir—for if certain factions within the Phaendir gain control, the fae will be wiped from existence. Now, an object of fae power lies within a locked ancient box. And there is only one fae who can forge the key. Known as “the Blacksmith” Aeric O’Malley can create or destroy almost anything with his forging skills. Emmaline has come to him in need, but he and Emmaline have a past—and he has spent centuries wanting to take revenge on her for her transgressions. But now that he has her within his grasp, something about her keeps him from exacting his vengeance—or is it merely her glamour blinding him? Trapped by fate, Emmaline must hope that she can reach Aeric’s furious heart before it’s too late…
Emmaline has been trying to atone for her past sins as the Summer Queen's assassin many centuries previously by trying to find a way to destroy the detention center that the Phaendir built to imprison the fae - Piefferberg. Emmaline's ability to use personal glamour has allowed her to avoid being imprisoned in Piefferberg and to get close to the Phaendir who run the prison to gain a way to enter and exit Piefferberg in the guise of a human Faemous crew member (the fae "Entertainment Tonight" equivalent that resides in Piefferberg). Emmaline uses this "in" to seek out Aeric the Blacksmith to ask him to build a key that will hopefully unlock a relic that is needed to tear down Piefferberg's walls. Unfortunately for Emmaline, Aeric hasn't forgotten or forgiven her for murdering his fiancee centuries earlier while she was the Summer Queen's assassin. Quickly Emmaline's trip to Piefferberg changes from asking Aeric to build a key to asking Aeric to spare her life.
I loved the main character Emmaline! She is a survivor and isn't afraid to kick a little ass. Since Emmaline has been living on her own away from other fae for centuries one of the scenes that really struck me in this book was when she first steps in Piefferberg. She expects it to feel like a prison but is surprised by the connection she feels with the land and many of the things she's missed from living away from the fae for so long. That revelation was the first of many for Emmaline during her adventures in Piefferberg - the second was that Aeric put the equivalent of a magical lo-jack on her to know the instant she stepped inside the fae prison. Though Aeric captures Emmaline with the intent to kill her, his life instantly gets more complicated as he begins to have conflicting feelings about killing Emmaline and learns more about the situation surrounding his fiancee's death. Of course Aeric faces these conflicting emotions like any grumpy alpha male does by drinking some whiskey, smashing stuff up, and stealing some kisses that end up leaving him more conflicted. Thankfully things change from comflicted to more steamy as Aeric begins to forgive Emmaline for her past mistakes and starts to see her as a woman rather than an assassin.
The bad guys in this book are truly evil. Gideon, the Phaendir member who we first meet in Wicked Enchantment, is still trying to take over the leadership of the Phaendir and is eliminating those who stand in his way by any means necessary. He really is a creepy character who practices self-flagellation to such an extreme that he nearly passes out from blood loss afterward and justifies the murders and foul acts he commits by saying it's his god's will. Another big bad guy from Emmaline's past is Lars who we learn shaped Emmaline into an assassin when she was just a teenager. What Emmaline went through at Lars's hands was truly terrible and helps explains many things that happened in her past. Though the biggest bad guy in this book is the Summer Queen, as we get further into the series the more evil and questionable the actions of the Summer Queen are - she seems like she should belong to the Black Tower with all her underhanded dealing and tricks.
The overall story is complex and engaging as we delve into Emmaline and Aeric's past and developing relationship while following the parallel story lines of Gideon and the Human's for the Freedom of Fae, the organization that Emmaline works with on the outside. We also get glimpses of the hunt and the rulers of the Black Tower and the Unseelie court, who we met in the first book, though I don't think it's necessary to read Wicked Enchantment to understand what is happening in Cruel Enchantment, but it will help to understand the back story of some of the characters.
Overall this book is a 4.5 out of 5 stars for me, Emmaline is a tough heroine who earned her chance at love with the sexy blacksmith Aeric.
I love all books snarky, sexy, or action-packed! My favorite genres are urban fantasy and paranormal romance though I read a little of everything. Please feel free to contact me at darklyreading (at) gmail (dot) com