I feel like I have been waiting for this book forever, and I have to wonder how much my hopes and expectations played a part in how I felt reading it. There were parts of it I really enjoyed; other parts left me frustrated; still others, left me scratching my head.
Anyone who has kept up with the series knows that Blay and Qhuinn are both completely in love with each other; and both feel like a relationship is completely impossible. After all, as the book begins, Blay is in a long-term relationship with Qhuinn's cousin Saxton. And Qhuinn has just gotten Layla pregnant. Not exactly a clear path to happiness. But Layla's pregnancy is a rocky one, and surprisingly, this is what begins to clear the path to a Qhuay pairing.
I don't want to spoil too much about the book, but I'll give you some broad strokes. I'll start with what didn't work for me. The biggest problem was the nature of the conflict between our heroes. Yes, there actually were some obstacles there at the beginning. But as the book progressed, I felt like the biggest thing standing between Qhuinn and Blay were... Qhuinn and Blay. If the two of them had been honest with each other in, say, Chapter 5 or so, there would have been little need for all of the angst that followed. Blay could have --and should have-- come clean about what was happening with Sax. Just as Qhuinn should have stopped playing the martyr and copped to his real feelings. (Just so you know, I blame Blay more than Qhuinn here.) It was overly prolonged and at times, even felt contrived.
Big issue number two: all the cut-scenes. I forgot how much these drove me crazy in the earlier books. Back then, it was all Lesser POV. Now, the scenes are divvied up between Assail, Trez, and --to a lesser extent-- the Band of Bastards. Just when we would get some movement on Qhuay, Ward would yank us into something else. And it took everything in me to actually read the pages instead of skipping back to the Qhuay action. Assail's sidestory took up the bulk of the cutaways and it didn't get interesting until the very, very end.
Final issue: the sex. Don't get me wrong, it's hot sex. Ward doesn't pull any punches. Unfortunately, she doesn't use any lube either. The sex is often angry and raw, and I kept getting pulled from the moment, when all I could think about was... "ouch."
Now, for what did work. Of course, seeing Qhuinn and Blay finally together, in the moments they let themselves revel in each other. These times were great. I also loved delving more into their backstory and what they have meant to each other over the years; seeing their families and learning what has shaped them into the males they are. Really good stuff.
I was also, surprisingly, a big fan of Layla. I have actively hated her for... well, forever. But I couldn't believe how much I grew to like her in this book. She has grown so much. And I'll be honest with you, there is a scene with her and Xcor which was probably my favorite scene in the entire book. I re-read it three times. --Now THAT is a real relationship with obstacles. Such a great star-crossed lover story --and I cannot wait to read that one.
And finally, I have to say I loved the way Qhuinn's life finally comes together. With Blay, of course, but in so many other ways as well. He is such a damaged person, but with a good heart and an honor of his own. It made me really happy to see him get everything he deserves.
All in all, the book was a little bit of a mixed bag. I think that if the book had focused more on our heroes and had their obstacles felt less of their own making, I would have crossed over from liking it --to loving it.