Author: G.L. Carringer
Can a gentle werewolf heal the heart of a smart-mouthed mage?
NYT bestseller Gail Carriger, writing as G. L. Carriger, presents an offbeat gay romance in which a sexy werewolf with a white knight complex meets a bad boy mage with an attitude problem. Sparks (and other things) fly.
Max fails everything – magic, relationships, life. So he works for DURPS (the DMV for supernatural creatures) as a sumage, cleaning up other mages’ messes. The job sucks and he’s in no mood to cope with redneck biker werewolves. Unfortunately, there’s something oddly appealing about the huge, muscled Beta visiting his office for processing.
Bryan AKA Biff (yeah, he knows) is gay but he’s not out. There’s a good chance Max might be reason enough to leave the closet, if he can only get the man to go on a date. Everyone knows werewolves hate mages, but Bryan is determined to prove everyone wrong, even the mage in question.
This story contains M/M sexitimes and horrible puns. If you get offended easily, then you probably will. The ¬¬¬¬San Andreas Shifter stories contain blue language, dirty deeds, and outright admiration for the San Francisco Bay Area. Not for the faint of heart (mouth/tongue/etc.).
This book stands alone, but there is a prequel short story featuring Bryan’s brother, Alec, the Alpha. Want to know why the pack moved?
I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, I liked Max—snarky and prickly sumage that he is. And I loved Bryan, aka Biff, the werewolf pack beta and all-around good guy of the story. But on the other, the details of this world, including the hierarchy of the mages, sumages, and Magistars; and the details related to the manipulation of quintessence still escape me, long after the story ended. I just didn’t feel that I totally understood it and it was a long book so I should have completely understood the world in which these characters live. But, it may be just me and not the fault of the author, since I was reading this while dealing with a hurricane and all its repercussions. But again, back to the flipside, I suspect that even someone who was focused on the story details would have struggled to take it all in. There’s so much here.
Max works for DURPS as a Placer. DURPS is the official department governing all magical beings and shifters. A Placer is a sumage who can take on and then diffuse quintessence which is a substance that can cause destruction—especially in the hands of a paranormal being looking to cause trouble. Backing up: a sumage is a mage who is “less than” a regular mage, the lowest on the chain, and frowned upon by other magical beings. Other mages can tap into quintessence and use it for their own devices, but as a sumage, Max can only diffuse it when someone else has used it. His father was a powerful mage who tried to mold Max into the most powerful of all mages—a Magistar—but failed spectacularly. When he died, he left an enchantment on his mansion that Max hasn’t had any desire to break so Max currently lives in the garage apartment and is satisfied with his life. Until Bryan, aka Biff (Bryan Ignacio Frederiksen the Fourth) shows up at DURPS to apply for a permit for his wolf pack to live in the area.
Bryan’s pack is LGBTQ-friendly, though he hasn’t revealed his own sexuality to his gay brother, who is the Alpha. His brother, Alec, is partnered with a beautiful merman named Marvin. They also have several other big, brawny wolves in the pack and another smaller wolf named Colin whose brother, Kevin, joined to protect him. I’m sure future stories will involve these characters as they find their own partners. In fact, I didn’t know at the time I started reading this, but there is a prequel to the series which readers can get for free from the author—Marine Biology. I suspect it would enhance this experience if I had read it first.
Bryan falls head over heels for Max, feeling the spark of their connection as soon as they first touch. He’s beta so that influences his behaviors throughout the story, creating a sweet, shy man who sometimes doesn’t speak up for himself, but he knows in his heart that he is Max’s lifemate. Max, on the other hand, is way too prickly for his own good. The victim of physical and emotional parental abuse, and the butt of everyone’s jokes at work, Max’s self-esteem doesn’t allow him to consider that Bryan might fall in love with him—regardless of all his flaws—starting with his inability to get naked when Bryan is in the room because he doesn’t want the man to see the series of crisscross lines and patterns covering most of his body, lines necessary to conduct the quintessence and divert it back into the atmosphere. They’re ugly and demeaning, in Max’s opinion.
But Bryan does eventually see them and after the first of many, many misunderstandings in this story, Max slowly lets him in. The two ultimately discover that they are indeed meant for each other and that Bryan fulfills the role of familiar to Max’s mage power—a power that is much greater than either of them could have suspected.
The story is interesting and complex with a wealth of world-building and letting the review sit and stew for a day or two has shown me that I did indeed highly enjoy it. As it turned out, I loved both characters—Bryan the sweetheart beta werewolf, and Max, the sumage Placer turned… well, I’m not going to say because that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, the men not only love each other, they need each other, and together they are greater than the sum of the two individuals could ever hope to be.
I’m looking forward to more in this universe, and I highly recommend this one to those who like a combination of fantasy and paranormal mixed in with some superhot MM romance.