Dark Dealings by Kim Knox
Published by Carina Press on Nov. 26, 2012 | 73,000 words
Ava grew up as the only thief in an institute of mages–not a pickpocket, but a thief specifically of magic; being soulless, she steals the souls/magic of others. Her nature also has given her a literal hunger for flesh that she usually staves off by eating rare meat. Although these traits mean she’s regarded warily, she’s been raised by the Highest Mage Reist, and because she adores and obeys him, she’s a tolerated creature. Her sensitivity to magic also proves useful in investigating murders that seem to have been committed by other thieves, ones less controlled than she.
With her luck, she’s assigned to work with Captain Heyerdar, an elemental. This means he’s full of primal magic, something which, combined with his powerful body, proves irresistible to Ava. And since his old lover has recently taken up with Reist, whom Ava’s determined is hers, the two of them have recently struck a bargain to try to break apart the new couple. To do this, Ava can actually draw the magic from Heyerdar through sex, and use it to send erotic dreams. She thinks she’s being practical about the arrangement, while Heyerdar’s openly intrigued by the prospect of sleeping with her, especially as she’s a virgin.
The heat between them is instantaneous. Heyerdar is arrogant and domineering, taking from her what he wants, but Ava is no fragile blossom to be intimidated, and she holds her own both in snappish conversations and in inciting the elemental’s desire in turn. They gain a grudging respect for each other’s abilities and a far more enthusiastic appreciation of each other in bed.
Although the world-building was promising, I had trouble connecting all the pieces. There are relationships between thieves and mages and between thieves and elementals that didn’t always seem fully explained. And never mind the political setup–Heyerdar is the Left Hand of the Emperor and Reist the Right Hand, for example, but these terms aren’t precisely defined. And there’s a long-lost family member who shows up at convenient times. In short, the mystery plot felt tangled and confusing to me, although what clear glimpses I got of it were interesting enough. I almost felt like I’d missed out on a prequel.
This story’s worth reading for the interplay between Ava and Heyerdar, both verbal and sexual. He’s definitely the alpha sort, and I loved how Ava’s rebellious nature was a match for him.
His teeth grazed her neck. “You’re so fucking tight.” His meaty hand gripped her thigh and pulled it up. “And all mine.”
“For now.” Her words escaped on her gasp.
“You think I won’t have you again?”
In sum: a heroine with verve and genuinely dangerous cravings, an unapologetic smoldering hero, and a tantalizing (if not fully materializing to its promise) fantasy backdrop.