This mesmerizing tale blends a fascinating character study with an intriguing and chilling portrait of the dangers of a thirst for knowledge. The deep emotionalism evoked by the author portrays a beautiful and sensitive unfolding of a relationship fraught with complications, not least of which are the scars—both internal and external—which hinder healing. It was fascinating watching the personal conflicts play out against the dramatic backdrop of an international skirmish even as arcane forces are brought into play. The wry self-knowledge and amazing inner strength displayed by a man who considers himself weak contrasts nicely with the determination and self-assurance of his long-lost friend who wants to be even more.
There are delicious twists and turns in the paranormal aspects of the story even as one is spellbound by the struggle that unfolds and one can’t help but wince for the pain experienced and cheer for each victory, no matter how apparently trivial it seems. I adored Tobin’s sensitivity and understanding as he woos Lyon out of his shell even as I enjoyed his earthiness and appreciation of his own sensuality.
This was the first work that I have read by Ms. Harper, and it prompted me to immediately look for others penned by her, with the result that I now have a new name to add to my favorites list, and thankfully, several series to catch up on which will increase my TBR mountain exponentially, but I am definitely NOT complaining. I would love to see more stories with this pair in them as well, but for now, I will content myself with exploring other tales by this very talented author.
“Nor Iron Bars a Cage” by Kaje Harper is a dark m/m fantasy tale that centers on Lyon, a man who is still learning to cope with the aftereffects of his horrific imprisonment by a wraith conjured up by his former mentor. His progress has been slow and is abruptly disrupted when his long-lost friend, Tobias, requests his assistance in the name of their king. The inexorable combination of force and compassion that Tobias applies to convince Lyon to comply with the king’s commands rekindles both their friendship and the nightmares that Lyon has been struggling to suppress. Little do they know that the request may also conjure up much more than either is prepared to handle.
First I was a sorcerer. Then I was a hermit. For so long—for years that seemed to go on forever—I couldn't bear to be touched. I put up not just walls but whole stone bunkers to keep everyone out, emotionally, and physically as well. I was protected from people, from ghosts, from specters real and imagined. Sure, I was alone. But I felt safe. Only, after a while, I wasn't sure any longer whether a totally "safe" empty life was really worth living.
Then Tobin came along. Out of the blue, out of my past, with a summons from the king that he wouldn't let me ignore. I tried to cling to my isolation, but he wouldn't give up on me. Tobin never believed in walls.
This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group's "Love Has No Boundaries" event. Any author royalties from this story will be donated to the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project (GMDVP).