My rating in stars: 4,5 stars
My rating in words: LOVED IT!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
As a nymph living in exile among humans, Clio has picked up all sorts of unique survival skills. But stealing from the most dangerous spell weavers in the Underworld? Not so much.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what she has to do to earn a ticket back home.
Conning her way into the Underworld may have gone pretty well, but now she’s got a new problem. His name is Lyre and he’s a sinfully alluring incubus, a dangerously skilled spell weaver, and the only thing standing between her and stealing some damn magic.
Maneuvering around him without blowing her cover shouldn’t be that difficult, but chaos has been dogging her every step, monsters hide behind beautiful faces, and Lyre keeps saving her neck even though they’re enemies. Kind of enemies? Either way, her mission is getting complicated fast, and in the Underworld, even one mistake could prove fatal.
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
Annette Marie has done it again. I know I shout about my love for her books constantly, but seriously, she is definitely one of the most underrated authors out there. I have loved every single book I have read by her and they all give me the same symptoms: losing interest in anything not involving reading the book, trying to do the necessary everyday things like walking, eating or brushing my teeth while reading the book (some more succesful than others), and occasional emotional outbursts because of I get way too attached to the characters.
The Night Realm was no exception. After reading and loving the Steel and Stone series last year, I was already mostly sure I would love this series, which is a prequel series set in the Steel and Stoen universe featuring my favorite Incubus, Lyre. And I say mostly sure, because I still had a little doubt in my mind that said: do you really need more books set in the same world, featuring a character you already know? Well, little doubt, the answer is… YES. Definitely. Obviously. Because THIS WAS AMAZING. So please allow me to tell you about why I loved this so much.
The intricate worldbuilding. Sure, it’s a world we’ve already come to know in the Steel and Stone series. But it’s also still such a huge world and there is so much more to discover. We get to see a whole new side to this world and get to know more about different castes of daemons and their abilities. Everything is so vivid and clear and easy to get caught up in.
The fast-paced action. As with any Annette Marie book, the pacing and the action are so well done. It’s the perfect balance of action, fights, chases and adventure with the quiet character moments that are so important. Talking of which…
The multi-dimensional, lovable characters. The story is told from two POV’s. One the one hand we have Lyre, the kind, smart and always super seductive incubus. We’ve already got to know him though the Steel and Stone series, but it was always clear that there was so much more to Lyre that we didn’t know about yet. And this series is the chance to find out and learn more about his past, his motives and his family. It’s a much darker Lyre than we know, but it’s such a crucial part of him that can’t be left out. And then there’s Clio, the nymph in exile. The bastard princess who can mimic any magic she sees, loves plants, is peaceful at heart and just a little accident-prone. I wasn’t expecting to love her so much, but I quickly warmed up to her. She’s an adorable, feisty heroine in her own way and I loved her interactions with Lyre.
The slow-paced romance. Annette Marie is a master of the slow-paced romance. You can feel the connection and tension between them and their chemistry is sizzling from the very beginning (what else would you expect when you’re dealing with an incubus though?), but it’s definitely NOT insta-love in any way. Their story in this book is actually more of an enemies to partners-in-crime story (with a lot of seduction because well… incubus), but you can feel there is so much more coming and I AM HERE FOR IT!
Also, I just need to mention the cameos. Though you don’t have to read the Steel and Stone series before reading this series and it’s perfectly possible to start with this one or only read this one (even though I think if you start with this series you will not stop until you’ve read all the Annette Marie books), it does give a nice extra dimension to the story. I’m specifically talking about Ash, another major player in the Steel and Stone series. This prequel answers some of the questions I had with that series, namely how did Ash and Lyre meet and how and why did they grow such an unlikely friendship.
Unfortunately, the only downside I had to this book was that the secondary characters could have been developed a bit more. Other than Clio and Lyre, we don’t really get to know the other characters very well and they stay a bit one-dimensional. They tend to get a little stuck in stereotypes such as the deranged villain, the creepy manipulator or the protective friend. But it was the only nitpick I could think of in an otherwise AMAZING series. I flew through it and picked up the sequel immediately afterwards. Highly recommend if you love fantasy, lots of action and magic, and swoon-worthy, slow-paced romance.
Trigger warning: contains an attempted rape scene.