Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Uncaged Review: Betwixt & Between by Alexis Duran - with excerpt!

As seen in Issue 3 of Uncaged Book Reviews. To read an interview with Alexis, please see the link below.

Betwixt and Between
Alexis Duran
Fantasy/Gay Romance

Blurb: Reporter Ian Evers, obsessed with magical creatures since childhood, never experiences satisfying proof that the magical realm actually exists until he falls into an entrapment spell set by a handsome but dangerous elf. Barely escaping with his soul intact, Ian is able to undo the hex, but he can’t escape the very real infatuation he’s developed for the fierce, alluring elf.


Even as the first haunting chords drifted up the cement stairwell, Ezekiel detected a nibble on his bait. He pressed his bow more firmly to the strings on his violin and pulled his elbow back. His prey drew closer.
He’d had his doubts about setting up in midday and in such a busy, public spot, but a tug at his instincts had guided him here. Over the centuries he’d learned to never ignore that tug. The music echoed nicely, penetrating the dull roar of the Pike Street Market above and the viaduct below. From the open staircase, he had a partial view of the waterfront and Puget Sound beyond.
He’d set up on a landing below street level on the stairs that led from the waterfront to the market. On a rainy Tuesday in February, the market wasn’t the teeming morass of humans it usually was, and Ezekiel easily sensed the motions of the liosa as it descended the stairs.

He threw a little more passion into Smetana’s symphonic poem, Vltava. The lines cast out by the music shimmered darkly in the dull light. Like the strings on his violin, the lines vibrated and emitted sounds only he could hear beneath the music. The liosa’s thoughts whispered in his ear. It was cautious but curious. Untrained. Ezekiel detected no significant magical protections, and thanked his lucky stars for this gift.

Don’t lap at the blood before it is spilled, he cautioned himself. Though he sensed his prey was utterly unaware of the trap, he could be spooked if Ezekiel revealed any of his power too soon. And so he played on, risking only a quick peek from beneath his eyelashes.

The liosa had paused a few steps up from the landing, just beyond the wall that blocked the view of the rest of the stairwell. He lingered in the shadows but did not radiate any fear. Ezekiel caught a glimpse of wind-tousled blond hair, large dark eyes, a lumpy coat, and battered hiking boots.
Ezekiel pulled some of the liosa’s essence toward him along the strings and conjured a clearer picture. Human male, slim and tasty. Ezekiel’s favorite form. The man had the dark mocha-colored eyes of a High-Wood alfar, but Ezekiel recognized no clan markings, no talismans, no link to the past. This was most excellent. No one would miss him. A fresh, unclaimed source of power, his for the taking. Even the dark queen Ysolde might not be aware of him.

The liosa held a camera and was about to take Ezekiel’s photo. He was as good as caught.


Ian was already late, but when he heard the whispered strains of classical music drifting up the stairwell from the lower levels of the market, he instinctively followed them. He didn’t know why. He remained oddly compelled even when the music lured him from the sidewalk and down the stairs, well away from his intended path. Buskers often plied their trade down here, taking advantage of the great acoustics and heavy tourist traffic. Foot traffic was pretty light today, it being off-season.
Ian was due to meet Dijeree at the coffee shop on Pine and 4th, but she’d be happily surfing the net and wouldn’t mind waiting a few extra minutes. He’d sensed magic afoot and couldn’t pass it up. That was his job, after all—finding and cataloging the magical creatures lurking in Seattle’s shadows. Readers of the tabloid he worked for, The Cosmic Eye, gobbled up his stories, and with every contact, however dubious, he inched a bit closer to unlocking the vast magical mystery that shrouded his life.

A flash there, a ripple here. A haunted rowboat. A flying spoon. A burning book. A talking cat. All these things added up to something. He just didn’t know what yet.

His first impression of the musician in the stairwell was that, yes indeed, he’d stumbled across a magical creature. Shadowed lines resolved into a dark-haired figure in a long, heavy coat and high leather boots. The outfit looked like something a down-and-out musketeer might wear, the coat being old-fashioned, fastened with two rows of brass buttons, and well-worn. His shoulder-length black hair hid most of his face. He was tall, and he posed in a jaunty fashion with one leg up, boot resting on a concrete block. His violin case sat open before him, and gleaming coins speckled the black velvet lining, though no one stopped in the few moments Ian stood watching.

The man radiated magical energy but otherwise looked perfectly normal except for the outfit, which could be considered normal among the odd musical and dramatic types that wandered the market. For a while he made no indication of being aware of Ian, but then with a flick of his head he tossed the hair out of his face and quickly moved his gaze from the violin to Ian. That was when Ian knew for sure the man was some sort of magician.

His eyes were smoky blue or stormy gray or some combination of dusty sapphire and silver. Whatever they were, they weren’t human. And he was ridiculously handsome like he should be fronting a rock band, not busking for quarters in a dark stairwell. This made Ian wonder if it was lust rather than magic drawing him in. Could just be an ordinary guy. He doubted it. The music was penetrating Ian’s soul, rooting him to the spot. He’d fallen for glamour casting 101.


Uncaged Review: This is touted as a Gay Romance, but it’s really much more than that. It’s a very dark fantasy, with a dark Queen who enslaves the dark elves, and destroys the light elves and steals their light souls – and she’s hell bent on power. Ian is a reporter for a small newspaper that reports on magical beings, and he becomes hexed by Zeke, who is a dark elf, or svarta, and is under the control of the Queen. Ian’s friends help him to break the hex, and meets with Zeke again, after finding out that he’s half elf himself. Here is where the romance truly begins. Ian and Zeke have a romantic interlude, and their power combined, seems to complete each other. But Zeke is recaptured by the Queen and tortured. Ian needs his friends to try and break Zeke free from the Queen’s hold, but it will take all his newly burgeoning powers, and even that may not be enough.

This book was an original story, even though it’s about light vs. dark, the author spins a nice storyline with nicely descriptive places. I would have like to delve more into the backgrounds of some of the characters, as I feel that would have given me a better connection to them. Being in the category of Gay Romance just doesn’t do this book justice, I think it would benefit from an added category. Reviewed by Cyrene

4 Stars

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