Friday, January 7, 2022

Fantasy Romance Book Review: His Sacred Incantations by Scarlett Gale (FLR)

His Sacred Incantations
Author: Scarlett Gale
Publication Date: April 30th 2021
Publisher: Unnatural Redhead Creations
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Protagonist Gender: Male
Sexuality: Straight, FLR

It's no secret that His Secret Illuminations was not just one of my favorite reads of last year, but one of my favorite books of all time. It was a book that slipped deep into my romantic heart, connected with my submissive soul, and joyously celebrated my love of high fantasy.

Part of me wanted to read the sequel immediately, to find out how Glory and Lucian's relationship developed, and to discover how the overall quest was resolved.

Another part of me wanted to wait as long as possible, to spread out the enjoyment, and to save what was sure to be another wonderful comfort read for when I really needed it.

Yet another part of me (and this was a small part) was afraid to read it all, lest the realization of that sweet female-led love somehow not stand up to the dance of submissive male seduction that was so artfully woven in the first book.

Since it would be unfair to the rest of my library to have two favorite reads from the same author in the same year, I decided to wait just long enough to reacquaint myself with  Scarlett Gale to make His Sacred Incantations my first favorite read of the new year - and I am delighted to say it didn't disappoint.

This is a different book than the first, more mature in terms of both sex and violence and, as such, I loved it differently. It is the culmination of everything that was set up in the first book, resolving all the  plot threads that were established there, and it does a fabulous job of tying up loose ends while providing closure for many of the characters. It's a story that peaks three times, the first being the big plot climax, the second being a character climax, and the third being the romantic climax, and all of them are wonderfully satisfying.

With the sweet dance of seduction and submission having been realized by the end of the first book, this second story follows our lovers into female-led passion and kink. We get to see timid Lucian become an enthusiastic lover, but one who still suffers shame over his darker desires. I adored how Glory gave him time and space to confess those desires, while lovingly supporting him and tenderly reassuring him at every turn. What it lacks in the will-they-won't-they angst of the first book, it more than makes up for with erotic anticipation of the inevitable.

The first book planted a lot of plot seeds, but it's only here that we begin to understand how significant each of them is. The search for the missing books is still the driving force, but as the shadow of one looms ever darker over Lucian, the story finds its threat, Lucian finds his heroic arc, and Glory gets to show us why she's the feared She-Wolf. The fantasy aspect of the story shifts from light-hearted adventuring to high-stakes sword-and-sorcery, and Gale handles that perfectly, not just crafting a suitable villain for the story, but a perfect antagonist who connects so much of the underlying religious, philosophical, and social conflicts.

As part of that shift to sword-and-sorcery, the traveling duo of Glory and Lucian becomes a proper quest party, complete with familiar faces and some important new ones - including Sister Evelyn, a transgender woman with whom Lucian shares a surprising history. Her introduction into the story is part of resolving those underlying conflicts I mentioned, particularly the religious one, and she adds a whole new dimension of friendship to things, rounding out Lucian's found family with a second sister (The Knife, who is back and bad-ass as ever, being the first).

In terms of theme, structure, and genre convention, His Sacred Incantations is a better, stronger, more well-rounded book than the first . . . but, in terms of novelty, originality, and romantic convention, I have to give the edge to His Secret Illuminations. I struggled over how to compare the two, how to gauge my enjoyment and my appreciation, and it all comes down to what I said earlier - I didn't necessarily love one more than the other, I just loved them differently.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

(yes, that’s a 10/5 once again, and I’m still not sorry!)

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