Title: The Shadow Mark
Author: Mason Thomas
Series: Lords of Davenia
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 02-13-2017
Genre(s): M/M Fantasy, M/M Military / Law Enforcement
Page Count: 312
Heat Level: 1 flame out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Auraq Greystone, once a military officer with a promising future, exists on the fringe of society. Accused of murder, Auraq is on the run from the ax—until two fugitives crash into his solitary life. One is a young man named Kane. The glowing marks on his arm pulse with an otherworldly power, and they have made him the target of a sinister organization called the Order of the Jackal. When the old man protecting Kane dies in an ambush, Auraq swears an oath to take his place.
But the runes are far more significant than they realize. They are a message from the shadow realm, a dark memory of the past—one holding evidence of a bloody massacre and its savage architect; one that will shake the kingdom to its foundation. Risking arrest and execution, Auraq fights to get Kane to the capital city where the cryptic marking can be unlocked. And with assassins close on their trail, Auraq might never get the chance to show Kane what’s in his heart—or the way their journey together has changed him.
The Shadow Mark is an epic tale of magic, murder, conspiracy, betrayal, and—for the two men tasked with unraveling the mystery—love and redemption.
I didn’t take my first full breath until 20% of the way through this book. After that, maybe only in spurts and gasps. What a ride!
Auraq Gravestone is journeying to the city, hiding from his fate and past sins, when Kane and his companion, Old Tan, stumble upon him. They agree to travel together when they are attacked. Auraq barely escapes with his and Kane’s life, and he promises Old Tan he’ll deliver Kane safely to the city. If only it could be that easy. The mark on Kane’s forearm is of the Shadow realm, and Auraq must keep Kane safe at any cost. Even when Auraq’s own secrets come to light.
But the enemy is an order of assassins and foes lurk around every corner. Who can they trust? And as Kane’s health deteriorates, will they be too late?
“Friend, I know you not, but the strangest thing, I can see your soul now…It’s a glorious thing to see.”
Auraq is the only narrator in this story. I wanted more of Kane’s insight – his story – but after reading the last page, I understood the importance of making this Auraq’s story. He’s bound by a sense of duty and loyalty. He takes his vow seriously, and little by little, we get to dissect his character as he fights off one foe for another. I adore his strength. How could Kane not fall for him?
Kane doesn’t have the military training or self-defense skills that Auraq has, but he’s far from a weak character. He’s quite adept at pestering Auraq until he’s let in.
“So, I’m to put my life in your hands without question, but I’m not allowed to know anything about you. That sounds reasonable.”
I simply could not put this book down. Auraq’s personal issues are just as exciting as the mystery of the enemy. When Kane’s health suffers as the mark spreads, the intrigue grows tenfold. It catapults from a cannon and doesn’t slow down until the very end.
Then there are epic descriptions peppered throughout the story:
“He felt empty inside, like a wineskin wrung dry.”
Now, the romance. For the most part, it is non-existent until halfway through. Auraq is outright oblivious to his own appeal, and he almost comes across as an asexual character. When Kane makes a move, the romance connection finally ignites even though it’s not front and center by any means. I still ended the book with a huge smile on my face.
The Shadow Mark is a fantasy novel that kept me riveted to the page (and that cover! Gah!). If you can overlook that the romance is relegated to the background, I’d give this one a read. Auraq is a hero for the books.