Title: Eye of Truth
Author: Cassie Sweet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Theodyne Thespacian, Nicodemus Valencia
Sub-Genre: High Fantasy, Erotic Romance
Theodyne Thespacian is a thief. Caught and imprisoned, he’s done his time and vowed never to return to the life of pulse-racing excitement and easy money. But when one of his former associates tells him about the Eye of Truth—an artifact that will open worlds of untold wealth—it seems like the perfect crime. However, for Theodyne, with the brand of a thief on his face, to be caught again means death. So instead he goes to the Villa of Nicodemus Valencia, the Master Alchemist who owns the artifact… and applies for a job.
Nicodemus descends directly from the founder of the Gold School, and of all those in that bloodline, he possesses the strongest gift for alchemy. His formulas have made him wealthy, though they’ve failed to give him the one thing he’s longed for most—love. When Theodyne appears at his Villa, he recognizes potential for alchemy and offers him apprenticeship. But then an ancient foe purged from the lands long ago reappears and threatens the Gold School, the Eye of Truth, and all the Dominical city-states. Nicodemus and Theodyne must now band together in courage to battle evil and can only hope they will not lose all they’ve come to hold dear.
An absolutely wonderful start to a new fantasy series about alchemists, elementals, and… well, I won’t say what else. A great story. I won’t rehash the blurb. Theo is an ex-thief, Nico is an alchemist. They end up in roles of master and apprentice, and dive straight into adventure, a dark one at that.
Now, the characterization here is done exceedingly well, with lots of three-dimensional people. What I mean by that is that everyone has their own ulterior motives, they may or may not speak the truth, and trust is a valuable commodity as well as a weakness. Though Theo and Nico spend most of their time together talking instead of rutting in heat—there’s not a lot of sex here, but a lot of sexual tension—they have their own past to deal with, and both men carry secrets, wondering if they can trust or care for the other. This last bit offers some repetition in inner musings but it’s not a bad thing, a small matter. Every side character has depth as well, except maybe the Medovin cousins I imagine will play a greater part in subsequent books in the series. Oberon, for one, was very intriguing, and so was Rhone.
Now the plot is where the story shines. The alchemists are facing a danger they thought had been neutralized long ago, and as a result are not ready. Not with the added political pressure from the rulers of the city-states to choose a side in the upcoming war that seems inevitable, and thus become an army for noble families. The former foes are terrible dark forces that scared the bejesus out of me, while the latter showed trusting leaders who rule by blood and wealth cannot be trusted. Not exactly a revelation.
Also, the whole business is not solved in this story. We do learn who the enemy is, what they’ve been up to, and how. But a resolution and vanquishing their foes for good? No, this is very much setting the scene for more later. Nonetheless, the writing, both in dialogue and action, is excellent. Nico’s intelligence in tactical matters and Theo’s knowledge of clandestine aspects of the world form a great partnership and a union of opposite qualities.
My gripe is with the Eye of Truth itself. It’s the title of the book, and the reason why Theo comes to be in Nico’s house. Yet, while it’s a matter of conjecture at first, then the whole story happens with barely a mention of the thing! Only towards the end is it talked about a bit more, but in the end seems to serve no purpose, other than being something the alchemists protect and the enemies want. We’re not really shown the Eye, not in any detail, and given only the barest of history behind it. I was disappointed, as I was expecting it to play a more integral part in the story than just a minor catalyst of events. In short, I wanted to learn more about it, and that didn’t happen.
Despite that minor absence, this story is too damn fine to miss. Highly recommended, and I personally can’t wait to read the next one. I suspect Esteban Medovin is going to come between Theo and Nico…. Oh, how exciting! We’ll see.
Reviewed By: Susan