Title: Dire Straits
Author: Megan Derr
Length: 15,600 words
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Less than a century ago, the world was a dangerous place. Monsters ran wild, and the only thing more dangerous was the humans attempting to control them. The chaotic lands were eventually tamed by a group of people who came to be known as the Crown, and they formed a government that helped to maintain peace in the untamed lands.
Bannick Poore is one such maintainer of peace, an infamous Priest with guns at his hips and a blood red collar around his throat. He is equal parts mage and gunslinger, and it is his sworn duty to uphold the law and drive back the monsters that still crop up in a land that is still learning to be civilized…
I’m always in awe of the way that this author manages to produce consistently excellent and varied fantasy stories. This one tell of Bannick who is a blood priest of the Goddess. His responsibility is to be sent into the field to investigate serious problems involving magic. On one such occasion he visits a town where he discovers a ‘dire demon’, a undead being created to cause mayhem. It’s currently trapped in a cave but is about to break free. This sort of dark magic is beyond Bannick so a necromancer, Ezell, is sent to aid him. It’s been fifteen years since Bannick last saw Ezell but he hasn’t forgotten to powerful attraction between them, and neither has Ezell.
Once again this author has manage to combine a complex and imaginative setting with a steady but arresting romantic pairing. Bannick is a sensible man with a slight weariness about him, and a strong love of his job. The pride he feels at his position in the priesthood shines through his interactions and although Bannick tells us that he has seen and done much that he didn’t like, he obviously relishes the challenge and the respect his job brings him. His reunion with Ezell was sweet and lovely, but also tinged with a sadness brought by the hard years since they last parted. I liked how they worked well together as a team, and thought the author had done a good job in showing how the years melted away when they meet up
If I have any complaints it’s that there was a section in the middle which filled in the setting and was a little info-dumping. Whilst it was interesting to read all the different levels of priesthood, my attention did wane a little, especially as it came during a quiet point in the book – maybe that was the reason it was placed there. However, this was just a couple of pages in a story which mostly kept my attention.
This was just a minor niggle though in a story which was very engaging with great characters and a twist which surprised me but which slotted seamlessly in with the characters and setting. The quasi-wild west fantasy setting was a bit different from the usual high fantasy/medieval type setting and it allowed for a recognisable gunslinger type character in Bannick with a paranormal bent. If you’re a fan of this author, or looking for an interesting paranormal fantasy then this is a definite must-read.