Guest Review: Shadows and Light by Cari Z.

A fight to the death against his former master turns into a chance for Rafael, an assassin denied the immortality he lived to achieve, to learn the shocking truth about the fate he was spared.

Rafael wanted nothing more than to serve his immortal master, Xian, a High One of Clare, who taught him from an early age how to be an assassin. But after failing the final test, Rafael was turned out into the Lower City, abandoned by the one person he thought he could count on.

Years of hatred and thoughts of revenge have fueled Rafael’s quest for vengeance, but when the time comes to strike at Xian, he hesitates and is taken prisoner. Rafael expects to die, either at Xian’s hand or at the hand of Myrtea, his sadistic mistress.

Instead Xian heals him, spares him a brutal interrogation and tells him the dark truth driving the ruthlessness of the High Ones—the source of their immortality is spent. Soon the city will devolve into chaos as High Ones battle one another and the rebelling denizens of the Lower City for power and resources. Xian wants to spare Rafael that pain, just as he spared him the pain of becoming a High One a decade earlier.

Their only chance for survival is to escape Clare before civil war breaks out. Even if they make it out of the city, though, there’s no guarantee that Xian will live through the agonizing process of becoming human again. The only ones they can rely on are each other…if Rafael can bring himself to once again trust his former master, the only man he’s ever loved.

Reader Advisory: This book contains mentions of blood-drinking, blood magic, blood-play, knife-play, addiction and withdrawal, as well as flogging and whipping. This book also refers to pain and blood-play as coping mechanisms.

Publisher's Note: This book has been released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Pride Publishing.

Cari Z is a new to me author……and I can’t explain why. How have I missed this?! I feel like I live under a rock right now. I feel betrayed by my reader friends. Why has no one recommended Cari Z to me before?! I’m wounded. Deeply.

But now that I have discovered the wonder of Cari’s writing, I can see myself working my way through the back list. So at least there is that. I’m now somewhat pacified.

Now that I got the pouting out of the way, let’s talk about this book.

Raphael lives in the slums, and dreams about taking revenge on his former Master, for casting him out and abandoning him to wallow in self-pity and deep depression. He stalks the High One’s and takes them out to get his message to Xian in the hopes that it will draw the former Master to him so he can kill him.

As a former apprentice to be ascended to a High One, and trained ruthlessly by Xian, Raphael has the assassin skills required to catch each arrogant High One by surprise, and take their life. This is facilitated by their inability to tolerate the sun, and movement is always done at night, in the Shadows.

This world was rich with descriptive, showing text. It was not difficult to imagine any of the world the author shared. It was quick to be explained, but not rushed. Through Raphael’s introspection, and present visuals I easily grasped what was going on, who Raphael was, and what his plans were. I also felt his emotions completely, and was sucked into his campaign of killing.

We don’t meet Xian for quite a while, but when we do, it is a very curious exchange. His motives are not clear, and he keeps things secret for quite some time. It is easy to see how devoted Raphael was to Xian as an apprentice, and how those feelings are just below the surface when they come face to face again.

The story unfolds slowly, and we only learn things in due time. Nothing is given away too early, and there is no wondering where a scene came from. This story flowed seamlessly, and skillfully.

Raphael is a masochist… possibly borne, not trained. It’s hard to tell from the flashbacks but he was definitely always submissive. His absolute devotion to Xian and unconditional love is apparent in every move he makes. Whether he likes it or not, he could never harm his Master.

It was difficult to understand Xian’s perspective. We did not jump into his point of view, so we learned about him only from Raphael’s perspective and the dialogue they shared. This made it difficult to connect with him on an emotional level, which I believe was the point. He is thousands of years old, and has been in this state of being for so long that emotion isn’t something he can relate to. He feels affection, but anything beyond that, he no longer understands.

The mythology behind the High One’s, and how they came to be, was interesting and creative. Immortality has a price, and that price can become very high. Resources are always finite. There will always be an end somewhere.

The sex was intense. Complete D/s relationship with bondage and SM. Some of it extreme. The knife play was hot. It’s one of my favourite scenes to read. While the sex was great, it was understated to the rest of the story. It added, not distracted from the actual plot. And this was a complex plot, with lots of twists and turns. I really enjoyed my time in this world, and hope there will be more.

The story ends with a few threads loose, and I hope that means that we might be able to explore this couple some more at a later date. It was definitely worth my time, and attention, and I would jump all over a sequel.

Recommended for those who enjoy fantasy, action adventure with heavy kink, excellent world building, and an almost HFN. This does not end on a cliffhanger, it is a complete novel.

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