The story is about half romance and half action-adventure fantasy. The action-adventure half consists of the human protagonists dealing with truly evil, nasty faery folk from an alternate world. The story opens with two of the protagonists imprisoned in the faery world. The faery world is depicted as awful for everyone: worst for the enslaved humans, who have their memories obliterated and are transformed, toyed with, controlled, broken, and killed at the whim of their faery masters, or their masters' rivals. But it struck me that even the faeries doing the imprisoning sounded like they had miserable, friendless lives full of pretense, backstabbing, and murdering or being murdered by one another. All of it is dressed up with beautiful backdrops, palaces, and fancy balls, but everything is joyless.
Fortunately, most of the book takes place "Earthside", although there is always the specter of being recaptured, and that specter is brutal and terrifying in a way that merely being threatened with death is not. The entire cast consists of people who survived faery enslavement, and everyone feels convincingly like a trauma and abuse survivor. This is well-handled: I didn't feel like the story was wallowing in it or trying to traumatize me as the reader, but I could completely relate to their fears and coping mechanisms.
Some of why the faery world is so grim is revealed over the course of the story, and is fascinating itself.
I am not a big fan of "brutal and terrifying magical world", as anyone who's read my work can probably guess. The fantasy plot was solid and well done, with the resolution of various arcs surprising yet logical. I had some minor quibbles ("why doesn't anyone at least suggest [obvious patch for problem]") but nothing serious.
The characters are loveable; I found the choice to make the male protagonist a naïf charming: it's a part men rarely get to play. And he is adorable and sweet, if less well-established than the other characters.
This is a love-at-first-sight book: the three protagonists form into a happy triad within two or three days of first meeting their third. I am not a big fan of love-at-first sight*, but that aside, they make a lovely, supportive triad and I enjoyed the HEA.
So on my "enjoyed it"scale, I'll give it an 8. No actual flaws, just a taste mismatch on tropes.
* Yes, even though I do write love-at-first-sight. Romance where the characters don't start out hating each other and gradually fall in love is hard, y'all.
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