Lord of the Last Heartbeat (The Sacred Dark #1)

Lord of the Last Heartbeat (The Sacred Dark #1) Stop Me PleaseThree Words Scrawled In Bloodred Wine A Note Furtively Passed Into The Hand Of A Handsome Stranger Only Death Can Free Mio From His Mother S Political Schemes He S Put His Trust In The Enigmatic Rhodry An Immortal Moon Soul With The Power Of The Bear Spirit To Put An End To It AllBut Rhodry Cannot Bring Himself To Kill Mio, Whose Spellbinding Voice Has The Power To Expose Secrets From The Darkest Recesses Of The Heart And Mind Nor Can He Deny His Attraction To The Fair Young Sorcerer So He Spirits Mio Away To His Home, The Only Place He Can Keep Him Safe If The Curse That Besieges The Estate Doesn T Destroy Them Both FirstIn A World Teeming With Mages, Ghosts And Dark Secrets, Love Blooms Between The Unlikely Pair But If They Are To Be Strong Enough To Overcome The Evil That Draws Ever Nearer, Mio And Rhodry Must First Accept A Happiness Neither Ever Expected To Find This is a stunning debut Incredibly rich, textured writing dripping with sensation, and an equally rich and developed fantasy world with vast hinterland There s real world politics and supernatural mystery and a vast mythos and just an incredible amount in here, which makes it an almost overwhelming reading experience The core relationship, by contrast iswell, it s not simple because there is a vast power imbalance handled with great sensitivity by the characters and author alike but it has a very clear, pure feel to it amid the chaos Love and kindness cut through the maelstrom like a ringing bell, bringing clarity and resolution It works beautifully.A gloriously strange fantasy, a compulsive mystery, and a romance to make you cry Tremendous Note The author is a friend and writing partner That doesn t affect my review I don t rave if I don t mean it. I ve given this a B at AAR, so that s 3.5 stars rounded up.May Peterson s d but novel, Lord of the Last Heartbeat, is an intricately constructed gothic fantasy with an intriguing storyline, set in a world that reminded me somewhat of eighteenth century Italy where dark secrets lurk behind the scenes, political backstabbing is rife and influential families jostle for power Adding to that particular vibe is the fact that one of the main characters is an opera singer, and I loved the way his vocal talent is incorporated into the fabric of the world the author has created In fact, I liked almost all the different elements that went to make up the novel the worldbuilding, the characters, the plot but almost is the key word there, because there are two fairly major problems I couldn t overlook Firstly, Ms Peterson s writing style just didn t work for me which I recognise is entirely subjective and secondly, the romance isn t well developed it springs almost fully formed out of nowhere and there isn t a great deal of chemistry between the leads.Mio is the son of Serafina Gianbellici, a powerful witch whose ambition is to control the government of the city of Vermagna, which she does by learning the secrets of its members and using that knowledge to keep them in line In this world, a mage s magical power lies in a specific part of the body, and Mio s lies in his beautiful voice, which he can use to enter someone s mind and soul to uncover their deepest, darkest secrets which his mother then uses against them Mio hates doing what amounts to mind rape, and hates himself for helping Serafina, but he does it nonetheless, partly because he fears her power and partly because, well she s his mother On the night the story opens, Mio is pretending to be a footman at the house of Pater Donatelli, Serafina s latest target, waiting until she calls him inside to sing, when he is accosted by a drunken guest who mistakes him for a pretty girl who tries to drag him away Mio has barely begun to try to free himself when the man is pulled off him and dunked into a nearby fountain by a large, dark gentleman Mio quickly realises must be a moon soul, someone brought back from the dead and invested with the spirit of a noble beast in this case a bear Once upon a time, these shape changing elite had been numerous but now, they are very small in number and coming across one is rare Feeling unexpectedly comfortable in the man s presence, Mio decides to take a chance to escape his mother s machinations once and for all Before he is summoned inside, he presses a note into the man s hand which says just three words Stop me Please.You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance. One of the predominant markers of an author s success in drawing me into the fantasy they set out to create is to build a lush and vibrant setting out of the whole cloth of their imagination, and then translate that through rich descriptions and the complex layering of both characters and storyline Lord of the Last Heartbeat is not only May Peterson s debut novel, but it is an impressive debut that showcases her talent for commingling romance with a variety of complex external forces which influence everything they touch Rarely, if ever, for the good.The building up of Mio Gianbellicci s character as the proverbial Siren who sings his victims secrets up from the depths of their minds so his crime lord mother can compel them into servitude is not only unique but shapes Mio s character as well When he passes Lord Rhodry Bedefyr a note begging to be stopped, it is neither random nor without consequence that Mio selected Rhodry to put an end to his existence Mio can no longer bear the heartache and emotional burden of acting as little than a useful pawn in his mother s political power grab, and so he gives in to the desperation that death is his only means of escaping Serafina s cold and ruthless clutches That this meeting between the boy with the voice of an angel and the foreign dignitary who also happens to be a moon soul a werebear in familiar terms sets the stage for everything that happens after When Mio ultimately discovers the courage within himself to defy his mother s demands and affect his escape, it s through his defection and Rhodry s rescuing him that allows Mio to encounter the true shape and breadth of his own magic But he does so in silence, which ushers in another of the several things I embraced in this book the concepts of sacrifice and purification.House Bedefyr is a down the rabbit hole, dangerous and deadly Wonderland of a ghost scape, and I loved every moment the story spent here The atmosphere is claustrophobic, isolated, and yet there are yawning holes in the fabric of its reality that allows readers to see deeper into Peterson s imagination The esoterica of the household is encompassed within regrets, secrets, and the betrayals of its inhabitants, and in the menace to those who cross its thresholds The battle for possession of Mio and his magic comes to the fore as readers meet the otherworldly characters who make up the cast of friend or foe, those roles being delineated fully as the danger crests and the story reaches its apex The romance that blossoms between Mio and Rhodry is, for Rhodry, a bit of I loved you before I even knew you thanks to Mio s soulful voice There is a virtue and innocence to it which offsets the age gap and the imbalance of power displayed in the beginning That balance is met and narrowed further along as Mio grows into his skin And, as a side note, I appreciated the clear intent of Mio s name and how it meant something different for his mother and Rhodry Mio, Mine, was the difference between possession and passion when spoken by the two people who meant very different things to Mio himself Lord of the Last Hearbeat gives lovers of spec fic plenty to feast on It s also a book that requires the reader s absolute and undivided attention from beginning to end, as the author begins her weaving and layering early and continues it consistently throughout The villains are superbly villainous, the heroes and heroines are supremely virtuous, the battle lines are clearly drawn and intensely defended, and the suspense is meted out alongside the heartache and romance and redemption in a polished prose one doesn t often find in a debut With the hefty task of the setup behind her now, I look forward to seeing what the author has to serve up in book two.Reviewed for The Novel Approach LORD OF THE LAST HEARTBEAT is the first book in the Sacred Dark series, and we focus on Mio and Rhodry Both of these have secrets and powers that have an effect on their lives Mio no longer wants to help his mother, but can t see a way out Rhodry is intrigued by the younger man, but fears trying anything due to the curse he is living under.What a fantastical world Ms Peterson has invented, with a hint of American Civil War era, coupled with the English Victorian period, this was a great combination of worlds And yes, I realise I may have the time periods wrong, but that is what it reminded me of I loved how the story for both Rhodry and Mio came out slowly, the reader learning bits and pieces of it until it all fell together Their relationship was the same way, a slow burner with temptation and resistance.This was an intriguing tale, with plenty of mystery and misdirection thrown in An amazing cast of characters helps to move the story along.A wonderful start to the series, and I can t wait to see what happens next Absolutely recommended by me. 3.5 starsThis was an interesting debut queer fantasy There is intricate world building and strong romance but I also had some issues with the story and some aspects of the romance made me uneasy, so I ended up with mixed feelings about it As preface I want to say that this book has strong horror elements and as someone who is not a horror fan in general, it was difficult to read at times.The characters are involved in a sort of house murder mystery that kept me captivated throughout the story but at the same it was too closed in the house only and I missed seeing of the world outside Both MCs and the supporting characters well complex, with good and bad qualities The story explored different relationships familial bonds, friendships, relations between spouses,between a master and his servants As a woman I am hypersensitive to the representation of women in m m romance The misogyny in it is far too common and it s something I pay extra attention to For a while I was worried this would be the case here, and I m still not sure how well it was handled We see women being both supervillains but also ones who are strong and chivalrous and do a lot of good I say this is a m m fantasy romance but one of the MCs doesn t identify as a man, he is intersex as far as I understand, and prefers he his pronouns and likes the word boy for himself I m not really qualify to comment on that representation, so I m just mentioning it as an element of the story.I admit that the way the magic and curses worked in the story felt too complicated for me and I couldn t always keep up with it I would have appreciated a bit clarity on the magic aspects of the story but that could be a me thing rather than a specific fault of the book.There is a definite HEA ending though some aspect of the romance didn t quite work for me There was a sense of obligation and paying back, a certain imbalance as to the positions of the MCs which was never properly addressed in my opinion Overall, it s an interesting book but it didn t quite work for me.CWs Violence, queerphobia, manipulation, mind control Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this book Title Lord of the Last HeartbeatAuthor May PetersonRating 2.5 starsRep non binary intersex MC stated by the author Mio goes by he him pronouns throughout the book.Trigger warnings attempted sexual assault, gore, violence, gruesome deaths, murder, descriptions of the aftermath of war, suicidal thoughts, suicide, cheating, grief, PTSD, transphobia, mafia The Lord of the Last Heartbeat has been on my radar for months now after I saw the authors twitter post about their upcoming book It sounded like something I would absolutely love, so as soon as I saw it on NetGalley I instantly hit request I am gutted it ended up not being for me, but I am very glad I decided to give this a go THE WRITINGUnfortunately, I really didn t gel with the writing style I know a lot of people will absolutely love it, but it wasn t for me It felt very convoluted and complicated The writing seemed sopoetic and flowery, which is not something I usually like, but I know a lot of people love However, I loved that this book was dual POV between Mio and Rhodry I love dual perspective books so this worked really well for me and I definitely think it worked for strengthening the characters development and their relationship too.PLOTWhile I really enjoyed the first half, the second half was so confusing and all over the place to me I struggled to understand what was happening, who, why, what, when Even the twists and turns didn t register because I was so thoroughly confused The plot was extremely complex and intricate, especially around the 80% mark.One thing I did love was the Beauty and the Beast vibes A very pleasant surprise as I adore that fairytale.ROMANCEOn the whole, I really enjoyed the romance For me, it was definitely boarding on insta love, with Mio confessing his love for Rhodry 30% in Things moved very fast, especially for Mio, but that didn t really bother me.On Rhodry s part, the power dynamic was a huge problem for him as it should be I was very glad to see them talk it out and try to understand where each other were at in terms of their feelings etc Communication is key and one of my most hated tropes is miscommunication , things that are so easily fixed with just sitting down and talking.Mio had a lot of conflicting feelings too, he didn t think he deserved love because of who he is and because of all the stuff he has had to do in the past on his mothers bidding I definitely got emotional when Rhodry asked Mio about what pronouns he feels comfortable with That whole conversation was super important and I loved it CHARACTERSRhodry moon soul Carefree manner, witty and slightly strange, I really loved Rhodry A character with a deep, sad past and a curse over his head Mio Mage Gentle, soft and kind with the voice of an angel, but with a lot of inner conflicts that he faces throughout the book I did feel like Mio sat on the sidelines at times and let other people fix his problems The main side characters definitely felt very distinctive, each with their own personality traits which I really loved WORLD BUILDINGThe world building confused me quite a bit As soon as I thought I grasped the mechanics of this world, something else would be added in and it completely throw me off OVERALLI absolutely loved the concept, the characters were amazing and the romance too, but the plot and world building just didn t work for me personally I would still 100% recommend checking this out if you like diverse characters, unique storylines and fantasy romance Lord of the Last Heartbeat is a detailed fantasy story focused around Mio, a sorcerer whose power lies in his voice When pushed to his limits by his power hungry mother, Mio escapes to the first place they would look, but the one he would be safest the house of Rhodry, a cursed Moon Soul.Focusing on Mio and Rhodry the story follows of the pair as they fight their attraction to each other and the mysterious force at work within the house Expect twists and turns as the intricately weaved love story of Lord of the Last Heartbeat takes you on a journey filled with mystery and magic.The novel jumps right into things with an exchange between Mio and Rhodry that had me intrigued and wanting to find out about these two mysterious figures As the story continues I began to understand about this world filled with ghosts and curses Chapter by chapter the larger mystery was chipped away as Mio and readers come to truly understand the nature of the curse surrounding Rhodry I really enjoyed Lord of the Last Heartbeat as not only was I emotionally invested in Mio and Rhodry but I was kept guessing until the very end.Outside of this intricate plot, Lord of the Last Heartbeat is filled with interesting characters that played upon my heart While painted in a tough light, Mio s mother none the less played on my emotions, eliciting conflicting feelings about taking control of a world set against her, to that of her love for her children Maybe conflicting is too soft of a word because the ending had me wanting to know about this character and the repercussions of their actions.The full cast of the novel were all varied and unique and I am very interested to see where the second book in the series goes I am hopeful Mio s brother, Tibario or Ginger Snap as he is also known makes another appearance as I quickly fell in love with this nuanced character.Without spoiling anything, what I really loved about Lord of the Last Heartbeat were the gender and sexuality discussions by and about Mio It was really refreshing reading such an honest and real discussion about a characters genderqueer feelings In light of all of this, I cannot wait to read of May Peterson s series and find out about this world RECOMMENDATIONSI really enjoyed Lord of the Last Heartbeat and found Peterson s writing style to be engaging and interesting The main draw card of this book was not only the amazing story but the characters I found myself really invested in each of the characters and can t want to return to this series.I would recommend this for anyone who is a fan of the fantasy romance genre because it is an amazing example of excellent and unique world building.I would also recommend Lord of the Last Heartbeat for anyone looking for a intricate and detailed QUILTBAG fantasy novel Or anyone wishing to read a romance featuring a genuine and positive representation of a genderqueer character Please note I received a copy of Lord of the Last Heartbeat from NetGalley.Please feel free to leave a comment if you think I ve used the wrong language in regards to Mio I don t identify as non binary and mean no offence, so please feel free to leave a comment. Extraordinary Even though the majority of the story takes place in one estate, the world building is rich and complete, but done with a very light touch Wonderful characters and an intriguing plot. I liked this a lot But at times had trouble following everything that was happening. Content Warnings