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REVIEW: Absolute Heart, by Michael Vance Gurley

Title: Absolute Heart

Series: Infernal Instruments of the Dragons Book One

Author: Michael Vance Gurley

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

LGBTQ+ Category: MM Gay

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages: 288

Reviewer: Ulysses, Paranormal Romance Guild

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About The Book

As the British Empire builds power based on new clockwork and steam technology, Ireland draws its might from its potent magical traditions. Only two boys with little in common can end the fighting between the two nations and prevent a terrible worldwide war.

Gavin Haveland’s dreams are in the sky with the airships, while his reality as a High Councilman’s son means hiding secrets that will get him executed if revealed.

Orion of Oberon is not just a powerful mage, he’s the nephew of the Irish queen, and the one she’s sent him on a quest for the ancient Dragon Stones that will bolster her fading power. In the process, he might restore his family to their rightful place in society.

With enemies determined to stop them by any means necessary and war or peace hinging on their success, Gavin and Orion must find a way to work together, despite the centuries of mistrust between their nations.

The Review

“Where was the truth? Was there ever such a thing?”

“Nothing is as it should be.”

Well, well, a mashup adventure that’s half Steampunk and half Fantasy/Magic set at the end of the 19thcentury. What’s not to like? 

This is the promising first installment of a series that has echoes of all sorts of other books and series – but with a refreshing young-adult vibe. I am intrigued and appalled by the very idea of an England ruled by technocrats and politicians who have eliminated the monarchy in favor of a clockwork empire where magic carries a death penalty and machines pollute the world. Its counterpoint is Ireland – despised by England for being ruled by magic(k) and mythology, where the monarch is a sorceress queen and the Faerie are brutal warriors. Ireland politics have been taken over by religious zealots descended from the Knights Templar. 

There are nasty plotters and manipulators on both sides of fight.

There are few good guys in this Anglo-Irish feud that has lasted centuries. Indeed, there are a lot of very bad guys. The real good guys are a group of hapless teenagers, caught up in the age-old war because of their families. Gavin Haveland, son of the most powerful man in England, simply wants to be an airship pilot. He and his best friend Landa are obsessed with the clockwork craft that ply the skies and keep England safe for the (right kind of) English. 

Orion of Oberon is the heir apparent of the Irish throne, and is one of the most skilled young warlocks in the country. He just wants to earn his red cloak, but suspects that the Brotherhood of the Mage is pulling tricks to keep it from him. 

A prophecy, a bloody attack, and a group of immensely powerful stones lost centuries before – children fated to change the world that has been brought to ruin by adults. It’s a pretty juicy plot, which leaves enough loose ends to guarantee lots more adventure in future installments. There are some very interesting characters, like the Faerie princes, who have too little to do in this book, but will probably become more important in future installments. 

Possibly due to the awkwardness of reading a converted PDF format, I found the author’s writing a little ham-fisted at times, but overall he is a compelling story-teller and has created young characters who are both admirable and adorable. I can’t wait to see how they mature as the series continues. 

The Reviewer

Ulysses Grant Dietz grew up in Syracuse, New York, where his Leave It to Beaver life was enlivened by his fascination with vampires, from Bela Lugosi to Barnabas Collins. He studied French at Yale, and was trained to be a museum curator at the University of Delaware. A curator since 1980, Ulysses has never stopped writing fiction for the sheer pleasure of it. He created the character of Desmond Beckwith in 1988 as his personal response to Anne Rice’s landmark novels. Alyson Books released his first novel, Desmond, in 1998. Vampire in Suburbia, the sequel to Desmond, is his second novel.

Ulysses lives in suburban New Jersey with his husband of over 41 years and their two almost-grown children.

By the way, the name Ulysses was not his parents’ idea of a joke: he is a great-great grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, and his mother was the President’s last living great-grandchild. Every year on April 27 he gives a speech at Grant’s Tomb in New York City.

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