Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Dark Secrets

by Shona Husk


Haidyn Mast is a whore with a secret: he sells his mind rather than his body. But that's hardly the darkest of his secrets, because he's privy to his clients' innermost desires, and some of them are perverts. One in particular, Brixen the Lawman, has thoughts so disturbing that Haidyn would be happy never to be in his head ever again. Unfortunately for Haidyn the Lawman is a regular customer who he can't turn away because he runs the town of Reseda.

This novella is set in a world where magic is carefully monitored, and its unauthorised use is forbidden. The Arcane Union want full control of all magic users. They're in conflict with the Free Arcane Association (FAA), a group of rogue wizards who operate underground and campaign for the rights of magic users. Haidyn's talents alone are enough to see him hanged if they are discovered. And as a whore running a high class brothel he also risks getting branded, which is the law for all "loose skirts". Branding will reduce the price those at his establishment can charge, and it will also expose him as a rogue wizard due to the way his skin heals.

The catalyst to the drama is Brixen's forthcoming wedding. Brixen has already gone through one wife, and the identity of his new bride sends Haidyn into turmoil. He's afraid of what the corrupt, sick Lawman will do to her. But it's a challenge to help her out without exposing his magic, endangering his co-workers, or getting her into more trouble with her husband. And while this is going on Reseda is in a state of political unrest as the conflict between the Union and the FAA heats up.

It's a deliciously tense, fast-paced story. The cover image and the concept led me to expect that it would be much raunchier than it is. The story is actually more gross and uncomfortable when it comes to the sexual scenes, which are mostly presented as acts of violence and control rather than something we're supposed to be titillated by. Haidyn is very moral, and he's even a bit of a goody two shoes. He has qualms about using his powers, and he's not interested in sex unless it's with his true love. So Dark Secrets is quite sweet because of its main character, even though the villain brings a lot of depravity and nastiness to the plot.

I found some of the prose a bit clumsy, or baffling. In the first chapter Haidyn states "I charged like a raxen in heat for the privilege of walking through my door." I can only imagine a raxen is a creature that uses gold as part of its mating ritual, or it's some kind of banker. It's mentioned a couple of times, but never explained.

Dark Secrets is short at 96 pages on my ereader, but I was impressed by how much movement Shona Husk managed to pack into that space, particularly in a secondary world fantasy where we start off knowing nothing about the political scene and environment. Haidyn is a decent character and I wanted him to succeed, so I enjoyed this novella. But I'd like to know what a raxen is.

22nd January 2013

Book Details

Year: 2013

Categories: Books

    Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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4 star rating

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