Review: Mastering the Flames by S.J. Himes 2019 10 24
Isaac Salvatore has just completed treatment for alcohol addiction and is now trying to figure out who he is after years of drinking. So much of his life seems like a blur of alcohol, sex with the wrong people, and trying to quiet the guilt in his head from the deaths of his family. Now that he can see clearly again, Isaac is out of practice with his magic, trying to mend fences with his brother, and unsure what his life should look like going forward.
Constantine Batiste is the City Master of Boston, an ancient and powerful vampire who traces his history back to ancient Gaul as the bastard son of a Celtic king. He is protective over his vampire family, and when two young vampires under his care are attacked, Constans calls upon Angel Salvatore for assistance. It gives him a chance to reconnect with Angel’s brother, Isaac, a man to whom Constans has long been drawn. While things were a bit rocky between them at the start, a connection begins to grow between the men now. Constans is patient and doting, careful of Isaac’s needs, while also giving him space to find himself. Constans’ support helps to ease Isaac’s transition into his new life.
But even as Constans and Isaac are falling hard for one another, a dangerous predator is on the loose in Boston. It is connected to an ancient magic, magic that connects back to Constans and his transition to becoming a vampire. But tracking down who is behind the attacks is almost impossible, and the threats are getting ever closer to home. It will be a fight for their lives to overcome the ancient evil and stop a killer before it is too late.
Mastering the Flames is the fourth book in S.J. Himes’ fabulous Beacon Hill Sorcerer series. While the book is first one to move away from Angel and Simeon as the main characters, the storylines and characters very much interconnect across the series, and you are going to want to have read the first three books before picking up this one. As I said, this story shifts focus from Angel and Simeon to Constans and Isaac. After three books focused on the same MCs, making this transition smoothly is critical, particularly as Simeon and Angel are such great characters and a reader favorite couple. I am happy to say, Himes does an amazing job here, both keeping continuity with the earlier books, as well as giving Isaac his own story and a chance at the spotlight out from his brother’s large shadow.
It is clear from the start that Isaac is very much his own person, quite different from his headstrong and powerful brother. In some ways, it is like Isaac is just waking up after a long sleep; he is still very much coming to terms with who he is as a sober adult. Isaac is brave and a strong magical practitioner in his own right, but he is not interested in Angel’s life of being a leader in fighting the bad guys. Isaac’s story is much more about him finding himself and figuring out who he is and who he wants to be. And that process is aided by the love and support from Constans. There is a sweetness and a tenderness between the two men that I really enjoyed. Constans has a very old-world, gallant sort of vibe and he very much dotes on Isaac. At the same time, he respects Isaac’s independence and supports him in taking on challenges. Things didn’t go well when the men first met, but now they are coming together with a fresh perspective. I enjoyed getting to meet Constans as Isaac’s friend and lover, versus Constantine the vampire master and occasional foe of Angel. These men are super sweet and sexy together and Constans’ calm strength is the perfect balance for Isaac’s more tumultuous side.
Where the story balances out so well is that while Isaac is clearly his own person, there is still a strong connection here to the overarching story and characters that have been a part of the last three books. Simeon and Angel play major roles, along with Daniel, Rory, and even Eroch. We are getting the events from Isaac and Constans’ points of view, but it still very much feels like the same story we have been following all along. I absolutely adore this ensemble cast and I enjoyed reconnecting with all of these characters. We see them all working together to fight the evil threat, and we begin to see how Isaac fits into the bigger picture. Again, Isaac isn’t all up in the fight all the time like Angel. Sometimes events happen off page because Isaac isn’t off investigating with Angel. And it really works perfectly, as we see Isaac figuring out his own place and his own strengths.
In addition to present day, we also get some flashbacks to Constans’ mortal life and his ultimate transformation into a vampire. Himes does a nice job balancing these scenes and I never felt pulled out of the larger story. The background helps to form the foundation for what is happening in present day, and provides some interesting insight into the magic and the current threat, as well as background on Constans’ character.
I’ll also add that we get to see more of Rory and Daniel together here and they are so delicious, I just can’t wait. I love how seemingly quiet and gentle Daniel has a fun, teasing side with Isaac. And I adore that he is a master porn connoisseur! Rory and Daniel’s book is coming up next and Himes gives us some intriguing set up for their story.
So I really loved Mastering the Flames and thought it was a great addition to this fabulous series. If you enjoy urban fantasy, I can’t recommend this series more highly.