5/5 stars. Buy at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
I picked up Hexbreaker (Hexworld #1) by Jordan L. Hawk as part of a goal to read through the other Rainbow Awards winners, and I literally couldn’t put it down once I started. Irishman Tom Halloran is a New York copper with a dark secret; Cicero, a cat shifter, is a flamboyant Italian bohemian working as a familiar with the NY Metropolitan Witch Police. Normally, the two police forces don’t work together, since one handles regular crimes and the other crimes of hexation, but when a hex causes problems that leave both of them missing a friend, the two decide to team up and take on a case that nobody else is interested in.
Friends, this is a turn-of-the-19th-century historical buddy cop police procedural soulbonding gay paranormal romance. If you aren’t at least intrigued by that description alone, I don’t know what to tell you.
The mystery is very solidly written, where the twists and turns of the plot all make sense, but you still need to read through all the pieces to see it really come together. The characters are even more so; everything they do at every turn makes sense for their characterization, motivations, hopes, and fears—even the things you really wish they wouldn’t do all come from that solid base of knowing why they do it anyway. Tom’s situation is absolutely believable and his genuine good nature shines through in everything he says and does, and Cicero’s sharp-edged abrasive affection likewise. They both come from very different social spheres, and seeing how they try to adjust to make that work rings very true to me.
Beyond that, the historical setting itself is an absolute delight (and I need to check out the reference book recommendations Hawk makes in the afterword). From tenement houses to tunnel gangs, from bohemian parlors to seedy dance halls, from anarchist publications to Oscar Wilde, you feel like you’re there—if it’s a there that includes professional hexmakers, spell forensic experts, and an entire group of people who change into animals and soulbond to witches, of course. Hawk blends this in seamlessly by capturing the spirit of the time through little details, such as playing off the boom in commercialism by using product slogans as keywords to set spells.
Ultimately, this story is fun. Hawk has a real talent for knowing exactly when to throw in some relief from the more intense scenes, and if I were to list every moment that made me grin, I would probably end up spoiling half the scenes, so I won’t—I can only encourage you to check this out to discover them yourself. It’s also got a very high heat quotient, my goodness. The sex is steamy, erotic, detailed, and absolutely avoids the pitfalls that you sometimes see where it becomes about the acts rather than the characters.
Hexbreaker winning best Gay Paranormal Romance in the 2016 Rainbow Awards might have been why I picked it up, but I’m going to purchase the next few books in the series immediately.