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Delicate by Sarah Sanders

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Gosh! What a beautiful romance! Sports romance with the most gorgeous MCs. Valentina Gonz├ílez was a promising tennis playe...

Midnight Magic by Cameron Darrow

https://bestlesficawards.blogspot.com/
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆



Rich in imagination and raw in emotion this is an awesome love story set in a fantasy world.

In days long past, wizards or rather mages, had started playing God in Atvalia. They'd started creating immortal creatures its skeletons of metal and stealing the life force of a living animal to animate and give life to their skeleton. As a result of this practice they were hounded and essentially wiped out. Now, anyone with magic is a second class citizen forced to always dress in a particular way to set them apart and closely watched. 

Vimika is a wizard more second class than most because she's a struggling freelancer. Her skills are mostly used to kill rats or find missing pets. After one too many heartbreaks, Vimika has hidden herself in Durn taking whatever gigs she gets and drinking herself into oblivion every evening.

When she is given the task of finding the lost pet of one of the four powerful houses that rule the city, she feels that her life is about to change with all the money she's going to earn for it and gleefully sets out. But as she gets closer to the animal, she realises that things aren't as simple as they'd seemed. Still she pushes on only to be met with nightmares in form of a forest and then...a clearing and the most beautiful woman she's ever seen -- Aurelai.

Aurelai has been imprisoned in her clearing in the forest for at least a couple of centuries by her father, the most powerful and considered the most wicked of all the mages of the past. Aurelai confesses that she purposely created a situation to get Vimika to her so that Vimika can set her free. Trapped and isolated for endless time Aurelai hungers for 'normalcy'. 

Hot-headed Vimika reacts badly, but she seems to have lost her magic and is also unable to get away. So she stays. And sees the gentleness in Aurelai. Sees her kindness. Her aloneness. Her tragedy. Her beauty -- inside and outside. 

The two women are drawn to each other and struggle to break free out of a prison created by unfathomable magic.

Aurelai and Vimika are amongst the most fully realised and well-defined characters we've met in the world of words. Aurelai in particular stole our heart. Her life is unspeakable tragedy and yet she is so strong as she struggles to live and learn from books, from nature and by herself that she inspires deep tenderness and protectiveness. It took more time for Vimika to grow on us, but grow she did, till by the end she became deserving of the perfect Aurelai.

We have to mention the penultimate climatic scene where Vimika rejects the optics of Aurelai's truth completely dismissing the person Aurelai is. It shattered us. Gutted us. Compelled us to give a thought to the prejudices society engenders and the limitations it creates. How the collective conscious and the collective unconscious shape and bind our acceptance. How discrimination and fear are ingrained so that we dismiss our experience with a person. That scene shook us. It was truly powerful in the reveal, the emotion and the dialogue.

Darrow is a talented writer. The narrative is consistently strong and solid with excellent world-building and evocative descriptions. The imagination is flawless in thought, planning and execution.

The whimsical cover belies the powerful book behind it. This is a compelling read and strongly recommended. Even if fantasy isn't your usual fare, this one is also beautiful as a love story (it is more than a romance).

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆


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