Title: Leads and Lynxes (Terra Haven Chronicles Book One)
Publisher: Mind Your Muse
Author: Rebecca Chastain
Pages: 271 pp
Price: $7.99 (paperback) / 0.99 cents (ebook)
Kylie Grayson is a journalist with the Terra Haven Chronicle. Young and ambitious, she dreams of writing articles that will change the world for the better. Towards that end, she wins a coveted spot covering the blooming of the everlasting tree. There, she gains a seed which promises to lead her to the story of a lifetime. Unfortunately, Kylie is seemingly sidetracked from that goal when she is kidnapped by the harpy Beldame Zipporah and dumped in the ruins of Chicomoztoc. Mad blood-magicians are intent on finding a powerful sacred stone hidden somewhere in the labyrinth, but Zipporah wants the stone for herself — and if Kylie fails to retrieve it, she’ll pay with her life ….
I first discovered Chastain’s writing with the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles. I loved that series, and I was thrilled when she opted to continue with a different set of characters in the Terra Haven Chronicles.* I was not disappointed.
First, there’s Kylie. A daughter of privilege, she is determined to make her own way in the world. Journalism is not a hobby for her; it’s her life. Deeply ethical, she is also courageous; despite her fears — of failure, of Zipporah, of dying in the ruins — she keeps moving forward, keeps fighting.
Then there’s Grant Monaghan. Captain of Terra Haven’s Federal Pentagon Defense squad, Grant is a powerful elemental magician. Able to wield all five elements equally, he is also intelligent, compassionate, and committed to protecting the citizens of Terra Haven. Initially distrustful of Kylie and suspicious of her motives, he slowly comes to recognize her sincerity and courage. As his view of Kylie changes, so do his feelings towards her; and that is a complication that he is having difficulty dealing with.
And, best of all, Quinn. A young gargoyle, Quinn idolizes Kylie. He is sweet and devoted, brave and clever. Exactly who you want on your side when navigating a terrifying, booby-trapped labyrinth. I look forward to seeing how he will continue to grow and mature.
Then there is the world itself. This is a realm suffused with magic. The five elements — earth, air, water, fire, and wood –are accessible to everyone, and are used to do everything from powering flying carpets to sending personalized communication bubbles. Balanced, clean elements are necessary to life and to magic, making ecological destruction nearly unknown; and, when it does occur, it is carefully corrected (e.g., when the people leave the everlasting tree, elemental magicians remain behind to help restore the eroded land and flattened grasses).
Take note that ecological destruction is nearly unknown. The ruins of Chicomoztoc are all that remains of an ancient civilization based around blood magic. Addictive and insidious, blood magic unbalances the elements, mutating and fouling the natural world even as it drives its practitioners mad. Though the people are long dead, their magic remains a threat, and so the “lunacy labyrinth” remains largely unexplored, locked behind a protective ward.
Chastain’s description of the labyrinth is evocative and frightening. Some passages are downright claustrophobic. The magical booby traps are imaginative, and Chastain’s take on classic monsters is wonderfully original; I love her version of vampires, and I hope the chimera that was referenced actually makes an appearance at some point. (Also, more of the centaurs and minotaurs, please.)
Leads and Lynxes is a terrific first book in a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance series. It’s exciting and romantic, with Kylie and Grant falling for one another while seeing each other at their best and their worst. I can’t wait to see what happens in Headlines and Hydras (due out on 21 May 2021).
Highly recommended to fans of Chastain’s other books, as well as fans of the Dark Fae FBI series by C.N. Crawford and Alex Rivers, The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews, The Outlier Prophecies series by Tina Gower, the Sonoma Witches series by Gretchen Galway, and The Witches of Portland books by T. Thorn Coyle.
*While it is not necessary to read the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles before diving into the Terra Haven Chronicles, I do recommend that readers start there. Deadlines and Dryads, however, should be read before Leads and Lynxes, as it shows how Kylie first met Zipporah the harpy (but don’t worry, it’s free).