tl;dr: start from the beginning of this series for a wallop of a finish
I have found that even when a series of romance novels tends to be a collection of “standalones”, reading previous books is an asset to the enjoyment of all followups. The books build on each other, creating a universe of world-building in a small section of the world, introducing people, places, and a sensibility that carries through to the rest of the books.
So while The Cartographer is a fantastic book, with a solid arc for both characters, a rich world, and sexy smut, there’s something missing for someone that begins reading a series from the final book. However, this book is simply fantastic, and I will be going back to read the previous 5.
This book is about Rey, who I gather is sort of the linchpin to the group of people that comprise the series. He appears to be the one person that brings them all together, and so there’s a history to the relationships that precede this book. I was able to follow it, no problem, but I can’t help but think it would have been more meaningful and poignant if I’d had all of that backstory to go with it. Rey is the type of person who feels that he needs to help others, to the detriment of his own happiness. So he fights against his relationship with Allie Hart until he can’t. It’s hard to describe the plot in a way that gives justice to the highs and lows. Rey grooms Allie into the perfect submissive, intending to push him to move on to someone else once their relationship has run its course. But that doesn’t work out as planned.
This book is character driven. There is a deep dark secret, but it’s well-plotted. I’m unsure if Rey’s secret is revealed in earlier novels, but there was enough of a thread to go on to make the reveal not seem cheesy or overplayed.
Using both first person and present tense is a feat, but Tamsen Parker hits it out of the park. Home run. Kudos. Accolades. People, this is good writing. I can definitely see it not being for everyone, and it kind of pushed me out of my comfort zone a lot. First, it’s male/male, which I don’t typically read. It’s also very heavily BSDM, as Rey is a sadist. There’s a lot of heavy kink, which can be offputting to some readers. But the prose is magnificent.
There was a lot going on in this book, and I have to reiterate again that I think it would have been likely more of an impact if I’d followed the journey of all the characters from book one, which I highly recommend to anyone else considering this book. If the other books are even a fraction as well written as this, then I think it will be a treat to all.
This book doesn’t look like it’s available at your local library, so keep an eye here for that to change, or purchase from your favorite retailer.
Looking for more sadists? You can’t go wrong with Søren from Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners books. Start with The Siren.