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Spoiler!! This story takes place in the same universe as Zodiac Academy so this alone had me 😍 We follow Élise whose brother had died in mysterious circumstances, she goes to his previous school and take his place where she will meet the four main suspect Ryder a basilisk ( can't stop thinking about the basilisk in harry potter each time he get mentioned 😅) who is the head of the lunar brotherhood at the academy Dante a gemini and a dragon shifter. Sinba ( hum hum I mean Leon sorry 😓) whom although is not my favorite I like all the Leon kings reference he can get 😂😂 And Gabriel a harpy. I really liked to have Gareth point of view, it give information about what happen to him that only reader know about and we are dying to figure out the whole truth along with Élise What I love the most in this story is all the little details, like the different crowns for each of the kings and a mask for Élise. For once I read the original story before the spin off so I was overwhelmed with reference to Z. A Ps I love how they make a big deal of Gabriel having two power and that is was uncommon in their area I was just like : that's a basic in za just wait for the twins. PPS : Ryder has a motorcycle so it would be so fun do to a cross over where Tory steals it.
I judge a 5-star book by the following criteria: • It draws me in on the initial reading where I don’t feel compelled to skim any parts and I feel that nervous energy while reading where you are so enthralled with what is happening and the characters that you feel genuinely excited to be a voyeur into their world • When I can’t stop thinking about it after I’ve read it • When I buy it. I read a lot from KU but if I turn around and buy the book, it’s a 5-star • When I search almost daily for the next release like an obsessed person (cause I am 😉) • When I find truly unique elements to a story. Regardless of the genre most concepts seem to just repeat (again and again and again) with minor tweaks but nothing really fresh or new. I LOVE when I stumble upon a truly new take on something.
I read a lot, but I wouldn’t say that I come across the experience above all that often (unfortunately ☹). IMO, there are a lot of good books but not a lot of GREAT. I’m here to tell you that Dark FAE is among the greats for the following reasons (and more). • Fantastic writing (low/no distracting grammatical errors), • Story building and flow (this book moves between points of view and timelines but it does it flawlessly where you never lose track of where you are or who you are with – that takes some serious skill!) • Pacing (sometimes books move too slow or two fast, this one is perfectly paced) • Character development – too often books don’t take the time to really warm you up to the characters so you end up being invested only in one or two (or none). That is not the case with this book. These characters are going to intrigue you and capture you and not let you go. • A real plot! While we all enjoy the heat and steam of a romance, a five-star book needs a real story to keep your attention. This one has a gripping story. One of loss and heartbreak, not just for the fmc but also for several of the other characters. There are multiple stories within this story but you will quickly see how they are blending into one larger story that will keep you guessing and hoping with just the perfect amount of humor, angst and excitement • Perfect amount of steam, heat and building romance – cause let’s be honest, most of us reading in this genre are also looking for the thrill, heat and steam of characters that spark off each other in the smexiest of ways…
Quick intro to the primary characters • Elise (fmc) – IMHO, Elise is one of the most perfectly balanced fmc’s I have read in a long time. I hate fmc’s that are victims. I much prefer a strong fmc who knows her mind and does not bow easily. Elise is fierce but not proud, she is badass but also vulnerable. You can really feel in this book that she has a focused mission and outside of that she has drifted into an apathetic state about life and her future beyond exacting vengeance for the tragic loss of her brother. Seeing life to start to spark in her again as the story progresses is beautiful. • Gareth (Elise’s brother) – Gareth is such an interesting character. Technically by the start of the book you already know that Gareth is dead. You might logically assume that since he is dead, that’s where his story ends and you won’t come to know or feel much for him. This is where these authors did something truly unique. Gareth is a significant character in this book and he tells his own story along the way. You are going to genuinely like Gareth as you come to know him (you may even start to love him). Gareth is so real in this story that your heart is going to break over and over when you remind yourself that he is gone. As the story progressed, I started to become both impressed and seriously miffed that these authors made me fall in love with someone that has no HEA. Still have to give it to these ladies for doing something unexpected that really makes you feel. • General thoughts on the males - this is an RH with four potential guys as the love interests – Leon, Dante, Ryder, Gabriel. What is super interesting about the men in the story is that they are so very different. Each of them affects Elise in a very different way. These are not your standard trope males typically found in an RH. They are each so “real” with their own story to tell as part of this bigger story. I usually quickly begin to favor one or two guys above the rest but in this book at least, there is so much character development with each guy and they are so very different from each other (with blazing chemistry sparking off of the fmc as well as each other (not in an m/m way but more in a adversaries or friendship way – still gripping chemistry though), I think you will have a hard time establishing favorites in this first book. • Leon – Adjectives for Leon are funny, sweet (and hot – of course all of the guys are 😉). This guy is surprisingly funny, not just in his jokes but in how he thinks and how he acts. He’s not trying, he is just genuinely hilarious. He is going to change Elise as much as she will change him. He will bring light into her world and she will bring a bit of reality into his. You’re going to love this guy. Trust me. • Dante – Adjective is Sexy. OMG… check out chapter 22 and then check your pulse. Side note, Dante speaks a fair amount of Italian phrases in this book and the authors don’t translate them (which I surprisingly LOVED!) Each time I would find a phrase in the book I would go out to google and translate it. Translating these phrases was like finding unexpected treasures in the book. • Ryder – Adjectives are Intense and DARK. I read a fair bit of dark in my novels and RYDER is a different type of dark than I have ever seen in one of the lead males in an RH before. • Gabriel – Adjective is Mysterious. You’re going to have a bit of whiplash from this character and likely you won’t know what to think of him by the end of the book.
A few of my favorite quotes (I have dozens) “Shit Leo, you’re gone be one fat old man,” I commented as I watched the weird display unfolding. [Elise] “It’s my Lion charisma,” he complained halfheartedly. “It makes women crazy for me, I can’t help it. Call it animal magnetism. I can’t switch it off, it just works.” [Leon] “Not on me,” I disagreed, though I had to admit that I was drawn to him. That came with zero desire to start folding his undies into neat stacks or feeding him by hand. [Elise] ……………………………………….. “You…splendi piu luminoso di tutte le stelle nel cielo, bella,” he said with a smile that made my stomach do a backflip even though I didn’t know what it meant. [Dante speaking to Elise] “Stop eye-effing my date, man” Leon teased, thumping Dante squarely in the bicep and drawing his attention away from me. “And don’t use that foreign pantie dropping crap on her either.” [Leon speaking to Dante]
Conclusion If you like romance with a strong story and characters that really grab you and don’t let go, click this book. If you’ve been on the fence at all for reading this book either because it is an RH and that’s not your thing or you don’t go in for fantasy, I encourage you to put aside those thoughts. Read even just the first two chapters and I dare you to stop.
Honestly, everything I’ve read from these authors has been fantastic. If you’re a fan of zodiac academy series you will love these. The characters, the plot, the world, everything is just truly amazing. I’m completely obsessed.
Reader, I’m as surprised as you are that I’m writing this review. Good students of English literature are not supposed to indulge in such fantasy fiction and *like* it! I’m supposed to sneer and spit and pick it apart for its predictable conventions! This story is undergirded by “fae” world rules, but the story is so much more creative and inventive than just featuring the winged meanies who fart in the general direction of the (cough-cough) humans and their paltry, mortal probs. Not here! This story packs in vampires, storm dragons (can I get a what-what?!), lion-shifters, Pegasuses (LOL), Harpies—remixes them as creatures who can also command elements—and *then* sorts their mysterious origins into gangs and schools and whole & broken families with varying degrees of privilege, education, money, and hard living.
I bought this book on a lark(2-for-1) and I’m glad I didn’t let the lackluster title stop me from giving it a try. The main “king” characters are broody and hilarious (at times), and I deeply appreciate the heroine-protagonist’s dry wit and easy resistance to the sway of all of those hunky dudes. She’s fierce and capable without being too caustic. She’s flirtatious and calculating. Funny and cold. She’s driven and distracted. Hooray for characters who embrace contradictions!
I appreciate the mystery and discovery of the how the world looks through both human and not-human eyes (like the dude who can shift into being a snake): “I wound through the trees, tasting a thousand scents on the air from the crispness of pine trees to the earthiness of moss. I sensed the heat of a deer herd before they stampeded away from me and I slithered deeper into the forest. The mossy ground made my scales slide smoothly along the ground, leaving no trail at all as I headed toward the most north eastern corner of campus. I slid through a small stream and up a steep bank, coming to a halt beside the entrance to the Kipling Cache with a deep rattle in the depths of my body.” (Chapter 34)
I mean, come on! Is that not cool? Well, if you aren’t impressed by the rattle that comes from deep within one’s snake body, perhaps you should give this one a miss. Besides some fun aesthetics and excellent criticism on power dynamics within families, institutions, crime lords, and haves vs. have-nots, there is the excellent tension provided by the plot’s main question: who killed G?? This mystery continues.
File Under: Suspend Disbelief and Enjoy the Flight
I started reading Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti's books about Solaria with the Zodiac Academy. After book 3 of ZA I interrupted that series to read Ruthless Boys of the Zodiac starting with Dark Fae. I think it makes sense to read the first few ZA books and then read this series.
Elise' older brother Garreth died under suspicious circumstances, but as Elise' family is poor and basically nobodies in their corrupt, gang-ruled city of Alestria, so the authorities don't bother to investigate anymore than necessary. Garreth had been living away from home at the Aurora Academy, trying to get a good education and with the eventual goal of getting him and his sister out of their miserable life in Alestria. He was Elise' everything and now he is gone. So Elise manages to take his place at Aurora, because during her own investigations on the streets of Alestria she got one clue about Garreth' death, i.e. that it was "the King" who is responsible for Garreth' death. At Aurora there are currently 4 students who each are seen as Kings of the school: The two rival gang leaders Dante and Ryder, Leon the King of Thiefs and Gabriel, a loner, who is actually too powerful and elite-like to even be enrolled at Aurora (and not at a more prestigious school such as Zodiac Academy). I like that the authors have the setting of this prequel series be very different from Zodiac Academy. The city and school of this series is rougher and shows a different side of Solaria. The series also indicates some clues about Zodiac Academy and the story line of that series. It will take more than being schooled in a sort of ivory tower education and upbringing and be the most powerful fae (like the four heirs have experienced) to be a just and fitting ruler of this world. Say what you want about the Vega girls lack of knowledge and education but I think they are more fit to deal with a city like Alestria than Darius, Caleb, Seth and Max.
At the beginning it seems that Ruthless Boys will be a more solemn story, however, once Elise enters the school and tries to get closer to all four Kings, the story really becomes addictively amusing. The four guys and her flirting and interaction with them are really fun to read. And beside that main plot line of her investigation so many other side plots are unfolding and the characters come to live.
What I also really like about this prequel series is that it has these mafia-romance-like elements without being a true Mafia Romance. With those I often get second hand embarrassment, but in a Paranormal Urban Fantasy series it's way better to read about typical gangster behaviours and tropes, as it's those are in context of characters being shifters and using magic.
I can really recommend Dark Fae and the Ruthless Boys of the Zodiac. Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti are great entertainers and story tellers, who can get their readers get hooked on their characters and their sense of humor.
I’ve been in the mood for fantasy romance reads and this one was perfect! It’s very plot driven, which is kind of uncommon for romance books, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any spice. The spice starts out relatively low in this book, but each book after gets spicier and spicier 🔥I love each of the heroes in this series as they each give something to heroine that the others can’t, although I am strongly Team Ryder. One of my favorite things about the books these authors come out with is how they are able to unfold the mystery in each book. I’m usually just wanting to see how the relationships turn out, but I am extremely invested in finding out who the killer is! I can’t wait to finish this series!
This is the first book and the first book always doesn't get good until the end. You have to set the story line up and get to know the characters. However, this book had me pulled in and needing to know more about all the characters. I really liked how you got the point of view from Gareth. I would not say this book is spicy but more steamy. Like the build up of what I know is to come. I would give it 2.5/5 on spice scale but 5/5 on steam. I am reading this before ZA so let's see how this journey goes.
Well the Peckham sisters have written my new favourite book. They've created a compelling storyline with dark mysteries, family secrets, a kick-ass heroine, and of course a group of hot rich guys. So I sometimes find in RH that the dynamics between the group are hard to get down, resulting in cringy or cliché relationships. This was not the case with Dark Fae. The multiple POV's between the female protagonist and the guys kept them all engaged in the storyline, afforded multiple perspectives, and also gave ample backstory to allow each one their own unique personality to shine through.
After Elise's brother, Gareth dies she has 3 goals in life: 1) find out who killed Gareth 2) kill that motherf**ker. Slowly. 3) figure out the rest of my life (presuming said murderer doesn't kill me first and I don't get caught.
The one clue she has about the person responsible is that they're a King. The only problem is, Aurora Academy has more than one and they are some of the underground's most powerful heirs.
Character: From page 1, we know that Elise is strong and not just because she's a Vampire. She's suffered, she's grieving, and yet she also remembers the best of her brother and finds laughter with the guys. And this is worth the read just to see her run circles around them. The beginning is hilarious, as they all assume that she'll just fall into bed with them and their honest shock that she doesn't had me laughing. But I liked that she stayed true to herself and remained neutral in the cutthroat politics of the gang warfare at school. She meets every challenge thrown at her and offers more than a few of her own. She's easy to respect and admire. She does toy with the guys, but she doesn't play with their hearts as we see her genuine care for them as she gets to know each one for who they are, past their gangs and family reps.
Gabriel: Was an enigma wrapped in shadows and wings. And my favorite out of the bunch. His dark and broody nature had me swooning. Without his POV, we probably wouldn't have a clue what was going on in his head but his special relationship with Elise had those warm tingly feelings going.
Dante: Was the storm dragon, heir to the Oscura clan and one of the most powerful King's at the Academy. It was hilarious to see the dance between him, Elise, Ryder, Gareth & Leon. The grudging respect and connection that he begins to form with Elise is worth reading as the story continues.
Ryder: If we are going for the most dark and tortured character, Ryder would definitely take the cake. I mean, the guy literally has the word 'pain' tattooed on his hand. Really though, as we get glimpses of his past, all that bottled up rage kinda begins to make sense. The way Elise starts to crack his stony exterior though is captivating to see.
Leon: Definitely deserves the Golden Boy award. Right down to his surfer style looks, he's easily the most funny and charming out of the group. And his relationship with Elise is hilarious to watch as he finds himself, for the first time, on the receiving end of rejection.
Final thoughts: This book had me hooked from chapter 1. The setting, the characters. This was an easy 5⭐️. My two favourite scenes in the book were the breakfast eggs and ketchup moment, and that very crowded time that Leon asked Elise to the spring formal. 🤣
This was my first RH and it will forever be a favorite. I really enjoy the murder mystery, everything always circles back to it and every time one question is answered, the answer leads to more questions.
Elise is one of my favorite FMCs. She is strong, stubborn and funny but drowning in her grief. I find it easy to relate to her. Leon is immediately great because of his humor and charm. I was instantly attached to Ryder because he's the bad-boy and you just know there is more to him than what he shows. Dante, that faetalian really gets me going but I went back and forth between wanting to like him and not caring for him. And Gabriel, as much as I enjoyed him in ZA, I honestly highly dislike him during Dark Fae. I understand his thought process but boy, does he frustrate me to no end. Again, another thing I can relate to Elise with.
With so many characters its easy to think that the plot can be all over the place because there is literally so much happening, so much to develop and cover but I thought it was done very well. I was still able to follow along, never losing interest.