Book Review: The Calm Before by Neena Jaydon

The Calm Before
by Neena Jaydon
Less Than Three Press
Fantasy/Alternate Universe M/M Romance
4 Stars
Review copy supplied by publisher


The elven city-state of Airgead abounds with modern, magic-based technology, but has not overcome its antiquated views of race and class. Riagan refused to let such outdated views stop him in his climb from the streets all the way to the top of society--but that climb has brought more than a few enemies with it.

Seduced by Riagan at a party, Elisedd soon realizes he's just one more pawn, one more toy, and he refuses to be hurt ever again. But try as he might, he cannot seem to escape Riagan's hold, and instead finds himself dragged deeper into a world of passion, scheming, and a growing anger that threatens to tear Airgead apart...


Take the world we know, shift and twirl it a bit and you might get the elven world of Airgead. I was expecting a more traditional fantasy, with elves, swords and sorcery, but intstead it reads more like a different universe of our known world. There are elves and magic, but there are also technologies we know such as cars, electricity and television.

Riagan is an elf who worked his way up from the gutter to be the head of a large corporation and he takes no nonsense from anyone.

Elisedd is half-human, half-elf and is ostracised by both worlds. Elves are the ruling power and humans are mostly seen as an expendable workforce in mines and industries, or as prostitutes for the elves.

At an elven party, after seducing Elisedd, he tries to pay him, mistaking him for one of the human rent-a-lads Riagan often dallies with. Hurt and angry, Elisedd vows he wants nothing more to do with the stuck-up elf, but things don't work out that way.

The world building in the novel is very good, you get a feel for the places and the politics and the writing flows well. Elissedd and Riagan are both well-drawn characters and at first I liked Elisedd more than Riagan, he just seemed nicer somehow. As the book progresses though you get to hear a bit more about Riagan's life and the things that shaped him into the man he is and you can understand his reticence in not wanting his heart to get involved.

It reads as part thriller, part romance and both parts melded together seamlessly. We have corrupt politicians, humans revolting and family secrets laid bare. There are a couple of love scenes in the book, written very sensually, almost lyrical in a way. The romance didn't seem rushed, not counting that first night. You had the sense Riagan and Elisedd were taking their time and trying to suss each other out.

I did enjoy the book, but I am still a little disappointed that it wasn't the traditional sort of fantasy I expected, but that's my expectation rather than any fault of the book. It reads more like Urban Fantasy, so if you like that, you'll enjoy this. I like my magical fantasies withoout cars and electricity, but that's just me. It just seems strange to me to read a book about elves who work in an office and drive cars :)

It's a well written, well told story with characters you care about.


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