Reeve of Veils by A.K. Faulkner (Inheritance #4)

Frederick d’Arcy is determined to unearth the truth behind his mother’s untimely death, but the only witness is a man whose mind Frederick cannot read: his twin brother, Quentin. And Quentin is up to his neck in trouble half a world away.

That trouble’s name is Kane Wilson. As Wilson works to out psychics and kill anyone who gets in his way, Frederick enters into a deadly game of cat and mouse. He must outwit, outthink, and outmanipulate Wilson without revealing the extent of his own powers, or the vengeance he seeks could be snatched from his grasp.

This isn’t the Knight of Flames you remember.

CONTRIBUTOR(S): RJ Bayley (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Ravensword Press
YEAR: 2022
LENGTH: 355 pages (10 hours 38 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Romance

General Vibe: LORD OF FLAMES from Freddy's perspective.

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s), Ace/Aro Main Character(s).

If you’ve read very many of my reviews, you probably know that I love retellings. Part of what I enjoy about retellings is getting to have the shape of something familiar, but presented in a totally new way. REEVE OF VEILS covers the events of KNIGHT OF FLAMES, this time from the perspective of a new romantic pairing. It gave me the wonderful gift of the feeling of a retelling, but within the same series as the original story. I love it, I love everything about how that’s handled. It even addresses several coincidences or oddly convenient things that happened to the characters from the time Freddy appeared (such as Laurence being unable to find his drug dealer in LORD OF RAVENS). It turns out that while helping Laurence and Quentin deal with Kane Wilson in KNIGHT OF FLAMES, Frederick, Quentin's twin brother, was actually doing a great deal of manipulation and organizing things behind the scenes. This includes but is not limited to reading a lot of people's minds, hiding his telepathic ability, trying to stymy his father's goals as much as possible, and removing Laurence's long-time drug dealer as a potential danger. 

The most convenient way for Freddy to remove this drug dealer from the danger zone is to make him no longer a drug dealer. To mold him into a new person, to help him become a better version of himself who is no longer slowly destroying other people's lives through addiction. A more confident, calmer, sexy version of... hey guess what he's the love interest. 

Mikey is a very smart, deeply wounded, and understandably nervous person who ended up dealing drugs and getting fucked in most of the deeply unpleasant ways that the life of a small-time drug dealer has to offer. He's willing to be turned into whomever Frederick wants (and finds the manipulation pretty hot, especially when he knows it's happening), resulting in a dynamic where Freddy's telepathy is comforting, just as permeating but not invasive because Michael had time to decide at the start, as fully informed as possible, whether to stay with Freddy or get the hell away. Frederick and Michael have a very well written relationship that I’m extremely glad I’m not in, but it seems like it is good for them in a bunch of really cool ways. Freddy needs someone who isn’t afraid of the power imbalance he brings to almost every relationship, and Michael is not only unafraid of it, but aroused by it, which is very good for their sex life. Michael needs someone who will not only promise to keep him safe, but has the power and resources to make good on that promise. While I can anticipate other powers in play threatening this is the series goes on, for the foundation of a mutually beneficial and overall positive relationship, it’s a very good start. 

Theirs is a very particular dynamic, one where both parties recognize the coercive power structures in play, and, rather than trying to remove them, accept the benefits and challenges of the arrangement. It's an opportunity to play with power dynamics in a sexual context, something that can be very erotic but hasn't been part of this series much until now. Many stories with telepaths have to deal with the practical ethics of being able to read someone's mind (narratively that's often the point of having telepaths involved to begin with). I love telepath stories, and I especially love how this one says "yes, and" to the potential difficulties with ethics and intimacy that are inherent in telepath/non-telepath relationships. Giving Frederick a love interest who is not only fine with having his mind read, but often gets turned on by it, that's a lot of fun for me as a reader and so far seems to be good for the two of them. When combined with this series' care and attention to the deleterious effects of cycles of abuse and exertion of power, this is probably my favorite book in the series so far. 

As a sequel, this doesn’t specifically wrap up any plot points that were left hanging in a direct way. Rather, it weaves in and around LORD OF FLAMES to show Frederick's side of a great many scenes between him and Laurence, either specifically or more generally, with Frederick summing up his own thoughts as various points of the narrative are reached. These retreads of previously-shown scenes fit around an entirely new storyline which takes place with Mikey and Freddy. Michael and Frederick are very different as narrators than Laurence and Quentin. Part, but not all of this is due to the fantastic voice work in the audiobook. As for the actual text, how they speak and what they think about are so different from each other. Structurally, one of the very cool things about this book's place within the larger story is that in LORD OF FLAMES there’s a long period of time where Quentin is recovering from a likely concussion, and that tedious process is largely skipped over because he was in bed, getting brain rest, recovering from the head trauma. That leaves a lot of room to play with in this book, seeing some of that recovery from Frederick's perspective, when the end-state is not in doubt, but we hadn’t already seen the details. Incidentally, ever since my own concussion several years ago, many depictions of concussions in fiction are stressful to read because they either gloss over them as no big deal, just shake it off and keep moving, or they linger on the slow recovery process and a bunch of ancillary ableism from other people. This does neither of those things. I hadn't discussed the concussion in my review of LORD OF FLAMES because most of the recovery time is skipped over, Quentin just spends a month or so recovering and then the story picks back up. Here, some of that time is shown from Freddy's perspective, as he was busy with his own machinations and with helping Michael get his life together, as well as checking in on Quentin so Laurence could get some time to himself and decompress. 

Weirdly, because of the way this retreads ground from the second book, this wouldn’t be the worst place for someone to start if they hadn’t read the other books and wanted to jump into the series partway through. I definitely don’t recommend that method, as I suspect that the immediate sequels will be much more closely intertwined with the first three books, possibly more fully integrating the four established narrators going forward. That being said, the fact that Frederick starts out genuinely not knowing a lot of things about Laurence means that his perspective can serve pretty well as a third person introduction to him as a character. But then, due to his familiarity with his own twin, this would make a pretty terrible introduction to Quentin. Since much of the narrative takes place during his convalescence, or while he’s running around away from Freddy, doing all the stuff he did in LORD OF FLAMES. These were perfectly suitable moments of characterization when they happen from the perspective of Quentin, or from Laurence, his boyfriend, but are much less helpful so as told by a brother who doesn’t feel the need to puzzle him out, and often isn’t in the same room. Any long-running series needs periodic landing points which can work to pull in new readers who might want to read the story going forward but aren't ready to go all the way back to the beginning, but I'm torn on whether this is the book I'd recommend for that. I'll have a better sense after I read the next one.

I like the ending, I’m glad that the last moments were new text, and not only the epilogue from LORD OF FLAMES, repurposed. Instead, that is present with new context around it, bookending the moment and showing some other things that happened. The epilogue briefly catches up through the end of LORD OF RAVENS, as those events for an outsider like Freddy happen so quickly that all he really needs is a quick update to understand what happened. This is definitely not the last book in this series, and the epilogue in particular provides an indication for what might be coming next. 

Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, classism, vomit, drug abuse, drug use, bullying, rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, physical abuse, child abuse, parental death, death.

Moderate CW for sexual content, blood, fire, police brutality, emotional abuse, toxic relationship, toxic friendship, gore, violence, murder, child death.

Minor CW for suicide, ableism, disassociation, disordered eating.

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