Everything from family drama to Greek gods

5/5 stars

If you like fantasy that makes you question the world around you, Mark Johnathan Runte’s “Ash,” the start of his Mythos series, is just the book for you. His slightly gritty, urban fantasy is a fantastic read. With everything from family drama and romance to shapeshifters and Greek mythology come to life, this book has a little bit of something for everyone.

Action-packed from the opening scene, brother’s Daniel and Jocelyn LaLaurie are a fast-paced race against time to get away from their father, an upstanding member of New Orleans society who is way more than meets the eye. They settle far home in the small town of Calais, Maine, in a small bed-and-breakfast, which poses problems at first for the trans-masculine Jocelyn.

The brothers maneuver through their issues with a fantasy-lover’s delight of a menu of a cast of characters. From the Wiccan innkeeper family to the shapeshifters and ancient Greek gods, one never knows who might pop up next in Runte’s story. Considering he’s called it the “Mythos” series, that makes sense.

Throughout, the story has a gritty, noir feel, perpetuated by the plot. Runte’s ability to portray that something – and in this case several things – were leering in the background out to get our beloved main characters was weaved beautifully into the narrative. Drama, romance, brotherly love, and magic were weaved throughout the tale in a way that did not challenge suspension of disbelief like some fantasy can. The world was extensive and felt ripe for exploration. Eerily similar enough to our own, it made you wonder if there were witches and Greek gods hidden nearby in your own neighborhood. Perhaps doubly so, since I do, in fact, live in New Orleans.

The whirlwind romance at the center of much of the story felt a bit rushed, but it made sense in the narrative and worked within the story. The stories and characters were rich, and well thought out. The brother’s struck an interesting balance between siblings and parents, which also made sense within the story. Jocelyn is as loveable in his late adolescent optimism, as Daniel is in his slightly older practicality. A good balance and foil. Because of the whirlwind nature of the romance, I didn’t get to know the female character as well as I’d like. Though perhaps this was a big of underdevelopment of her. A common issue in fantasy novels.

Overall, the story was a great read. I enjoyed the blend of different elements – drama, romance, fantasy, family. The story was multi-dimensional and provided a great exploration of the human condition as experienced by these two exceptional brothers. It also left me wanting to know more about the characters, which is always the mark of a great book.

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the next novel, as a beta reader. But I’m confident when you read “Ash,” you’ll be waiting for the next installment to drop.

Content Warning: A few characters have murderous psychopathic tendencies and will gaslight or manipulate other characters to their will. This story also mentions the serial killer Delphine LaLaurie.