Author: Harper Fox
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Beverley’s Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Ulysses’s Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 06/08/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Mystery, Paranormal
MI5 agents Marina Griffin and Leo South are made to be together. But their mission’s-end encounter with Ashkeloi gypsies in the Russian forest reveals a terrifying prophecy – a fate that will tear them apart, and re-echo into the lives of their sons, John and Mike.
Thirty years later, a deadly climate shift has opened up a seaway through the Arctic, and nuclear war is imminent as the global superpowers make a grab for the oil reserves suddenly exposed. Like everyone else, Mike and John just want to ride out the storm and protect the people they love, especially their boy Quin.
But love isn’t enough when the stakes are this high, and Mike and John too are in the grip of a destiny they can’t avoid. Summoned from their Glastonbury farmhouse to the office of their ex-boss, James Webb, they discover not only the truth about their heritage but the forces they will have to encounter if the war for the Arctic – and the future of humanity – is to be won.
This novel is wonderful. It is the sequel to (of course) Last Line, but these novels are two parts of a much bigger story. This is such a very beautiful, complex novel; I don’t really want to say too much about the plotline (if I could!) as it needs to unwind in a certain order of exposition. Being Harper Fox – the writing is extraordinary, and wraps you in a narrative that holds you in its thrall until the end.
Last Line 2 opens with a long prologue in a part of Russia we were introduced to in the first book, but this is set years before the first Last Line novel. While this prologue seems to be one thing, it becomes a marvellous part of the whole story, and is directly related to our heroes John, Michael and John’s younger brother, Quin.
I’m sorry – Ulysses’ review is far more coherent, but this novel really astounded me with its message and metaphorical beauty. Much of the story is set in and around Glastonbury Tor, and with such a setting, the magic of pagan beliefs and ritual – concerning the cycles of life and the elements – is visceral and real.
Harper Fox includes a mean action scene and her sex scenes are sublime – However, the way they are written blends violence and sex into elemental beauty. This quote shows a little of what I mean:
Here in barely-breathing silence, control and surrender met and charged the air to a glittering unbearable pitch. Mike was naked…
Harper’s writing is a combination of metaphoric, gentle, abstract, passionate, and intense – and utterly memorable. This last quote I think illustrates how one cleverly crafted simile can describe both emotion and location in less than half a sentence:
He counted off the thinning pines like the final seconds of a weary hour…
Like all very good writers Harper Fox knows the beauty of brevity when required, but can also tangle you in a passage of such intensity and emotion that you feel as though you have experienced the action personally.
I apologise for my incoherence – this novel affected me greatly, and goes on the shelf of my imaginary book club – where one day I will be able to discuss it to my heart’s content.
Below, Ulysses calls Harper Fox his hero – can I say she is mine too and for the same reasons he mentions.
Skyfall meets Harry Potter. But gay.
Harper Fox is a brilliant writer. I read on average two novels a week (sometimes more), and I have a sense of who all the good writers are in this genre. But Fox stands head and shoulders above any of them at this point, including her mentor, Josh Lanyon. This is not to lessen Lanyon in any way, but to honor his star pupil (so to speak). Plot and character drive Fox’s novels, but she never fails to enrich her prose with almost casual bits of beauty such as the notion that pigeons
purr and mutter on the window ledge outside.
Yet, there is nothing obvious or recherché about Fox’s writing. It flows and fills your mind with images and action. It feels effortless and masterful.
I hesitated as I started reading “Last Line 2: Ring around the sun,” because its predecessor (to which I also gave five stars) was harrowing and dark in a way I don’t usually associate with Harper Fox. These are not my favorite Fox novels, but they are nonetheless among her richest and best. I was overwhelmed immediately by the texture and detail of the book’s extended prologue, which introduces Marina Griffin and Leo South, undercover M15 operatives and, as it happens, parents of John Griffin and Michael South, the central duo in both novels. Fox hurls us into a deep, complicated back-story set in 1983, which both explains and confuses, setting us up for the actions in both “Last Line” and its sequel. There is nothing perfunctory or “I have to do this to launch the real story” in this prologue. It is a novella all to itself, a straight James Bond novel used as the precursor to a gay spy thriller laced with myth and magic.
I noted the magical elements flickering in the first book, and indeed as I suspected they would be, they are expanded upon and woven more profoundly into the plot here. The magic is never really explained, which might annoy purists or rationalists. But no one ever explains where magic began in the Harry Potter books either.
The names Griffin and South are bound to prophecies that offer visions of apocalypse or of salvation. It put me in mind of James Bond’s ghostly childhood manor house in “Skyfall,” and of Harry Potter’s tangled ancestral bloodlines in that epic series. This is a world in which destinies run deep, and we cannot avoid them however much we wish to. John and Michael’s coupledom, and their shared parenting of John’s younger brother Quin, are painted for us in lush picture-postcard hues appropriate for the verdant countryside in which they have landed. She makes them sexy and beautiful—and gives them inhuman powers that even they don’t want to acknowledge; but she does it without emphasis on physical attributes or sexual prowess. Everything is about their love for one another, and how that love provides the connection that binds them in every way. This warm, intense happiness is, however, a false sanctuary masking a fearful, pre-apocalyptic anxiety that will drag our unwilling heroes to the precipice of a man-made hell.
Harper Fox is a devoted M/M fiction author. She writes romances; but her romance writing is as good as that in any NY Times best-seller novel. She deserves a wider audience than those of us who are willing to read books about gay men in love. But she is loyal to people who want to read about gay men in love. And thus, to me, she is nothing short of a hero.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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