Author: Marjorie Liu
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Stand Alone/Series: Book 8 of the Dirk and Steele series but can be read as a stand alone without any problems.
Summary:Lannes Hannelore is one of a dying race born to protect mankind against demonic forces. And while those who look upon him see a beautiful man, this illusion is nothing but a prison. His existence is one of pure isolation, hiding in plain sight, with brief solace found in simple pleasures: stretching his wings on a stormy night, long late drives on empty highways, the deep soul of sad songs. But when Lannes finds a young woman covered in blood—desperate and alone, with no memory or past—he will be drawn into a mystery that makes him question all he knows. And though it goes against his nature and everything he fears, Lannes will risk his heart, his secrets, and his very soul, in order to save someone who could be the love of his life…or the end of it.
Why Did I Read the Book: I got the ARC from the publisher (thank you Dorchester Publishing) , liked the blurb and decided to give it a go.
I received The Wild Road and was a little bit preoccupied about reading it. I had never read any of the Dirk and Steele novels (or any Marjorie Liu book as matter of fact) and since this is book 8 in a continuing series, I worried I was going to be too lost. But I was so intrigued by the blurb in the back, I decided to give it a go anyway and was delighted to find out that this could be read as a stand alone.
The Wild Road has one of the most riveting opening scenes I have ever read. A woman wakes up in a hotel room, covered in blood with the bodies of three men surrounding her and a note tagged to her jacket saying RUN. She realises that she has no idea of what has happened and proceeds to do what her instincts tell her – to get the hell out and freak out later. She manages to leave the hotel, still with blood all over her and barefoot, dodges everyone and runs. She realises a little later, when she is able to stop and catches her breath, that she is carrying an empty gun and is absolutely terrified of what she almost certainly has done. Furthermore, she not only doesn’t remember what had happened back at the hotel – she doesn’t remember anything: not even her name or what she looks like. But an internal voice keeps telling her to get going and she does so. As an opening act, it is gripping and heart pounding.
Cue to an introduction to the hero, Lannes Hannelore, who is sitting at a bar with his best friend Frederick. We learn in a few effective lines all that we need to know about Lannes: he is a gargoyle. An honest to God, real life gargoyle. Silver skin, face made of craggy lines, wings and pointy ears all of which are at the moment, disguised behind the illusion of humanity he can weave with a bit of magic which is the only way his species can get around in public. Lannes doesn’t go out a lot, he prefers to live on his island in Maine, doing his very solitary work as a bookbinder and restorer but Frederick needed his help and he had to come. He is not very happy though, sitting in the confined space of the bar, in public. Lannes is a man consumed with fear: fear he is going to be found out, fear of interacting with people especially women; above all fear of life ever since he was released from years of imprisonment in the hands of a witch who captured him and his brothers and transformed him into a stone statue. All he wants is to go back home.
But when he leaves Frederick at home for the night and goes to stretch his wings (when in public they are bound and strapped with a belt to his back and kept under the mask he wears) he finds the woman trying to steal his car. He is immediately drawn to her in many ways but mostly in his instinct to protect and help– he takes her to Frederick’s home. There, while she sleeps and using minor mind reading abilities, he can see that her memory is completely gone. It is not amnesia, it is not temporary, he can tell all of her memories have been extricated and they are NEVER to return. Lannes can relate with that and his heart goes to this woman who has suffered something akin to what he and his brothers have. And that settles it.
The woman, on the other hand, cannot understand how anyone would help an unknown person who can not give any information about herself and who had been covered in blood. She thinks Lannes is crazy or potentially dangerous and tries to flee, but her feet are hurt, she can’t go far plus with nowhere to go she is easily convinced to just go back and rest for a while.
Then another note shows up saying FIND ORWELL PRICE and RUN and with that clue they can get help from Lannes’ brother Charlie, who works for the Detective Agency Dirk and Steele and get an address. They drive to Orwell’s place and he seems to recognize the woman and freaking shoots Lannes. Then something happens inside the woman’s mind – Lannes can feel it – and she approaches the man, says “murderer” and proceeds to kill him in a very violent manner only to collapse in disgust and fear. Something or someone is controlling her mind and using her as an instrument for revenge for something terrible that happened many many years ago. Now they must find out why and who and try to get rid of this presence but by doing so they find out horrible truths that they must face, especially when they start to fall in love with each other.
Wow. I just loved this book. It is gritty and extremely violent in places but it is ultimately, such an emotional journey – this book has a heart and it was beating along with my own as I read how these two dealt with their lives and their fears. Especially how Lannes had to open himself up for the possibility of love. It has the underlying feel of a Beauty and The Beast story with Lannes being terrified to show his true face to the woman (who remain unnamed for a great part of the book ). By getting to know her he is putting himself out there, risking his life and his heart and the moment when he realizes that she likes him for all that he is, was a marvelous thing to read. I fell in love with him for all his vulnerability, his tenderness – a complete sweetheart without a single Alpha Male bone in his (virgin) body. By the end, they were prepared to risk everything and anything, to go to hell and back for each other. And I truly believed they would.
Other than that, the mystery of who the woman was and why she was being used kept me intrigued for most of the book. Later on they are joined in their road trip by two members of the Dirk and Steele agency (whose agents seem to be all of the supernatural beings variety with the purpose to help people) , Rictor and Koni – and they were both quite interesting characters too.
I have therefore, become an instant Marjorie Liu fan and am dully prepared to glom over her entire back list as of now.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: When Lannes finally realised that The Woman truly loved him exactly how he was and let all that was in his heart to overflow him. Heart-warming.
Additional Thoughts: Ok, I will buy it: who the hell is Rictor – the half-breed who seems to be immortal, dark and brooding that works for Dirk and Steele – and how come he hasn’t got a book yet? Will he be getting one? Anyone? Bueller?
Also, I love Marjorie Liu’s website for Dirk and Steele with a list of everyone that works there, with a small bio and sometimes even pictures of actors that I believe the characters were based on. Kori, the crow shape-shifter that helps Lannes and The Woman is based on Johnny Depp! Go check it out, it’s great fun.
Verdict: a very emotional journey that engaged my emotions from page 1. I love the writing style, the grittiness of the plot and above all the love story. I will be reading other books by Marjorie Liu.
Rating: 7 VERY GOOD.
Reading Next: Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake