To read an interview with the authors, please see the April issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.
Playing with Fire
(Book One, Criminal Elements Series)
Cris & Clare Meyers
The rules are simple: Get in. Get out. Get paid.
Loner Renee Devereaux is a thief with a lot to hide, and trust is a risk she rarely takes. Stone Anders is a mercenary and hitman, but being a hired killer isn’t fitting like it used to. But while they are criminals, they are anything but common. Renee and Stone are Talents, and their supernatural powers give them an edge in a high stakes business where one wrong move could be their last.
It’s always just one job, and everyone scatters—sometimes in less than favorable circumstances. For Renee and Stone, that’s business as usual. But things change.
A chance at revenge draws Renee and Stone into a job they know they shouldn’t take. The job: Steal a dangerous magical artifact before it can be used. Along with the deadline, they’ll have to deal with a loudmouth hacker with problematic connections, a rookie who still believes in ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and a professional liar with a cat’s curiosity.
Worse, something just doesn’t feel right.
But this is their job. They have a reputation to maintain, a paycheck to earn, and a score to settle…
That was when they would make their move. Renee’s little taser spell would take care of some of the guards, and Stone himself would deal with two more. They would be in between the moving patrols so, if everything went right, the rest of the guards would be out of position to interfere.
Until then they just had to stay down and out of view.
… Or at least, that’s all they should have needed to do… Dammit.
A car had just pulled up, and four people—three guys and one woman—jumped out.
“We’ve got new players,” Stone whispered, turning to Renee. She immediately leaned around him to look for herself.
“Merde,” she muttered, her eyes following the newcomers’ movements. “Hold a moment.”
Rook’s voice came over their headsets again. “Wait, what?”
“Give us a minute,” Stone ordered.
He looked back towards the warehouse door. All four had fanned out and had positioned themselves at various points along the front warehouse wall. Perhaps Isaacs had arranged some Talented security after all. They certainly didn’t look like normal security guards, but they were clearly expected. Neither of the two guards at the door seemed surprised by their arrival. Hell, from their reactions, this wasn’t the first time these four had shown up. He glanced back at Renee, who was watching them and frowning.
“What is it?” He wasn’t picking up on any Talent from the new arrivals, but he was far enough away that he probably wouldn’t. “We assumed they’d have magic defenses. We planned for this.”
Renee’s eyes narrowed as she studied the four, shaking her head. “But those are not Talents.”
“Are you sure? What the hell are they doing here otherwise? He’s already got security grunts,” Stone asked. He wasn’t exactly skilled in rituals and the like, but it certainly looked like they were setting up some sort of defensive magic over there.
She raised an eyebrow at him. “I am. They are… pretending. Badly.”
“I hate to interrupt you guys, but wanna tell me what’s going on in there? I mean, if it’s not too much trouble,” Rook interrupted again. Renee didn’t say anything, instead returning to her study of the pretenders and letting him handle Rook. At the very least, they’d missed their first shot; they’d have to wait until the next guard switch.
Much as he didn’t like Rook, Stone had worked with worse people. Though Rook was definitely in the top five jackasses he’d worked with. “We’ve got four new faces out here. It looks like Marcus is putting on a show for everyone. How’d we miss these guys? They’ve been out here before; the guards obviously recognize them.”
“I did my job. I spent hours out there, mapping out security and checking for any magic on site,” Grace answered over the headset.
“This is not magic. It is a play… for a captive audience,” Renee said. Her eyes never left the group by the door. “A show for the benefit of anyone watching…”
There was a pause before Rook’s voice came back over the channel. “Dammit, you’re right.”
“Did he just admit I was right?” Renee asked, turning momentarily to glance at Stone before looking back at the performers. They might not be real Talents, but that didn’t mean they could be ignored either.
“Don’t get used to it,” Rook retorted. Stone shook his head. “So what’s the call? If we pull out now…”
“Then we won’t necessarily get another shot, I know.” Stone glanced over at Renee and then back to the troupe. Variables were a problem, even exceptionally weird ones like this. The actors might not mean anything, but they were also one big question mark. He wasn’t in the habit of burning a job just because a single unknown entered the picture. “What do you think?”
Uncaged Review: This urban fantasy is a fun read, and different from most on the market. Most of the time we have the heroes saving the day, but in this series, we have very unique thieves, and the jobs that they do are complex and well written, with interesting characters that are not really “good guys” but they are better than the ones they are stealing from. Toss in some abilities known as Talents, and shapechangers, and you have a very interesting and well thought-out world.
We meet Renee and Stone, both Talented and both very good at what they do. Renee has been on her own for a quite a number of years, moving around, doing jobs on her own, until Stone – a mercenary and an ex-hitman. After a job together in which Renee goes against her own rules and saves Stone. They form an alliance, and a romance (I guess – this is not an “in your face” romance by any means, you just pick up bits and pieces here and there). When they are teamed up with a rag tag group for a job, the intricacy of the writing shines.
This is a very cohesive writing team. You cannot tell where one begins and another stops. There is some humor, but this is more of a plot-driven story, than a character-driven. Some of the strategy, although well written – was a bit long winded. This is a really good debut novel, but I’d like to see better character development and interaction to bond with the characters better.
Reviewed by Cyrene
Fly by Night
(Book Two, Criminal Elements Series)
Cris & Clare Meyers
The game has changed.
Rook is a wisecracking hacker, a shapeshifter who prefers the name ‘were-crow,’ and former underling to a Talented crime boss. But as supernatural powers go, he’s no heavy hitter.
After a job blew up in his face, Rook thought the worst thing he’d have to deal with was criminal unemployment. But when he starts losing his mind to mysterious voices, being broke takes a backseat. And once his apartment goes up in smoke, Rook knows he’s in trouble.
Out of his depth and trying to dig his way out of a hole not entirely of his own making, Rook must put his survival—and his sanity—in the hands of people who have their own mysterious reasons for helping him.
With trust in short supply and time ticking down, Rook will need to find a way to make this uneasy alliance work before even more of his life goes up in flames.
Uncaged Review: The second book in this series brings back the characters from book one, but this time it’s written in the first person narrative of Rook, the computer hacker that seemed to get everyone in trouble in the first book. But this time, someone is out to kill him – and almost kills Medium in the process so he is forced to ask for help from Grace, Renee and Stone, who are still having a problem with him from the events of the last mission. On top of all that, Rook who is already a crow shapechanger, is having vicious headaches – hearing voices and noises that the only way he feels like he can calm down is by heavy drinking. But he’s really manifesting a Talent of empathy. Getting it under control is a whole new story, and he’ll need Renee’s help so he doesn’t go insane.
As the narrative is written in Rook’s POV, there is a ton of sarcasm, swearing and his un-winning attitude in this book. The book is still heavily plot driven but there is a lot more character depth this time out. But if they were going to narrate from one character’s POV, Rook was the perfect choice.
The action ramps up and the strategy is well thought out, much like the first book. But I liked this one even better than the first. After the first book, I wasn’t sure Rook would ever be accepted back into this crew, but you will find yourself rooting for him. Reviewed by Cyrene