When I heard that Ilona Andrews was writing a book for Hugh, I was mystified. In the Kate Daniels novels Hugh was the brutal, remorseless Warlord for Roland, who cut a brutal path through Atlanta, killing many of Kate's near and dear friends and allies. He is not a heroic figure. He was a capital V-villain. But if we know a character's eye-color you know someone out there in Romancelandia is hoping for their book. I didn't think I was one of those people, and then I read the excerpt and I reconsidered.
Hugh is reframed in this book. He continues to be the fully-committed brutal warrior in the ridiculous over-sized horse. Having been exiled and cast aside by Roland, he has been un-moored and has spent nearly a year drowning himself in alcohol, until the surviving members of his Iron Dogs come find him. They are being killed off by Roland's men and they need to regroup for safety. Starving and down to their last coins, Hugh chooses to accept an unlikely alliance.
Elara has a castle full of followers and mysterious folks very determined to push her out of it. She needs Hugh and his troops as protection. She offers him a bargain. A marriage of convenience, where she will provide them income and a secure location and he provides protection. Both are desperate enough to make the bargain without looking to closely at each other's past.
Elara and Hugh's flirtation through mutual antagonism is one of my favorite tropes. Their tit-for-tat battles while putting on a nice face for bystanders just made me gleeful. I love particularly how their hyper-awareness of each other due to their suspicious natures, means they see each other in a way no one else does. They see past the bluster, and facade of control, to see when they are fearful or hurt. They are both under incredible pressure as leaders. Although they both have trusted friends on their sides, in the end they are both alone in making the hard choices for their communities. They have a lot of unvoiced feelings and secrets yet to unpack and I am eager to see where things go next for this couple.
I can't wait to learn more about Elara, her past with the Remaining and the reason she left with her Departed and just how Hugh will come to terms with what she truly is. I expect Ilona and Gordon Andrews to continue to unpack the dangers of religious devotion and where the lines are drawn between adoration, love and loyalty.
If you are a Kate Daniels fan already, I hope you pick up Iron and Magic.