Salt and Iron, by Tam MacNeil
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Day: March 7, 2016
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
James van Helsing is the youngest son of the famous monster-hunting family—and the family’s big disappointment. He’s falling in love with Gabe Marquez, his oldest friend and son of the family the van Helsings have worked alongside for years. Things get even harder for James when he becomes what he and everyone else despises most—a magic user.
He didn’t mean to evolve into such a despicable person, and he knows using magic is illegal, but there’s nothing James can do about it, no more than he can stop himself from loving Gabe. Just when things can’t seem to get worse, he and Gabe are called to help nab a network of magicians who are changing destiny. Not just any destiny, but the destinies of the van Helsing and Marquez families. James foresees a terrible fate, one in which monsters emerge from the cracks, along with his dark secret. And that’s when people start to die.
Gay M/M Romance
Friends to Lovers
You see the words “van Helsing” in a paranormal fantasy novel, and you probably think “Oh, another Dracula story”. Nope, not with Salt and Iron! MacNeil’s van Helsings are the modern-day descendants, using cell phones alongside traditional folk solutions for killing monsters.
We’re talking salt and iron, Gabriel Marquez. Salt and Iron. And blood.
Yes, this is still a Good vs Evil story. It’s still about the humans battling the monsters, the van Helsing family trying to defeat the creatures lurking in the dark. However, the main character, James, is not like the rest of the van Helsings.
But MacNeil manages to separate this novel from the hundreds of other human vs. monster stories. She carefully disassembles the stereotypes; the good guys are still good… or are they? The bad guys are monsters, but are they evil? What makes a monster? The characters make you question, make you think. And add to that a lot of action, intrigue, and magic… yeah, this novel definitely kept my attention!
The point of view does shift around a lot, though, which bothered me more than expected. At first it’s almost entirely from James’ POV, but then it starts to shift to other characters. I also really disliked that it was in present tense, but that’s a personal stylistic preference.
A fascinating plot, some very interesting world-building, and a compelling main character makes this a great read for fans of urban fantasy and mysteries with magic.
If you’re a fan of Holly Black’s YA novels, then you will probably really enjoy this one! It has a similar feel, with darkness, intrigue. It reminds me a lot of White Cat and Red Glove, as both are about families entrenched in magical worlds, and main characters trying to uncover mysteries about themselves.
Tam MacNeil grew up in the Rocky Mountains and moved out west to go to university, and there she stayed. In the rainy season, she writes, reads, drinks far too much coffee, bakes, and cooks, and works hard to maintain an addiction to pop culture, social media, and cartoons. She also writes contemporary romance under the name T Neilson.
Tam is the author of A Fine Romance and Submission Guidelines [my review] under T Neilson, as well as several anthology pieces and novellas!
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.