Book Review: Leads & Lynxes by Rebecca Chastain

Leads & Lynxes by Rebecca Chastain, a fantasy set in Terra HavenTitle: Leads & Lynxes

Author: Rebecca Chastain

Publisher: Mind You Muse Books

Publication date: November 17, 2020

Genre: Fantasy

One Sentence Summary: Kylie Grayson has a debt that’s now come due, but with warped magic and a deadly labyrinth now surrounding her, she might not live to pay it off.

Journalism plus magic plus mythical creatures. I couldn’t resist. I mean, I don’t think I’ve stumbled across a fantasy where the main character is a journalist. Then again, I tend to turn more towards the epic high fantasy. But this one sounded like a lot of fun and full of adventure. And I was so right! Despite a somewhat slow start, it really picked up fast and it was so easy to just keep going.

A Breathless Adventure

In the prequel Deadlines & Dryads, which isn’t strictly necessary to read the first book of the series, junior journalist Kylie Grayson ended up making a deal with a pretty scary harpy in order to keep her life. Now the harpy has come to claim the answer to her question: will Kylie obtain a rock called the Chiefmaker?

Unfortunately, the harpy declines to tell her its located in an until now warded off area called Lunacy Labyrinth. Once a settlement where the residents performed blood magic, and were then twisted because of it, it’s become a seriously dangerous and deadly place. But, with a mysterious murder stumping law enforcement, including a certain Captain Grant Monaghan, that’s lead back to the labyrinth, the ward is now down, and the harpy wants her treasure.

While clashing with the undeniably attractive Captain, Kylie has to keep her wits and her life in order to make it out of Lunacy Labyrinth to be out of the harpy’s debt. But there are murderers using blood magic out there…

The story starts out innocently enough with Kylie and a senior reporter at an everlasting tree about to bloom. Once the tree blooms, everyone around it makes a wish and is granted a seed that will guide the questioner to the answer as long as they follow the clues it provides. It’s probably the slowest part of the book, but likely sets up the rest of the series, which I can’t wait to read more of.

The rest of the book felt more fast-paced and Kylie never really manages to catch her breath. There’s both a lot of threads coming together and a fairly straightforward story. It moves in a very linear fashion that almost cries for all the action and adventure surrounding every moment of the story, but it really made me focus on the characters, the danger they were in, and the story of a group of people just trying to solve a murder and survive. I loved how all the layers worked together and complimented each other. Most of all, I loved how they were actually integral to the story and never forgotten, but, instead, added to the book.

I loved that they were never really clear of danger. There was always something popping up around the next bend. There was always something happening. It was almost a breathless adventure. But it also kept its focus. The characters never lost sight of what they were there for, and the seeds carried their own thread throughout the entire story, never forgotten and nicely advanced. Sometimes intense, sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, it really swept me up and I raced to finish it to find out how it turned out.

Fun and Well-Crafted

The prequel isn’t necessary to understand and enjoy Leads & Lynxes, but I really liked that it was a fun introduction to the main characters and their relationships. By the time I finished the prequel, I was ready and waiting to be sent Leads & Lynxes. The characters were a lot of fun and I loved how they worked together, or not.

Kylie is spunky and dogged when she catches the scent of a story. She actually reminded me of a somewhat more cautious Nancy Drew. Willing to do everything necessary to track down the story of a lifetime, she actually really is focused on doing something good for society. She’s also not afraid to wander into danger, though she doesn’t always know she is. Still, she remains poised and ready to help however she can. I really liked her and admired her bravery and loved just how human she felt.

Then there’s Quinn, her companion gargoyle. He’s young and almost feels a child, but is hopelessly devoted to Kylie, making her feel incredibly protective of him. Yet he also had his fun, and funny parts, offering some comic relief while also admirably performing his job. He’s clearly much more than a companion and I adored how close he and Kylie are.

Grant Monaghan is set up early on as Kylie’s love interest, though they easily bristle and nettle each other. They never seem to know quite which foot they stand with each other, but they still manage to remain professional. As a, essentially, law enforcement character, he’s very rigid and stern, but has a surprising soft and warm side. He’s a perfect balance and I adored all of his subtle cues, the little things that said so much about both him and what he might be thinking.

Overall, all of the characters, from the bloodthirsty murderers to Kylie’s professional rival to Grant’s team, are wonderfully crafted. They’re unique and interesting and I feel like they have lives of their own off the pages. While some of them did blend together a little too much, it was just because they weren’t seen much. I liked how a manageable number of characters was introduced, but wasn’t overwhelming because the nature of the story focuses the reader down to a handful, though I hope to get to know them better in future books. Also, I loved the lynxes. They were fabulous and had so much character.

A Perfect Blend of Fascinating and Scary

Most of Leads & Lynxes is set in Lunacy Labyrinth, but the reader also gets a nice peek into Terra Haven and a chaotic camp around the everlasting tree. Each of them had it’s own unique flavor and character. The labyrinth was indeed crazy, and more than a little scary. Terra Haven felt like a city taken from a traditional fantasy novel and then had a healthy dose of modern big city mixed in. The camp was a little crazy, but, as a reader, I could almost feel the anticipation thick in the air as beings from all over traveled for the chance to ask a question.

I was delighted by Terra Haven in the prequel and was hoping to see more of it in this novel. While I might have been disappointed, Terra Haven still managed to charm me and felt both familiar and foreign in a really lovely way. If I could, I think I’d like to take a trip over.

Once Kylie was dropped in Lunacy Labyrinth, I figured most of the book would take place there and was slightly disappointed as I had hoped for a more adventurous adventure. There were so many secrets, so many literal twists and turns. I both wanted to get out and to explore more. It’s haunting and terrifying, but also so incredibly well-crafted.

Offers a Little of Everything

I haven’t read any of Rebecca Chastain’s novels before, and there is another series set in Terra Haven, but I was impressed with this novel and adored the characters and Terra Haven so much that I can’t wait to read the next book. The characters, the world, and the story worked so well together. The relationships were fun, and the one between Kylie and Quinn is just so sweet. Leads & Lynxes is an excellent start to the series, offering adventure, magic, friendship, a truly spunky heroine, and a hint of romance.

Great if you enjoy: straightforward fantasy, strong friendships, creature companions, spunky heroines, Nancy Drew, elemental magic, adventure

Not great if you’re looking for: complex fantasy, heavy world building, traditional fantasy

How many cups of tea will you need?

5 cups, definitely

About Rebecca Chastain

REBECCA CHASTAIN is the USA Today bestselling author of the Madison Fox urban fantasy series and the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles fantasy trilogy, among other works. Inside her novels, you’ll find spellbinding adventures packed with supernatural creatures, thrilling action,heartwarming characters (human and otherwise), and more than a little humor. Rebecca lives in Northern California with her charming husband.

Visit her website for more information.

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Want to see what this world is all about before dipping into your book-buying budget? Try the prequel today for free! Deadlines & Dryads is a standalone novella that takes place just before the events of Leads & Lynxes. It is not necessary to read either book to enjoy the other, but why not partake in a free adventure?

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Thank you to the author, Rebecca Chastain, for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

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