Title: Into the Fire: the Complete Series
Author: Mia West
Length: 716 Pages
Category: Historical, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3.75 Stars
At a Glance: I can say with some confidence I wouldn’t have been as compelled to carry on with Arthur and Bedwyr’s adventures if I had read this compilation of stories first, not at all because Mia West failed to tell a gripping and heartfelt story, but because I wholeheartedly believe I needed to love these characters first in order to make that all-important emotional connection with them via this collection.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: The blacksmith who hid his desire. The soldier who never knew…until now.
When Rome falls, Marc treks home across the desolation to find everything changed, including his boyhood friend Wolf. Gone is the big, clumsy lad. In his place at the forge stands a man as skilled as he is shy.
And surely not interested in feeding the spark he’s just lit in Marc’s belly. One that feels unnervingly like hope.
When Marcus left to fight, Wolf had a secret. One that burned so hot he shoved it down deep. Now Marc’s back, hardened by war and survival into something only fire could mend.
Wolf knows fire. And every day in Marc’s presence tempts him to use it. But with the world in chaos, can he risk incinerating them both?
Review: Mia West’s Into the Fire is comprised of nine novellas and two shorts that, collectively, tell the origin story of Arthur ap Matthias’s grandfathers, Marcus Roman and Wolfram Smith. I had no idea this prequel existed before I read the Sons of Britain books, and, as luck would have it, I’m glad I didn’t happen upon this anthology first.
Marcus and Wolf have already passed when Arthur is introduced as a headstrong and reckless eighteen-year-old in Marked by Fire (his visiting their burial site is one of the more touching and important elements of his odyssey), but there is little doubt of the impact both men had on their grandson, and indeed their family and community as a whole. Opening thirty-nine years prior, in 476 CE, after the fall of the Roman Empire, Marcus returns to his childhood home. He’s spent twenty years in the army, has spent those two decades becoming hardened and honed, but it’s the pull of familiarity and the need to reconnect that sees him marching for four months back to the blacksmith, Matthias, who’d taken him in, fostered him, and given him a home and something like a family, even if Marcus didn’t appreciate it as such at the time. His welcome, to put it mildly, is nothing like he expected.
Old Matthias is dead, and standing in his place at the anvil is the boy, now most definitely a man, the foster brother Marcus considered nothing less than an annoyance as they were growing up. Wolf has grown into a solid wall of blond-and-bearded giant, the height and breadth of him imposing, whose hammer strikes ring clear and true. Unfortunately, one of those strikes rings Marcus’s bell. Wolf doesn’t recognize Marcus, believes him to be one of the lawless marauders who are now so prevalent since Rome’s fall, when Marcus appears in the doorway of the smithy, and Wolf clubs him in the head, but fortunately it’s not a killing blow. Because Wolf quickly recognizes the necklace Marcus wears that identifies him as the once seventeen-year-old who’d marched off to war twenty years before. The boy Wolf secretly loved.
Through Marc’s subsequent convalescence, he and Wolf grow closer, both emotionally and sexually, forging an unbreakable bond that would last a lifetime and beyond. They’d found utopia in their isolated corner of the world, until an incident that threatens their lives forces them to leave their childhood home and journey into the unknown. But they are together, and together they will stay, through the good and bad, the trials and tribulations; through raising their son Matthias; through Matthias’s bumbled courtship but eventual marriage to Britte; through uprooting and journeying once again into a strange new world; through the birth of their grandchildren—one of whom is Arthur, the first to be born on Britannia soil—until they’re delivered some three decades later to Uthyr ap Emrys’s stronghold, and eventually their final resting place.
I can say with some confidence I wouldn’t have been as compelled to carry on with Arthur and Bedwyr’s adventures if I had read this compilation of stories first, not at all because Mia West failed to tell a gripping and heartfelt story, but because I wholeheartedly believe I needed to love these characters first in order to make that all-important emotional connection with them via this collection. Individually and spaced out between releases, each novella/short story may have hit differently, but together, read concurrently, this book is composed of a lot of sex that I eventually ended up skimming over, despite it being such an integral component in Marc and Wolf’s relationship, to keep moving forward on their destined course to fathers, grandfathers, teachers, protectors, and the legends they would become. I was admittedly more invested in Matthias and Britte’s origin story, which makes sense since I already loved them, and of course seeing the first blushes of Arthur’s love for Bedwyr made this adventure worth the investment. Knowing what happens with Arthur’s older brother Cai, the decisions that Uthyr makes, for the optics and the ostensible good of his community, and seeing where Master Philip and Tiro began—and how Marcus and Wolf helped to instigate their union—made Into the Fire a much more captivating and ultimately satisfying read.
It’s obvious West loves her characters with a passion that translates passionately to the page and, as a result, to her readers. While I can’t say I loved Into the Fire with the same fervor as I have the Sons of Britain, I can say I’m glad I traveled back in time with Marcus and Wolf to witness where they and their descendants and those closest to them began.
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