REVIEW: Rogue in the Making, by TJ Nichols

Title: Rogue in the Making
Series (when applicable): Studies in Demonology #2
Author(s): T.J. Nichols
Genre: urban fantasy
LGBTQ+ Category: gay, m/m, polyamory 
Publisher: DSP Publications
Pages/Word Count: 284 pages
Reviewer: Dan

The blood sacrifices have brought rain to Demonside, but across the void, the Warlock College of Vinland is still storing and gathering magic, heedless of the warnings of the international magical community. The underground is full of warlocks who disagree with the college, but do they care about wizards and demons or only about snatching power?

With a foot in each world, Angus is no longer sure whom he can trust. The demons don’t trust humans, and even though he is learning more magic, he will never be one of them. He is human and only tolerated. Some demons would be happy to slit his throat. It’s only because his demon is powerful in his own right that Angus is alive.

Saka only has a year to prove that Angus’s people can change and that the magic taken will be rebalanced, but the demons want action. His affection for Angus is clouding his judgment and weakening his position in the tribe. Time is running out, and he must make a choice.

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Review

I enjoyed this book, though somewhat less than the previous installment. The stakes are higher and the emotions run hotter. There’s more action in this book, or at least, more implied action. A lot of things take place off-page and we learn about them through the reports of the narrators. Rogue in the Makingfeels slower, more ponderous, than Warlock in Training.A lot of times, I found myself wanting more details about certain things but totally done with the details about the minutia. 

So many things happen in this book I find it hard to detail the plot. The friction between the humans and demons escalates, as does that between Angus and the underground. Politics among the demon tribes and mages also get pretty hairy. All around, everyone is sort of a mess in this book. It’s understandable and absolutely necessary for the characters and their growth. People who remain too collected and cheery in the face of world-ending destruction are unnerving and unrealistic. Both sides of the void are in chaos.

The relationship between Terrance and Angus has a larger spotlight but takes a long time to culminate. While I understand why (the two of them have a lot going on), it feels like less of a slow-burn and more of a slog. The connection between them feels less developed than the one between Angus and Saka. Maybe because two humans don’t need as much of a reason to love each other as a demon and a human. Maybe because, once again, a lot of the build between them is implied off-page rather than directly shown. Either way, they’re believable with each other, just not highly intriguing. That’s my opinion, at least. Others may well find their relationship sweet, funny, and tender and I wouldn’t argue with that in the least.

The other leg of this triangle, Saka, struggles a lot in the book. In the first book, it was Angus who had to make the most changes and become a stronger, more layered version of himself. This time, Saka has to reevaluate his life. His place in the world and his tribe, his faith in himself, and his ability to reconcile being a mage and a person all twine together in a character arc that should be deeply interesting. At times, it is. I really enjoy Saka and want to see how he grows. The narration tends to repeat itself so that halfway through the book as he’s waxing philosophic about his internal conflict, I’m tuning out.

This book does a nice job showing the sides of a multi-partnered relationship. It acknowledges the nuance and emotions that come with navigating polyamory. The distance between Terrance and Saka draws things out a little (they don’t interact until the end of the book), but once they do, they all seem to come to a common understanding. The two m/m pairings hint that they’ll engage in some m/m/m action, though I’m not sure if romantic love will ever form between Terrance and Saka. Which, of course, it doesn’t have to. I do trust, however, that the author will continue in keeping the relationships between all of them healthy (or as healthy as relationships get during an international, inter-realm conflict that threatens to end all life on both sides). All in all, I’m eager to see how the third part of the series plays out.

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