This is an intriguing world setup... a long time ago a bunch of mages cursed the population of the world, which are now divided into three races: the Shadowborn (basically evil people as far as I can tell, they don't get much coverage in this book) and the Darkborn and Lightborn. Each can only be in their element: Darkborn are born blind and will immolate if exposed to light at all and use sonn (bat sonar they evolved with) to figure out what things look like and where they are at. Lightborn start dissolving if they are caught in the dark and beyond that, we don't find much out about them in this book. (I seriously wonder, since the book says that candle light doesn't affect either species, if Lightborn have electricity and do they die if power outages occur at night. But you don't find that out here.) Either way, each group gets to live outside in day or night and has to be shut up, and when people want to communicate between species, they need to cozy up to a paper wall. It's intriguing that instead of separating into dark and light cities, the population of Minborne shares their city streets and maintenance together and has a council to determine things.
I kept trying to picture the Darkborn world while reading this: what sonn must "look like" (I imagine everything grey and only in close up outline), how weird it is that everyone knows when they are being sonned and if you want to go unseen you have to literally sit around blind, and I'm still trying to figure out the contraption they use to write notes to the Lightborn when they can't see handwriting and obviously use Braille. Very eerie.
Anyway, our lead married Darkborn couple are Balthasar and Lady Telmaine (Stott) Hearne. He's a doctor of ancient-yet-average stock, she's a highborn lady and closeted mage. (The Lighborn are all about women's lib and magic usage. The Darkborn are all about technology, keeping women idle, and magic is illegal.) Balthasar's missing brother's old girlfriend Tercelle shows up on his doorstep hugely pregnant by someone NOT her fiance... she doesn't give his name but thinks he came to her in the daytime. And she gives birth to twins that Balthasar is pretty sure are able to see. After he has his mage/midwife sister find someone to take the twins, he gets the everloving shit beat out of him by someone wanting to track the twins down.
While at her parents' house for the summer, Telmaine meets Ishmael, a noted Shadowborn hunter, baron, and rumored mage. He wears gloves all the time (a dead giveaway of magery since they can read your thoughts with a touch). Telmaine also wears very long gloves all the time, claiming she has a germ phobia, but I'm amazed anyone bought that considering that her husband is pretty equivalent to a shrink. Anyhoo, Ishmael is no idiot and figures out Telmaine's secret right off. Ish is aso asked by his boss, the archduke's half brother and his employer in secret spy things, to make friends with Balthasar. He accompanies Telmaine back home (and develops a crush on her pretty well instantly) and finds what happened to Baltasar... and one of B&T's kids gets kidnapped when they get there. Ishmael and Telmaine go on the hunt for Tercelle and the missing kid, only Tercelle ends up dead (as well as a lot of others) and Ish gets in trouble. Telmaine finds that she's going to have to use her mage skills after all to save folks.
The love quadrangle in this book is interesting. I don't know what to make of a happily married couple having other love interests, both of whom are worthy folks. I like Ishmael-- he's a distinctive fellow and brave as all hell-- but Balthasar is a sweet fellow and in his own way brave too. I don't want to see Telmaine cheat, but I like both men. As for Balthasar, he does love his wife, but he also is (not secretly, since Telmaine knows via touch exactly how he feels) in love with his Lighborn neighbor, professional assassin Floria White Hand. They grew up together ( as best as they can under the circumstances-- their houses abut each other and there's a paper wall in one room so that the two races can communicate without death) and if they had been at all able to, probably would have gotten involved. You literally can't see Floria in this book and you don't find out all that much about her, but she's very intriguing and I look forward to actually hearing more about her in the next book. She's quite a friend to have even if you can't hang out with her, and I was amazed at her inventiveness in bad situations.
This book is intriguing--I'm pretty sure we haven't even hit the main trouble of the series yet by the end of this. I definitely want to see more. Four stars.