Silk Dragon Salsa (Kai Gracen, #4)
by Rhys Ford Format: eARC Source: author Formats available:
Genres: urban fantasy Series: Kai Gracen #4 Pages:
206 Published by Dreamspinner Press
on July 14, 2020 Purchasing Info: Author's Website
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SoCalGov Stalker Kai Gracen always knew Death walked in his shadow. Enough people told him that, including his human mentor, Dempsey. Problem was, the old man never told him what to do when Death eventually caught up.
Where Tanic, his elfin father and the Wild Hunt Master of the Unsidhe Court, brought Kai pain and suffering, Dempsey gave him focus and a will to live… at least until everything unraveled. Now caught in a web of old lies and half-truths, Kai is torn between the human and elfin worlds, unsure of who he is anymore. Left with a hollowness he can’t fill, Kai aches to find solace in the one elfin he trusts—a Sidhe Lord named Ryder—but he has unfinished business with Dempsey’s estranged brother, a man who long ago swore off anything to do with the feral elfin child Dempsey dragged up from the gutter.
Reeling from past betrayals, Kai searches for Dempsey’s brother, hoping to do right by the man who saved him while trying to keep ahead of the death haunting his every step. Kai never thought he’d find love or happiness as a Stalker, but when Death comes knocking at his door, Kai discovers a fierce need to live life to the fullest—even if that means turning his back on the people he calls family.
There’s something that Kai says, about 3/4ths of the way through Silk Dragon Salsa, that really hit me, because Kai thinks he’s talking about other people, not realizing that he’s really talking about himself. Not that he’s not talking about other people too – for rather elastic and expansive definitions of people – but his comment is really about the story of Kai’s life in general, and this installment in particular.
“There was a constant, roaming quest to discover the depths or heights of humanity, and sometimes that journey took a hard left turn into a what-the-hell neighborhood.”
Kai’s whole story is hard left turn into that particular neighborhood, but especially this part of it. Because the opening of this story takes away everything that Kai thought he knew about himself when his adopted father Dempsey makes a deathbed confession. It’s Dempsey’s chance to clean his slate, but it strips away too many of the things that Kai believed, not just about himself, but about his relationship with Dempsey and his relationship with all of the people who have come to make up his world and his family.
Well, at least all of the purely human members of that family.
Kai is a chimera, a construct of both Sidhe and Unsidhe. An abomination according to his own people. An experiment and a slave according to the being who was both his biological parent and his creator.
Dempsey always told Kai that he won him in a card game. But that deathbed confession reveals that the man kidnapped him as part of an under-the-table Stalker hunt. And not that Kai wasn’t sorely in need of rescue.
But Kai had grown up – or matured – or stopped being feral – or all of the above, believing that Dempsey had trained him and adopted him after that card game and that the human family that he’d become a part of loved him and cared for him. Now he’s learned that Dempsey had to fight with all of them to keep him and train him rather than turn Kai in for a very hefty bounty.
A bounty that is either still active – or has been reactivated. In the wake of Dempsey’s death, Kai is being hunted again. This time by his own kind. Meaning by his fellow Stalkers. Kai has to delve in Dempsey’s past as well as his own to discover who is still after him after all these years.
So he can take them out before they do him in.
Escape Rating A+: The beginning of this story is a gut-punch, and so is the ending. In the wild ride of a middle, there’s a quest, and it’s one of the oldest and best ones in the book. While on the surface Kai is searching for whoever wants him captured or dead, what he’s really hunting for is his identity.
After all, if he’s not who Dempsey told him he was, then who is he? And if his “family” wanted to turn him in rather than help him up, who will stand with him in a world where he knows many are against him, doing a job that is pretty much guaranteed not to let anyone make old bones. Not even an immortal elfin.
It’s a quest that literally tears him apart and puts him back together. It’s a story where, even though Kai has been an adult for all the life he remembers, he finally grows up and reaches out for who he’s meant to be.
And that allows him to finally become comfortable in his own skin – no matter how much pain and discomfort has been and will continue to be inflicted on that skin and the heart that lives inside it. Also, no matter how many times his semi-feral cat Newt tries to claw that heart out and eat it because his dinner is 5 seconds late.
I read the first book in this marvelous urban fantasy series, Black Dog Blues, way, way back in 2013, before Dreamspinner published it, at a point where Kai was the author’s half-feral child and there was no certainty there would even BE a series. Book 2, Mad Lizard Mambo, was on my “Best E-Originals” list for 2016 in Library Journal, and the cover quote for Silk Dragon Salsa is from that review. (And I’m still over the moon seeing that on the cover!)
But at Kai’s introduction it was very much urban fantasy in a fascinating world where the elfin realms of the Sidhe and the Unsidhe had crashed – or merged – into ours, with catastrophic results. At the time, it was definitely urban fantasy because Kai read like the kind of urban fantasy protagonist with a really shitty love life. At the beginning, Kai didn’t even like himself enough to love anyone else.
He’s healed a lot since then. Not that he’s not still a mess, but he’s more accepting of himself, warts and all, than seemed possible in the beginning. Of course, that means that just as this story ends, and it finally looks like Kai might be within spitting distance of something that might be as close to happy ever after as Kai is likely to get, a piece of his past crawls out of the woodwork to set things up for even more danger and angst in his next outing.
And I can’t wait to read it!
Guest Post from Rhys PLUS Part 4 of License to Stalk, a NEW Kai Gracen short story
And welcome back to my world of dragons, intrigue, hot guns, fast cars and a grumpy, slightly anti-social Chimera of a Sidhe and an Unsidhe who really only wants to hunt monsters and go home to his probably carnivorous cat. My name is Rhys Ford and I’ll be your guide today as on July 14th,I’ll take you back to the Kai Gracen series for Book Four — Silk Dragon Salsa.
If you’re following the blog tour from the beginning, you can skip this bit and head to the serialized part of the story but if this is your first time with me, let me ramble a bit about my grouchy special kitten, Kai. I’ve used the past three books to set up his relationships and world and kind of settling him for what should have been a changing environment. He’s never really had a lot of contact with the elfin and never really wanted any. Ryder, the Lord of the Southern Rise Court, blew into Kai’s life like a hurricane with a grudge and Kai’s had to not only learn how to get along with the man but also adjust to the fact the elfin are in his life to stay. Not something Kai ever wanted. He was raised by humans, thinks of himself as human, and was pretty happy about it.
Then his world changed and he was dragged kicking and screaming and probably stabbing into a bit of elfin affairs even as he knew it would probably be the death of him.
And in Silk Dragon Salsa, I really turn his world upside down.
It was a long time coming and Kai, in his true quick-on-his-feet fashion, knows he must change with it. Because the Merged world is going forward — with or without his approval — and this time, he has a chance for a bit of happiness, if he can find it in the chaos storm hunting him down in Silk Dragon Salsa.
Silk Dragon Salsa Information and Purchase Links
Kai’s fourth book is being published by Dreamspinner Press and I’ve had the fantastic honour of working with Chris McGrath again for its cover. Chris is a fantastic artist and he totally captured the feel of the book in this cover. I am so very grateful for his contributions in bringing Kai to life.
AND Greg Tremblay will once again bring his talent and gorgeous voice to breathing life and mayhem into Kai’s world as he narrates — nay, acts — Silk Dragon Salsa. I’ll be announcing the audiobook’s release date once I have it so watch my social media for further details.
Silk Dragon Salsa can be purchased at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and other fine online ebook retailers.
And now… for License to Stalk, A Kai Gracen Short Story
We’d holed up in one of the town’s farmer’s empty barns, parking Dempsey’s truck at an angle near the structure’s open back doors. The place seemed solid enough, probably meant for goats or smaller livestock. It smelled faintly of hay and dusky farm animal discards, a lingering ripeness of old droppings clinging to its walls. A hundred yards to the right sat another barn, much bigger and newer and as I dressed the remainder of the two small deer I’d brought in with the salamander, voices carried across the yard, getting louder with each cut I made.
“All I’m saying is that you didn’t do the Run so I’m not paying for two Stalkers.” The big bellied man who’d been grateful to see us taking their contract when we first arrived now was a blustery, red-faced wobbling hunk of angry flesh. His liver spotted pate glistened in the late afternoon sun, sweat dotting his brow and a few drops slipped down his forehead, catching in his nettle-patch white eyebrows. “’Sides, the other one doesn’t count. He’s not even human.”
“He’s my apprentice,” Dempsey spat back. His fingers were curled around a stub of a cigar but it was unlit, probably to the relief of the young farmer pacing behind the pack of older men. “Stalker regulations state I can send him out in my stead and get a full payment.”
“Yeah? Then let’s see his license,” a thin man dressed in overalls spat out. A look of revulsion curdled his features, his tiny dark eyes flicking back and forth to where I stood. “Because I don’t think any state’s going to let one of those things carry a gun, much less a Stalker license.”
I glanced up from where I stood near the truck’s lowered tailgate, one hand wrapped around a bloodied knife while I used the other to pull on the deer’s remaining back leg to stretch out the joint. The young farmer met my gaze and held it, a burning heat searing over the town elders’ shoulders then he looked away, a red flush creeping over his cheeks. I knew what he wanted. It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten that kind of appraisal from someone lingering on the edges of a collective outrage and it probably wasn’t going to be the last.
“If he’s got a license, I’m a fairy princess.” One of the other men chortled, his fleshy neck wobbling with each guffaw. “’Sides, what are you lot going to do? Put the damned thing back?”
I stopped cutting, flicking my knife clean with a twist of my wrist. The stamped down hay at my feet was slick with blood, cast off from the bled-out carcasses. I found Dempsey’s eyes, readying for a fight if he was going to take a step in. Sometimes things went bad and while I called him an old man, his fists were stone blocks and tireless but there were six of them and only two of us since Jonas stayed in town to pick up supplies.
The soulful eyed farmer back pedaled away from the older men, his hands up in surrender. “I didn’t sign on for cheating them. I lost the most stock. I think we should—”
“You didn’t put in the most money though, O’Malley.” The mustached man spat at his feet. “Greany is right. They’ll take what they get and move along. Worse than thieving gypsies, that’s what Stalkers are.”
“Think we can’t do anything?” I finally said, strolling over to where the men stood. My clothes were mostly clean and my knives were bare of blood, but the smell of death still clung to me. “Dempsey here can put a black mark on your town. Same as Jonas. Two strikes and no one’s going to pick up any contract you take out. This time it’s a salamander. What if the next time it’s an ainmhi dubh? What are you going to do when no Stalker comes in to save your asses then?”
“This time it’s chicken and goats,” Dempsey murmured in his low, angry voice. Stabbing his cigar stub into the corner of his mouth, he worked at the end. “Next time, it’s your kids. Maybe even your wives and mothers. You willing to do that over a handful of money? Because the boy here’s stocked up our stores for a long time. Even enough to spread out over to those families who don’t have much. We finish up here without a payout and we’re not just dropping venison off. We’ll be telling everyone we run into how you don’t think their lives are worth the shit you’re stepping in.”
And I went back to dressing the deer, fairly certain I was going to have a bit of company later on and not sure I was going to be up to it. Especially since the men were right. There was no way in hell any state government was going to pin a Stalker badge on me.
Follow the Silk Dragon Salsa Blog Tour (for the rest of the story!)
About Rhys Ford
Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is also a 2017 Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards for her novels Ink and Shadows and Hanging the Stars. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.
She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, a grey tuxedo with a flower on her face, Badger, a disgruntled alley cat who isn’t sure living inside is a step up the social ladder as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep of a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.
Rhys can be found at the following locations:
Facebook Group: Coffee, Cats, and Murder: https://www.facebook.com/groups/635660536617002/
For more information and to keep track of his upcoming releases, visit Greg Tremblay at: https://gregtremblay.com/
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