Published by Berkley on March 7, 2023
Genres: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Mariel Spark knows not to trust a demon, especially one that wants her soul, but what’s a witch to do when he won’t leave her side—and she kind of doesn’t want him to?
Mariel Spark is prophesied to be the most powerful witch seen in centuries of the famed Spark family, but to the displeasure of her mother, she prefers baking to brewing potions and gardening to casting hexes. When a spell to summon flour goes very wrong, Mariel finds herself staring down a demon—one she inadvertently summoned for a soul bargain.
Ozroth the Ruthless is a legend among demons. Powerful and merciless, he drives hard bargains to collect mortal souls. But his reputation has suffered ever since a bargain went awry—if he can strike a bargain with Mariel, he will earn back his deadly reputation. Ozroth can’t leave Mariel’s side until they complete a bargain, which she refuses to do (turns out some humans are attached to their souls).
But the witch is funny. And curvy. And disgustingly yet endearingly cheerful. Becoming awkward roommates quickly escalates when Mariel, terrified to confess the inadvertent summoning to her mother, blurts out that she’s dating Ozroth. As Ozroth and Mariel struggle with their opposing goals and maintaining a fake relationship, real attraction blooms between them. But Ozroth has a limited amount of time to strike the deal, and if Mariel gives up her soul, she’ll lose all her emotions—including love—which will only spell disaster for them both.
Such a fun story.
Mariel Spark has been prophesized to be the most powerful witch in the Spark’s long line of witches, so says the winds and the stars and more importantly Mariel’s mother. So Mariel’s inability to make a great impact or really just control her magic is a great disappointment to the Spark line, so says Mariel’s mother. Determined to prove her worth, Mariel tries to simply teleport something easy, like flour for her recipe “Ozroth din convosen,” which doesn’t go as expected since instead of a cup of flour, Mariel is looking at a demon–namely Ozroth the Ruthless. Ozroth has come to make a bargain for a soul and doesn’t understand why Mariel suddenly isn’t willing to trade her soul since she called to him specifically to make the trade. He has had a few witches get cold feet in the last few centuries once he shows up, but declaring “it’s an accident” and refusing to make a deal, is a new one, and completely unacceptable. Especially since once a deal has been requested, Oz can’t return to the demon realm without the soul. Hey, he doesn’t make the rules. Now he is stuck in the human realm until he can find something Mariel is willing to sell her soul for.
The problem isn’t just Mariel’s unwillingness to make a bargain. Ozroth isn’t called the Ruthless for nothing. He has taken many a soul (and more importantly, their magic) over the centuries but mostly the witch or warlock wants a bargain, and a little torture to get it the bargain struck isn’t frowned up. A demon’s gotta do what a demon’s gotta do in order to get the job done, am I right? Except recently Ozroth had a bargain go terribly wrong and instead of collecting the soul, the warlock forced his soul into Ozroth. What’s a demon going to do with a human soul and all the icky emotions which seem to be coming up? The demon realm needs souls for light and warmth and a soul filled with as much magic as Mariel possesses would provide a vast amount of power. Ozroth is determined to thwart those new feelings and convince Mariel to give up her soul.
But the more time spent with Mariel is really wearing Oz down rather than Mariel, but he can’t leave without a soul. So what’s a demon to do?
This was a fun, light-hearted and funny story. We love Mariel. Her magic ability is strong with nature and when she walks around it is funny to see all the flowers turning towards her and the vines reaching out to her. She is nature’s magical rock star. It is also funny to see Oz wrestle with his new soul and the emotions that keep overwhelming him.
The bad part, is that the mothers in this story are horrible people. I definitely would have enjoyed it more without the uber-rich, super-selfish mothers to Mariel and her friends who are verbally abusive and willing to destroy the town simply for a spa day. For a fun story, they kept ruining the good feelings I was enjoying. It would have been a better story with close families and an outside party trying to destroy the town’s beauty.
Mariel’s friends are also very entertaining and I look forward to seeing how the next story goes, with the exception that this story’s villain is the next story’s hero and I will need to be very, very convinced to root for him to have a HEA.
It was clear Diantha Spark had done damage to Mariel’s self-confidence. Maybe this was the key to her soul. Ozroth couldn’t use his power to make her better at magic–that would contradict the necessary requirement of taking her magic–but maybe he could seize one of those insecurities and dig until he found her breaking point. “Do you think she loves you?”
Her entire body jerked. “Of course she does.” She blinked rapidly. “Right?” The last word was whispered so quietly, he knew it wasn’t meant for him.
“Hmmm,” was all he said. He winced as an ache started in his chest. His soul was determined to have a conscience, despite the fact that Ozroth had done far worse to force a bargain in the past, from kidnapping loved ones to light torture. He ignored the emotion and focused on watching the witch work.
Mariel muttered to herself as she continued sketching the pentagram. He only caught stray words, demon and prick among them.
It was true–Ozroth was a prick. Keeping the demon plane–and his people–alive meant using any and every tactic to exploit vulnerabilities. Threats, coercion, blackmail, seduction…
He considered the last one, eyes tracing over her form. She was beautiful, there was no doubt about that. Curvaceous, too, with wide hips and thick thighs made for gripping. Did she have anyone to pleasure her? Diantha Spark had seemed to think not, so maybe that was another avenue he could exploit.
“Is anyone fucking you?” he asked.
The chalk snapped in half. Mariel turned, pointing the jagged piece at him. “That is none of your business.”
He could read the answer in the way her eyes met his, then darted away. “Would you like to be fucked?” It would be a new angle for Ozroth the Ruthless, who had built a reputation on more aggressive deals, but he didn’t mind the concept. In fact, he thought as he eyed those hips, it was more than a little appealing.
“You have terrible manners,” she said, turning back to her pentagram. Her cheeks were pink.
“So you do want to be fucked.”
“What I want,” she said, scribbling aggressively, “is for you to shut up and let me work on my spellcraft.”
“I’ll shut up if you–“
“No!” She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Honestly, it’s like having a toddler.”
That was the most offensive thing she’d said yet. “I am more than two hundred years old,” he said, sounding pissy even to himself. “Hardly a toddler.”
She ignored him, chalking runes faster. Then she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Volupto e ayorsin!“
There was a flash of light…
And a giant purple dildo manifested on the counter.
They both stared at it for a long, silent moment. Ozroth eyed the veins, the glitter, the sheer size of the thing, and decided Mariel was, if not realistic, at least ambitious. Even he was no match for that monstrosity.
“Oh no.” The words came out of Mariel’s mouth at an unnaturally high pitch. She hurriedly started erasing and reversing the symbols. “No, no, no.”
Ozroth’s lips twitched. “That answers the question of whether or not you want to be fucked.”
Chalk scraped over the counter. “We are not discussing this.” Mariel closed her eyes. “Aufrasen e volupto!”
The dildo vanished in a puff of smoke.
Mariel stared at the empty spot on the counter. “It worked,” she said, sounding shocked. “That never works.”
She shook her head.
“So what went differently this time?” Ozroth pressed. Dildo aside, he was fascinated by the witch’s vast magic and seemingly inability to manage it.
“I really, really wanted that thing out of here,” she muttered.
“Intent,” Ozroth said. “And focus. You only cared about one thing–demanifesting the dildo.” He tapped his fingers on this bicep, considering the puzzle of the witch. She had so much raw power–perhaps the problem was that she had no ability to use it precisely. “You need to bring structure to your magic. Once your mind and rituals are more organized, you’ll be better at this.”
“I don’t want your magic advice.” She pressed the heels of her palms into her eyes. “I don’t want anything from you.”
For some reason, the words stung. Ozroth rubbed his chest, wondering what his unwelcome soul had taken offense to now.