Twenty-three year old Dimitri has never known what it’s like to live for himself. Raised from childhood to serve the rich and powerful Walker family, his father’s death taught him that Dimitri has no choice when Karl Walker expresses a wish…because the inherited genie bond binds him to the head of the Walker household’s every whim. However, when the young man meets Syd, a beautiful and intense young woman, in a bar their one night stand quickly turns into something more. But how can Dimitri give himself fully to a woman when he doesn’t even belong fully to himself, and would she even believe the truth anyway?
The basic set up of Rainy Kaye’s Summoned from Bastei Entertainment intrigued me. The protagonist struggles with paranormal obligations (in Dimitri’s case he’s become a gangster and muscle for Karl Walker) who stumbles across someone who makes him long for a more traditional lifestyle. I loved Kaye’s blending of various genie mythos into a contemporary suspense story, and I especially enjoyed the concept of Dimitri being an ordinary individual who just happened to be bound to his master’s wishes rather than an all-powerful being. Little details like the protagonist’s increasingly mundane cars when he faced a new assignment or Sylvia’s (Karl Walker’s daughter and Dimitri’s new master presumptive) obsessive cigarette habit and fear of flying grounded the story fully in a realistic world; it just also was one when genies might not entirely be fantasy.
The book is written in the first person, which I find a little off putting, but I adjusted to Dimitri’s voice as I got into the story. In many ways readers need to see the situation from the protagonist’s POV to understand the complications of the genie bond. However, for me the first person writing also turned the reveals at the end of the book into an info dump rather than a natural unveiling. I still found them interesting, but I also thought it felt a little rushed as if things needed to be tied up nicely in a bow before the next book.
So how did I feel about the romance angle? Honestly, I would have enjoyed the story more without it. The complications of Dimitri’s relationship with Karl and Sylvia, etc, intrigued me, but I never fully bought into why Syd was so into Dimitri. Her initial behaviour made me read her as a little emotional unstable and a stalker, and as the story progressed I never got anything to explain why Dimitri was so into her. They had explosively hot sex, but I never saw more inside the hero’s head. Because everything was in the first person I had no insight to what Syd saw in Dimitri or why she insisted on trying to force a bond between them. Additionally, I knew that Dimitri developed strong feelings for Syd, but I couldn’t understand the reasoning. I think I was supposed to believe it because the book said he did.
Overall, Summoned was a fun, light read, but it didn’t work well for me as a romance. I’m sure my complaints are total catnip for other readers though, so I’m glad that such a well-written story is available to them. Rainy Kaye is an accomplished author who has created an interesting world; I just wanted to play in the world more and not worry so much about the rest of it.
3.5 Ornate Summoning Chambers out of 5