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All Wrapped Up
Morgan Harcourt;Laylah Hunter;Thea Hayworth;Gryvon
Pathfinder (M/M SciFi) - J.A. Jaken
4.5 stars

His pathfinder abilities, prescience being one of them, always seemed like a curse to Shai. The lapses into a kind of psychic trance had certainly gotten him into trouble and earned him beatings as a child living in the orphanage. So he learned quickly to suppress and ignore them. Now, at sixteen and living a hard-scrabble life on his own, Shai learns that his ability is the result of genetic engineering and is coveted by others who would lay claim to him to use for their own gain. And, he learns that a curse can perhaps become a force to keep him safe from abuse; if only a pathfinder can find his own path.

I love this premise and the world that Jaken shapes; a dystopia ruled by ruthless factions all vying for supremacy inside city walls built to protect against the devastation brought on by a Third World War. Shai’s story unfolds with gripping action as he is forced to discover whether he is ruled by that genetic engineering or whether he can make his own choices and be valued as much for who he is and not merely what he is. This, as much as anything, is the crux of the story-- finding one’s worth. Will he forever be at the beck and call of those who would use him?

This story reminded me a little of Lisa Henry’s great novel, [b:Dark Space|16174363|Dark Space|Lisa Henry|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1354020610s/16174363.jpg|22023544], another sci-fi story about a symbiosis between the two main characters. In that story Brady and Cam’s codependency meant life or death. The consequences for Shai are similar. He must find his “guide,” someone (whose name I’m withholding as a possible spoiler) also genetically bred to help him develop and control his trances as well as keep him from getting lost in them. I love that this takes the idea of being tied to another, so intrinsic to the romance genre, a step further by making their lives dependent on it. That Shai’s connection to his guide is enhanced by sex adds erotic spice to the mix (warning: there is non-con/rape; and the main character is under-age). I only wish that there had been more time devoted in the story to Shai’s developing relationship with his guide. It does look like there will be a sequel, a good thing as I’m sorry to leave Shai and his world, and there is a lot more story to be told.

I have become a great fan of Jaken’s work having read her wonderful [b:The House of Silence - Volume 1|13622680|The House of Silence - Volume 1|J.A. Jaken|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1335534048s/13622680.jpg|19226270] series (2 books so far), also highly recommended.