As the only surviving Seer in existence, Harrow disguises herself as human and her abilities as part of her circus act. This has helped her to keep her safe for years from the people who would want her dead. That is, until a new individual shows up at the circus with no name, no memories, and no understanding as to what his dark powers are. Something in Harrow is drawn to him and she finds herself risking everything in order to help him. But as the pair find themselves drawing closer together, every secret she unlocks from his past unlocks something in hers as well, putting them both in danger—from more than just their enemies.

A slightly feral male main character, a female main character that grows into her power in a big way, and a fiercely loyal and fiery best friend? Honestly, what a cast list and that doesn’t even include all the other intriguing side characters! Ascher brings to life a crew that you can’t help but get invested in and I hope we'll get to see a bit more of each of their stories as the series continues.

The juxtaposition of Raith’s “touch her and die” vibes paired with his complete innocence due to his missing memories was so jarring and yet strangely endearing. And he (joyously!) was not the only morally gray man to fall in love with in this book! I love me a good morally gray man as much as the next person and Ascher delivers a few that fit the bill.

Though the magical circus is more of a setting/backdrop to the story than I anticipated going in, the few glimpses we did get of the behind the scenes and life among the performers were enjoyable. With the story as a whole filled with danger at every turn, the circus acted as a bit of levity (at times) to even it out.

While some elements of the story followed an expected path, there were other moments that diverted and surprised me! The pace was a little slow in the beginning, but once the action gets going, things pick up quickly. Ascher was able to write a story that never felt dull, even in the slower paced moments.

The ending definitely wrapped up the primary plot line while still leaving things open-ended enough for another book. While I love a good, painful cliffhanger as much as the next person, it is nice when to having a feeling of resolution with an open door for more to come.

SANCTUARY OF THE SHADOW by Aurora Ascher is her traditional publishing debut and the first book in the Elemental Emergence series. The limited first print run features stenciled edges and detailed endpapers—run here to grab your copy before they’re gone!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2024 Book Recommendations."