Title: Nectar and Ambrosia
Author: E.M. Hamill
Length: 325 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Callie, a Classics major, flees home to protect her family from a monster straight out of mythology. Visions lead her to Nectar and Ambrosia: the weirdest pub on Earth, where inter-dimensional travelers with attention seeking issues get drunk in between the A-list celebrity lives they create. They can’t pretend to be gods anymore—not since a treaty with the current Supreme Deity promising they won’t intervene in human affairs.
The Doorkeeper of this threshold, Florian, rides herd on the rowdy Amaranthine and offers her shelter and a job. Callie likes the lonely, mysterious bartender more than she should. For Florian, her presence is a ray of light in the gray monotony of his sentence behind the bar, but he keeps a cautious distance—the truth of how he became Doorkeeper could change Callie’s perception of him forever.
When angels show up for a war council over Zeus’s irrational mutters about a comeback, Callie has uncontrolled visions of an apocalypse. Ex-gods realize she’s the first Oracle Priestess in generations. All Callie wanted was keep her parents safe, and now it seems she must sacrifice her future to keep the rest of humanity safe, too. Ambrosia could be the key to harnessing her visions— or it could cost her life.
War is coming. The threshold between worlds has never been more fragile. Callie must discover who is pulling Zeus’s strings and avert the final battle—before the immortal vying to become the next Supreme Deity kills her first.
I’m a fan of Urban Fantasy. I tend to like the mash-up of a modern setting with older mythologies, as it makes those old fantastical stories seem more current and real. I also really enjoyed E.M. Hamill’s previous title, Dali. As such, I went into this one with high hopes. In short, I wasn’t disappointed.
E.M. Hamill’s writing is as smooth as ever, and the move from a science fiction setting to something more contemporary is handled with ease. And all the while drawing on what must have been a hefty amount of research into all manner of deities. From Christianity to the Greek pantheon, the Fae to the Sidhe, they all make an appearance in one for another. While given a new lick of paint to fit the modern world they venture into, each has clear motivations that tie into their roots too. I think that what perhaps impressed me the most though was the way that the large cast was dealt with. Sure, some characters get more time on page than others, but each one has a distinct feel to them. Even when dealing with deities that you don’t have major knowledge of, you get a real sense of their current state of mind and goals. The revelation of their origins was also fun.
In terms of the characters we get to spend the most time with, I was happy to see our protagonist Callie being so likable. She starts the book on the run and stumbles into a mysterious bar in an effort to escape the monster that’s hunting her. Through the course of the book, we get plenty of little glimpses into her life, and the way she adapts to her changing situation feels natural. She’s upbeat, and willing to throw caution aside when needed, but not without doubts and worries.
Her romantic interest, Florian, is also an interesting one to get to grips with. His backstory leaves him trapped within the confines of the bar, but also unaged from the day of his incarceration. He’s far older than Callie, but due to the aging part of his sentence, they fit well as a couple. He’s sweet in the way he approaches romance. That he’s more than capable of keeping his otherworldly patrons in check is an added bonus.
And of course, who doesn’t love a good Puck? The trickster is present throughout the novel and plays a fairly large part in the overall arc. Here, Hamill presents him in a way that balances out the positives of his personality with the potential negative edge to the way he naturally behaves.
In terms of the story, how much you enjoy it will depend entirely on how you feel about Urban Fantasy as a genre. We get a scene-setting opening, then a lot of world-building, and finally a quick build to a more frenetic ending. Throughout the book, the romance builds steadily, and we get an HFN for the couple. As a fan of the genre, I enjoyed it, but if you prefer your books to be fast paced and action heavy, this won’t necessarily be your cup of tea. From a personal standpoint though, the only real criticism I have is that Florian wasn’t aware that his bisexuality would be better received now than in his days of freedom. His bar is always full of deities that walk among the world, and he knows who they’ve taken the form of, so I kinda figured he’d understand some of the changes in the outside world. This is a minor gripe though, and one that is more than balanced out by the interesting use of the various Gods instead of the standard vampires and shifters.
In all, this is a book that fits well within the Urban Fantasy genre and has a really interesting premise to boot. Throw in a likable lead and you’ve got a fun read. This is an easy 5 out of 5.