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Publisher's Summary

Guilt-ridden after the massacre of his family, Isaac Salvatore turned to binge drinking to escape the pain. Now 24 years old, Isaac is a recovering alcoholic woefully out of practice in the magical arts, leaving his fire affinity hanging on the edge of disaster. After a month of rehab, he returns to Beacon Hill and his family, determined to remain sober, learn to control his magic, and figure out a plan for his life that doesn't involve drinking.

Constantine Batiste is the oldest, most powerful vampire in the city. Born in ancient Gaul, the bastard son of a Celtic king, his long life has been shrouded in tragedy and horrors. Recent mistakes have left him wary and determined to guard his clan from all foes. When two of his clan members fall victim to an ancient evil, he summons the Necromancer of Boston for aid. Accompanying his older brother to the Tower is the handsome young fire mage once wounded by Constantine's arrogance, and their encounter reignites an attraction that burns within both Constantine and Isaac.

Contains mature themes.

©2019 SJ Himes (P)2020 Tantor

What listeners say about Mastering the Flames

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 06-01-2021

superficial but well narrated.

i liked the first 3 books in the series, but this is boringly superficial and lacking in story and depth. it is insta love, a hurried plot and a lot of unnecessary explanations, explicit sex and a lot of clichéd romance.
i got to chapter 28, and although i like the narrator and he did a desent job with a boring book, i could not go on.
i think i have to drop this author unles the books start to have some depth and story to them again.
do not recoment this book.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 27-08-2020

This is a book meant to be listened, not read

(ETA: Amazon removed all my paragraph breaks. Ugh.)

I need to preface this saying I've listened to the series at least thrice and fully enjoy them, as well as reading this particular novel prior to the audio release. My review includes some critiques of the series as a whole and flippancy, but none of it is in malice or distaste.

The narrator is amazing and one of my favorites I've listened to - before this book was released on audible, I read it in Kindle form after listening to the others because I loved the characters and growth. Maybe it's because I'm a fast reader, but on paper and without the narrators inflections, I wasn't able to feel the same amount of character growth and relationship development that made me feel as if it were organic. Listening to it set a pace and tone that facilitated that growth and stopped the keening voice of "wtf is everyone doing being all shipper on deck it's been five minutes."

I'm still going to read book 5 first if the audio is delayed, as I would murder the world for more Rory and Daniel and it is the only thing I'm still looking forward to in 2020.

This review isn't to slam on the authors voice or talent. SJ Himes broke away from describing the same things in every chapter (did you all know Simeon tastes of mint and chocolate? or Angel is attached to the primordial death magic that animates the sentient undead?) so, bonus.

The juxtaposition between Simeon and Angels fast-and-hot start and kinks after two years of UST against the sweet, supportive infatuation turned gentle and passionate romance of Isaac and Constans is VERY well written. I was constantly impressed with the vastly different POV voices between Isaac and Angel, how their various strengths and weaknesses were highlighted, and the effect it has on those around them. Isaac's recovery from addiction and PTSD is amazingly touched on.

At first read, Isaacs dramatic shift from surly kid to fawning, sweet, concerned for others kid was... disliked on my end. Again, it may have been the narrator and/or my lack of appreciation for the running statement that who Isaac was before was addiction and guilt, and that he is trying to find who he is without those cornerstones. As someone who went undiagnosed for over twenty years for various chemical imbalances, I should have known to look at it that way, so that is on me.

Other reviews are right: the supportive Constants is awesome. Bring able to see how he treats those in his care helped a LOT in understanding why he'd find contentment with Isaac - mild spoiler alert, but Batiste thrives on caring for others and finds joy in bringing it to those he loves.

I've got to say it, though - I NEED my headcanon that once a mate bond starts to establish, all the feelings develop quickly in a sort of vampire defense to help secure it. The relatively quick fall into love makes me wrinkle my nose otherwise (as well written and organic as it may be), so I comfort that nose with that headcanon. I hope SJ doesn't read this, get mad, and be like "No, you wrong", though she doesn't seem the type. the headcanon isn't meant as criticism.

OH. major awesome high fives for the inclusion of more POC, non-binary, and varied love matches with a highlight on those not of cis white people. I didn't find the other books LACKING, mind, but they were more prominent here.

Did I mention I love Rory? Because I do. I love Rory.

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  • Texan2
  • 05-08-2020

Perfection

Another terrific performance by Joel Leslie. Another terrific story in the series. This is my favorite.

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  • Susana
  • 17-07-2020

Love it

It was absolutely worth the wait, we are back in Beacon Hill again but this time our MC’s are Isaac Salvatore and Constantine Batiste the Master of the City in Boston. Poor Isaac is at Nevermore trying to rehab because of his addiction, drinking to get rid of his guilt. Recently out he doesn’t know how to be himself he thinks he is broken but with the support of his family and certain city master he is gaining little by little the confidence to become a better person, Constantine can’t forget Isaac and that kiss and want to help him. I love them together, Isaac and Constants are made for each other. The slow romance between them, the insight of his previous life as a mortal men and the power Constantine possesses know helps us with the story underneath, is so interesting and helps us reveal some interesting things about the blood wars than killed almost all the Salvatore Clan. This whole series is worth your time! Joel Leslie narrative is great I love Isaac and Constants voices! I highly recommended this audiobook!

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 20-06-2020

Loved it

What else is there to say really? The BHS series is one of my all-time favourites and it's so great to see Isaac finally step out of Angel's shadow and begin to find himself.
And of course Joel Leslie's performance is absolutely amazing, but that's exactly what I've come to expect from him. He and Sheena J Himes together make an awesome pair and really give life to the world of Angel and Isaac.

Now I must wait patiently, or perhaps not so patiently, for Daniel and Ruarí's book.

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  • Sarah
  • 14-10-2021

great series!!!!!

this is an awesome series!! best book in the series! Can't wait for more

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  • Erin S.
  • 10-09-2021

A Spark Without Purpose

Spoiler heavy review.

I was really excited for this book. I'd listened to the previous three, and the collection of short snippets that was also released. I knew Constantine and Isaac were going to happen, and I was really interested to see how their courtship and relationship would develop. I didn't have any issues with Isaac's addiction or recovery, and think the whole thing was handled pretty well. Care and research definitely did go into the character's troubles and his treatment.

I did enjoy a fair amount of the book, but the core romance... I just didn't. I kept asking why Constantine loves Isaac. Hell, Isaac even brings it up in a session, rhetorically asking his therapist why Constantine loves him. And even though his therapist says he should ask the vampire, he doesn't. Oh, he brings up his insecurities. He asks _how_ Constantine can love him, being confused, and messed up, and broken as he is. But that isn't a why. And Constantine doesn't give him a why either. He waxes poetic about how he loves Isaac, including all those things, that they won't drive him away. But not a why.

Constantine is a wonderfully supportive partner. He's attentive, and caring, and would do anything that Isaac needed of him. He is a good partner for Isaac. But he's also written to be that. The flashbacks of his history don't allude to these characteristics being core to his person. His protection of the young man he slept with in the past wasn't out of love (specifically not love), but because he would have been a hinderance in battle. Other than setting up for the conflict, the flashbacks had very little point, and most of the information could have been expressed through natural dialogue much better, and often still was since other characters needed to receive the same information anyway. I would have liked to see more of Constantine's behaviour towards Isaac hinted at in the fairly frequent flashbacks to make it clear this is the type of person he is at his core.

But I still don't know why Constantine loves Isaac. We know he literally had the Salvatores investigated when Simeon informed him of his interest in Angel. So...basically stalking, as Isaac himself points out, just with middlemen. Constantine _knows_ a lot about Isaac, in terms of likes/dislikes, facts, etc. And, hell, there is mention in one of the books about how the blood clan didn't know Isaac was magical during a clearly less...in depth investigation. I really do wish the stalking didn't get glossed over so much. But that isn't knowing the person. So why does Constantine love Isaac? I honestly don't think he says a single thing about why he loves him. Not how strongly he feels the world. Not how he is willing to risk himself for those he loves. Not his strength in wanting to seek help with his addiction. Not his perseverance to stay in Nevermore, even after the hellish accelerated treatment. He does reassure Isaac. He does make sure he knows that the things that Isaac thinks are repellant about him are most certainly not. But the entire love affair still rings hollow.

Constantine and Isaac were essentially plopped down in the perfect relationship that Isaac needed, with no history, no build up, and no retrospective to make any of it make sense. By contrast Simeon and Angel feel like they have much more history. Even without a lot of it being presented to us as it happened in real time, we learn very early that Simeon was interested in Angel two years prior to them getting together. We know that Angel assisted the blood clan during those two years and interacted with the vampires. We know that Simeon was waiting for a time when Angel felt comfortable enough with what he was before really making his intentions know. This implies a history between the two, a building up of becoming aware of each other, of developing interest. The history is at least implied. They also spend a fair amount of time actually talking or thinking about how they do feel about each other.

I did like Isaac; his character, his personal struggle, this coming to terms with himself, and facing unknowns and fears. I don't think he spends much more time than Constantine on his actual romantic feelings. He's insecure, and the unconditional acceptance is something he needs. I do wish we would have seen more awareness of how essentially allowing Constantine to handle everything does remove Isaac's ability to take agency over his own life. But based on where Isaac is right now in his mental health, the unconditional support is fine, as long as in the future he continues to work on himself, which he may well do.

And I like Constantine; his calm demeanor, his logic, his attention to those he cares about, and his dutiful leadership of the blood clan. I don't think his flashbacks do anything for him, really. His flashbacks don't show who he is today, and they barely show who he was then. But the character given in the present day is compelling, and the kind of person Isaac needs. The sheer amount of "winter apple" scents was also annoying. I could have done with about 3/4 less of that. And the fact that apples are also associated with his mother is just strange. I already dislike the trope of people's natural scents behaving more like cologne, but the fact it comes up so often is just repetitive, as others have mentioned. The "ice and fire" things is also pretty trope-y. So it's just a _lot_ all rolled into one.

I just don't like that I kept asking why. I don't feel like there is any substance to their love. I don't feel like there is any reason for the bond to have formed so ridiculously quickly. I don't think enough attention was paid to the pros and cons of the bond and the consequences. We may know them because of Angel and Simeon, but Isaac certainly doesn't, and in his incredibly fragile state he would have been far more concerned about how he could hurt Constantine, especially when he didn't even know how he felt as the bond was starting. He was incredibly concerned about the potential for his fire affinity to hurt Constantine but nothing about the fact that breaking the bond would destroy Constantine so much it would lead to his death? It is so surface level, so insubstantial. And that is frustrating because what we are told is a good relationship for Isaac. The support is what he needs. But it happens so fast, and without real thought. And everything is explained by this mate bond that apparently decided to get as strong in a few _days_ as most take years or decades to achieve. No one seems to consider the fact that Isaac is an addict and that his insanely fast attachment to Constantine could literally be his addictive personality latching on to something else. Relationships when one person is an addict, or especially when both are, are big deals. And entering into relationships during or soon after treatment is a big deal. And none of this is even touched on. I don't know if that just didn't come up in the research, or if everything just defaulted to "well, it's fated mates, so it's fine". I never got the impression that the bond was akin to the insta-love commonly seen in shifter romance, and after 3 books where that was clearly the case, it felt weird to suddenly be met with essentially the same thing, breaking all previously understood history in relation to the bond.

Angel's accelerated mate bond was explained due to his affinity, due to Angel drinking Simeon's blood, by Angel forcing it. Isaac seems to strengthen it as well, but how? Can all bonds be forced stronger like this and no other vampire-practitioner pairing has ever thought to do it? What is the point in setting the precedent of years or decades for this incredibly important thing to happen, reinforce it constantly, just to break it? Because these two are special? Why? It's clearly not their blood since we have an example of another Salvatore in a mate bond with a vampire and in their little flashback (which was also pointless and literally only was in there to tell us another future book pairing) they reinforce the years long mate bond necessary for the drinking of the practitioner's blood. It basically all comes down to fated mates. Constantine muses in one line about it. And it's entirely frustrating and goes against everything we've been told. I dislike it so much. And that's upsetting when so much of the book is appealing.

This book also makes me wary of an obvious Rory/Daniel book as well, because I also have no bloody idea why Rory glued himself to Daniel so quickly. And if their book is anything like this one then we're never going to know.

TL;DR

If you don't care about a relationship having any sort of logical build up before the love sets in, and just want to bask in the adoration and fluffiness then the book is a good addition. The portrayal of their romance is good, on the surface, so if you don't care to look below that, or are partial to insta-love without reason, then you will have no issue with the main pairing in this book.

If you do care about relationships having more to them than just the icing on the cake then you are going to be annoyed with Constantine and Isaac's romance. But the book on a whole is still well deserving of a read or listen. As much as I wish we would have seen the depth in this book that would have really elevated it, and pretty much lost all the flashbacks, it's still a good book, and a good continuation of the series overall.

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  • Aethena Drake
  • 29-07-2021

Great story. Great narration.

Himes handles very difficult subjects with a delicate touch. Isaac is fortunate to have such a strong support group while he deals with some tough life challenges.

Isaac and Angel's relationship is very familiar too me. I can relate to their situation on several levels. Sometimes, I feel like a part of the family.

I don't usually appreciate flashbacks that last throughout a book, but Himes handle them so well that I am reconsidering my stance. Batiste has an interesting history.

This series is more engaging with every new addition. Although a few major issues have been resolved, the groundwork for a new story has been laid out, and I can't wait for the next book and the next audiobook.

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  • Cris P Cruz
  • 22-06-2021

A Masterpiece on Mental Health

There is a 1 star review here from the previous book that I feel is inaccurate. I've reviewed this title before. It is even more beautiful the second listen. The One Star is wrong. They conclude the substance abuse was tacked on to the tale, the sex trauma was unnecessary, and characters boring. I do not know what books that reader read but they surely were not this series. SJ Himes has been building this series towards something. This is not the Tale of Isaac nor is it the Tale of Necromancer Salvatore. This is the Tale of Perseverance, a tale of being broken, hurt, and lost both by life and by oneself then clawing your way back. This is a tale of Healing on a backdrop of Urban Fantasy.
SJ Himes is truly a masterful writer and has built a world full of hidden lore. But at the end of it all what ends up being more important is the message they bring: I am broken but I am worthy .

Come for the magic and world building, stay for the message.

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  • christi l harris
  • 13-04-2021

The best one yet

I dearly hope there will be more because there are some characters I need to know more about ex: Rory and Daniel and who is this Ash character? I need to know. Loved the journey of our 2 MC’s, Constants is so lovely as is Isaac. There’s love, acceptance, understanding, a crazy blood mage and an adorable little pigeon crisper.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 24-06-2021

Excellent

I really enjoyed this audiobook. This characterisation was well done and the storylines were really interesting. The narrator was excellent and made it an enjoyable audiobook.

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  • Mrs. E. J. Curtis
  • 25-01-2021

Interesting Story

The story premise is good and the characters are likeable. The narration was good too.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 18-12-2020

Best one yet!

Rarely have I laughed so much while either reading or listening to a book! Just like the previous installments of the series, the story itself was fenomenal, great pasing and nice believable and organic character development.

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  • Summertimememories
  • 06-11-2020

Great book.

I didn't read this until it was out on Audible it just didn't sound the same in my own voice. Loved this book and am just about to reread this series when I've finished the last of the one I'm listening too.
I loved this please Author write more, of this series.

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  • Sam Baker
  • 24-10-2020

Great

Amazing narrator, brilliant story that holds the readers attention. Had to listen in one sitting 😊.

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