Rating: 5 out of 5
In each volume of Ann Aguirre’s Ars Numina series, we experience a new and different romance between a new couple, and we follow along with the next part of the ongoing plot. In The Shadow Warrior (Ars Numina Book 4), we experience the flip side of book three. In book three, wolf lord Raff and Princess Thalia got married and dealt with some of her enemies. During that, Magda (Mags), a tiger-shifter, went with Gavriel, an Eldritch Noxblade, to try to figure out what happened to Slay, Ash Valley’s second in command. Gavriel mostly goes because he doesn’t want to watch the princess, to whom he is devoted, marry an Animari. Mags is Ash Valley’s head of security, and she doesn’t yet know whether Slay was taken prisoner, or defected to the enemy. She’s trying to figure out which it is and thinks she’s found his trail. The two head out, and encounter refugees who need their help. They end up tracking Eldritch loyalists (Eldritch who are loyal to Thalia’s dead father) to their stronghold.
Content note for explicit sex. Each couple is different in their sexual desires and needs, and this time a bit of BDSM comes into the mix. I will say that, thankfully, headstrong straight-talking Mags does not turn out to be a submissive or a masochist. In most authors’ hands she probably would have. Consent is important in these books–another thing I love–and Mags and Gavriel build trust slowly. I adore Mags in all of her muscular glory. These two start out as just sex partners, and things grow from there.
I enjoyed watching Gavriel develop a sense of humor. It isn’t easy for him to expand his sights beyond his training as a Noxblade assassin; certainly that’s all Thalia ever saw him as. Thanks to Magda, he starts looking beyond his precious princess to what’s really going on amongst the Eldritch.
The plot proceeds apace! Our heroes find more of the mysterious “contaminated” Eldritch who seem to be nearly-mindless monsters, and realize what’s causing their unusual state. They figure out whether Slay turned traitor or was captured. And it’s just plain interesting to see some of the events from book three from an entirely different perspective. I believe there are supposed to be two more books in the series–I can’t wait to read them!