The Finder - Brandon Fox This story is set in a fantasy dystopia, an unusual background that was very well done. Hundreds of years ago, the ancient empire went down in the Daemon Wars. From the ruins of the past, a new empire rose. The Tjumens apparently consider themselves superior to Rhan's people, who are mostly peasants and are tributary to the Tjumen. Fear of the daemons, beings that can "mark" humans, rules this world, kept alive by the clergy. A "mark" can be everything that makes people different, unusual eye color, surplus fingers and so on. "Marked" people are hunted down and culled by the Tjumens; once culled, they disappear never to be heard of again, like it happened to Rhan's childhood friend, Kev. Rhan is a finder, someone who scours the ancient ruins for relics of the daemon wars and before. Those things are in high demand, they can fetch a high prize for the finder's village, but the Tjumen examiners often just confiscate relics, too, and collect them in huge archives in their capital, Chakragil. Rhan isn't fond of the Tjumens, mostly because of Kev, but also because he bears an invisible mark and is afraid to suffer the same fate as his friend should he be discovered. One day Imperial soldiers come to Rhan's village demanding the finders's help in searching for a heretic and a dangerous relic. Rhan and his friend Catrin are assigned to a team of soldiers, Aerik and Maiko. While Maiko is a dumb, greedy brute, Aerik turns out to be a kindred spirit to Rhan. They become friends, and soon lovers. But love between men is not condoned in this world. Though Catrin accepts them, they have to be careful because of Maiko, who can't stand Aerik, who is a nobleman's son, and soon takes a dislike to Rhan too. Things escalate when Rhan and Aerik find a mysterious relic which they take to Chakragil to show it to Aerik's father. Suddenly they're on the run from the Numerans, a power-hungry group of Tjumens, who strieve to wrench their secret from them by all means. The worldbuilding is one of this story's strong points. Elements out of different time periods and geographical locations are put together in a new and interesting way to create an unique and engrossing world that nevertheless is familiar enough that I could find my way around it effortlessly. It was done subtly too, woven into the narrative to avoid infodumping. The characterizations of Rhan and Aerik were well-done, and the romance between them sweet and passionate, including the sex scenes. And I liked Stian, Aerik's old friend, very much. Still, I also had a few niggles with this book, first of all Catrin. Not that she wasn't a sympathetic character, quite the opposite, but she didn't do much of anything for the story, and I couldn't help wondering what she was there for anyway. Also, Rhan's and Aerik's adversarys came across as two-dimensional, particularly Maiko, who was so evil and so dumb I wondered how he'd made it into the militia at all, let alone gained the rank he apparently had. My biggest problem, though, was the ending. The story ended kind of abruptly right at the moment when it started to become really interesting. Hopefully there will be a sequel, I'd love to see what happens next to Rhan, Aerik and Stian, and perhaps Catrin will find a purpose then, too.