I love urban fantasy. Love, love, love. It’s all about adding magic to the world that already exists. In urban fantasy, places have power, music has power, and there is something new and exciting peeking around the corner. Unlike paranormals, which focus on the “monsters” of the fantasy world, urban fantasy often focuses on the unearthly beauty of the fae, and/or on the natural powers of the world around us. There’s something of childish wonder about it. Unfortunately, Kept Tears didn’t live up to my expectations of urban fantasy. We got the fae, but that was about it.
Aaron Santori is a Wounded Warrior. While serving overseas as a medic, he was badly injured, resulting in, after a lot of physical therapy and several surgeries, a bum leg and prosthetic arm. Now he’s back in school, studying the science and biology behind his advanced prosthetic (it uses electrodes surgically implanted into his upper arm to interact with the remains of his nervous system, connecting to the hand and arm – pretty nifty stuff.) He is, however, not only dealing with the physical difficulties he now faces, but the mental ones as well – he’s part of a Wounded Warriors group, and talking extensively with a therapist with his various PTSD-driven issues, like hypervigilance and night terrors. Joining a friend for a steampunk party, though, was definitely a good idea, as it has him talking to the lovely Rhys Edwards who has recently moved to town.
But the lovely Rhys has a secret, one he can’t share with Aaron, not now and maybe not ever. If Rhys was to tell Aaron about his world, the world of the fae, he could be pulled into a millennia old feud between rival courts, used as leverage against Rhys, who is a prince of the Seelie. But Rhy’s ex Morcant, traitor to the Seelie, is now hunting Aaron, hoping to drive a wedge between the two.
The characterization in this story is spot on. The author really worked hard to make sure that Aaron and Rhys felt real, that Aaron’s problems were real. Unfortunately, this talent didn’t translate over into worldbuilding. I was a little frustrated by the name-dropping of bands in the very first chapter – Aaron goes to a steampunk bar/party and the author is very specific about the bands being played by the DJ. There’s something about specifying names like this that dates the work, and it’s always been a bit of a pet peeve of mine. More importantly, though, when we learn more about the world of the fae, we don’t actually learn anything about it.
Honestly, the story would be better served without the attempt at making it urban fantasy – the presence of the fae does nothing to enhance the story, other than the addition of a villain. The demons Aaron is fighting with his PTSD and the stress of his first relationship post-injury would be enough of a conflict without a fae ex.
I really wanted to like this novel, I really did. Unfortunately, it just didn’t really do it for me – I need the worldbuilding in an urban fantasy. It’s simply essential. However, as I said, the characterization was wonderful, Aaron specifically. I enjoyed the relationship that was building between Aaron and Rhys. If you are more of a character-driven reader, this might suit you a bit better.