Book Review – Liminality by TJ Nichols

Publisher: Indie
Pages: 470
Characters: Elliot/Umbra
POV: 3rd
Genre: Fantasy

Like everyone in the Dark City, Elliot Brand never has enough coin for anything. There is never time for more than survival. He does everything he can to make sure he and his brother, Dayne, have a place to live. But when his brother goes missing, Elliot suspects the worst—that he has been taken by the Kin.

The Kin live in a castle on the lake that only appears at night. They trade with the rich up the hill. In exchange for giving the rich the orbs that light the city and healing nectar, the Kin are permitted to hunt humans in the Dark City.

Elliot swore on his mother’s death bed that he wouldn’t let harm come to Dayne, so he makes a plan to go to the castle and get his brother back. Dazzled by the wealth and the attentions of Umbra, a Kin with their own plans, Elliot gets caught up in machinations far beyond his wildest dreams.

But Dayne has tasted Kin blood and become one of the devoured. Elliot’s plans quickly unravel. If Elliot and Umbra are to survive, they’ll need one another.

For readers who like dark gay fantasy romance, revolutions and rebel princes.

Buy Link


This is a book that has stayed with me for days after I’ve finished reading it. The world building is fabulous, and the characters complex. This is definitely dark, and I’m still mulling over the epilogue ending which is very emotive and final.

I got pulled into this dark world immediately. The descriptions are detailed, and atmospheric. This isn’t a pleasant world especially for those in the dark city who are literally being sold to keep the rich in luxury. The author doesn’t pull punches about the hopelessness of addiction either. The imagery of people queued up ready to take jobs from those who don’t turn up for whatever reason is chilling as is the drudgery of the marshmallow leaf factory. Those in the Dark City are faced with an impossible choice. Smoking so the Kin won’t drink from them, and in doing so dying from what is basically lung cancer, or risk being taken. The city gave me a Victorian London vibe with its layers of society.

I loved Umbra and thought they were in as much of a cage as Elliot, who is doing everything possible to keep his brother, who is the last of his family alive. There is a definitely blurring of good and bad guys here, with some of the humans as bad, if not worse than the Kin. Vermillion is a totally nasty piece of work, and I was very happy with how that part of the plot was resolved. I thought the Abry’s history was interesting, and well thought out, and an interesting parallel to the different classes within the human settlement across the lake. Elliot’s desperation is palatable, and I liked how his and Umbra’s relationship changed from helping each other, to friendship, and then much more. I enjoyed the scenes where they’re teaching each other their different fighting techniques.

The other characters inhabiting this world are interesting too. Dayne, Elliot’s brother has a few secrets of his own, and I liked how the author portrayed the difference in him when he’s craving Kin blood, as opposed to when he’s lucid and well aware of his addiction and feeling the hopelessness of his situation. I liked how Serene doesn’t give up on him despite Dayne’s determination that she won’t be dragged down by him, and her role in helping Elliot.

The plot kept me turning me pages. The action scenes are well written, and I was seriously worried that Elliot wouldn’t survive especially after he is betrayed by someone he thought a friend. I enjoyed the glimpse into their future, but am still in two minds about the last scene, which is haunting me a little—a sure sign of how invested I got in the characters and their story.

5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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