Chaos Tryst is an interesting idea for a world setting which is hampered almost to the point of ruin by the childish and unrealistic “romantic” couple of this paranormal romance. Arianna Golde and Maksim Medved are characters from the “conflict” school of romance, which states that at no time may the characters have anything resembling chemistry until the last chapters of the book. These two succeed in that regard, and in the process they turn what could have been a cute book with a great idea into a long and painful crawl through fairy hell with a too bubbly tour guide and a male passenger who keeps shouting “harrumph” after every one of the tour guide’s sentences.
Before I explain why the characters don’t work for me, I should explain the world, which was incredibly fascinating and detailed. In this setting, Mother Goose and Grimm’s fairy tales have evolved into their own modern world of “faebles”, one with its own unique history. The history of the land is a sub-plot, as is one of the main character’s tasks, which I won’t explain and ruin for others. The world and settings were great, and many of the bit characters were interesting or cute in some way. Indeed, the idea of all these stories existing as a race of people called faebles instantly tickled my myth-loving nerd roots.
But the same cannot be said for either main character. Let me start with Ari, a “returner.” That’s basically “magical thief with a heart of golde…er, gold.” And to make sure this name isn’t wasted, Ari has gold hair and gold skin too. So Ari Golde goes into the house of three bears to look for an item that’s “just right.” And here after this kind of cute joke, the story falls apart faster than a house of cards in the presence of a hyperactive cat.
Ari is supposedly a pro, having done her job for a hundred years or so. But she’s doing this job with sleep deprivation from several days of stacked jobs (not buying that) and she’s carrying a cell phone and has no trouble stopping in the middle of a quiet house to chat up her mother. (ditto.) The story tries to convince the reader that because of sleep deprivation and Ari being a creature of chaos, her behavior is a bit random. Which is why she’s making about a dozen rookie mistakes just walking through the house.
Instead of seeming random, Ari comes off as a little girl out on a night of play pretend. Most of the time, she’s a brat, only acting like an adult when she can’t avoid acting like a child. She takes nothing seriously, talks nonsense half the time, and then suddenly becomes wise beyond her years at the key points when the story cannot move on without her growing up for five minutes.
And then there’s Maks, who the story claims is a drop dead sexy werebear. Instead, he’s a stereotyped Russian. He’s stoic, a braggart, and talks with a thick Hollywood-style Russian accent. He’s openly hostile to Ari, and spends most of the book playing the grumpy little boy to Ari’s excited little girl.
Problem is, both of these characters are over 100. If this book had made Maks and Ari 16 or 17 for a wacky paranormal YA comedy, I might have bought their chaotic behavior as teens goofing off far more readily than I would believe two grown adults were acting like spoiled brats.
As an example, in a pointless scene in the middle of the book, Ari performs karaoke badly. So Maks insults her, and then does a full song and dance to show off just how awesome he is. Ari writhes around like this show of egotism is really sexy, simultaneously turning me off of the scene and lowering my respect of Ari for her lousy taste in men.
When the book goes for a final plot twist at the end, Ari’s parents further reduce Ari and Maks to being children, complete with Ari being sent to her room while Maks is scolded for not courting Ari properly. Yes, really. The scene is so stupid, I almost didn’t get to make it to the ending where Ari childishly gets Maks in trouble with her dad. (Won’t explain why, no spoilers.) She might as well stick out her tongue and go, “neener neener, doodoohead!” for the closing line.
I give Chaos Tryst 2 stars, and I might recommend it to fans of whimsical romance stories that draw on fairy tale themes. But for me, the main characters had no chemistry, and rather than try for an immortally lifelong romance, I think the best Maks should hope for from Ari is some pity sex for being a sadder bear than Sexual Harassment Panda.