3.75 stars rounded up
I have come to cherish Ms. Martinez's stories -- though not all of them are hits but I usually can enjoy her characters. Set in the future, variants are people who have developed certain abilities thanks to a new nucleic acid, Fredamine, which at first designed to alleviate a wide spectrum of neurological disorders. But variants can also suffer from side effects...
Damien Hazelwood's is a locator -- he locates missing people and he is more refined than other tracking variants who only have short ranges. He is also suffers from twitches and OCDs. But Damien cannot refuse when the Guild asks him to locate missing kids. Blaze Emerson is a human sparker, whose temperaments match his ability and his bright red hair. And he is assigned to assist Damien in his search.
These two clash at first -- well, more so in Blaze's part than Damien. He dislikes his babysitting duty. But I guess Damien gets under Blaze's skin as Blaze knows more about his temporary partner. I really loved how Martinez writes about Damien's anxiety issues. I loved it even more that Martinez doesn't try to 'solve' the problem simply by making Damien and Blaze fall in love. Blaze doesn't try to fix Damien. He knows and understands that Damien will need space and care to deal with his obsessive compulsive disorder.
The plot moves rather quickly, because missing children is an urgent case. However, I admit that sometimes other plots are taking over. I'm referring about the appearance of Blaze's old flame, Shudder McKenzie, who later join the search for the missing kids. At times I thought that Shudder adds the tension, which is good because clearly Blaze needs to deal with his hurt over the broken relationship with Shudder ... but other times I felt that he is taking the focus from Blaze and Damien OR the missing children.
But the ending is sweet ... it makes me smile happily because it's just the right amount of hurt/comfort that Martinez has written here. I would've love to get back to this universe again. Maybe to finally see see Shudder settling down with his own man.