Mild, naive Sam comes from a repressive family in the country. Hardened, hermit-like Alistair is hiding away from life after being very badly hurt by his time as a soldier and its aftermath. They’re brought together because Sam’s cousin — who took him in when he fled his family — has been murdered, and Sam needs help in navigating the gangs and other dangers of Prohibition Chicago.
Plus, Alistair is a familiar, a shapeshifter, and he’s realised that Sam is his witch, the one person in the world whose magic best works with Alistair’s — but he has his own reasons for refusing to bond.
Sam is a lovely character, well-meaning and brave, despite the emotional damage from his family who belittled him constantly. He’s naive, but not as judgemental as he could be: he accepts the Gattis and what they do, even as he steers his own path (not drinking, for example, and not being terribly willing to work with a gang boss). He seems a dangerous big cat shifter and thinks, “Hey, can I pet him?”
He’s the ideal person to bring Alistair back out of his shell, and we see that happening in and amongst the actual action of the book. The pace of their relationship worked quite well for me, and it was really sweet… though I’m sure they have a ways to go to a proper happy ending.
I haven’t actually read the other books in this world, but that was okay; this worked well for me as an introduction, it was very clear what the basics were. I’m sure there’s more to understand in the other books — and I’m eager to read those too — but it works perfectly well on its own.