Curse of the Were-Woman marks my second encounter with Dawn Carrington, following the fantastic Resurrecting Jessica (check out my review here). ThisCurse of the Were-Woman marks my second encounter with Dawn Carrington, following the fantastic Resurrecting Jessica (check out my review here). This time, Dawn goes for a story that's both more erotic and more fantastic, shifting gears from experimental drugs to a very interesting kind of monster.
It starts innocently enough with some sexy costumes and swapping of stories on Halloween, but when a young man discovers that his girlfriend has been cheating on him, he's only too happy to fall into the arms of her best friend, Sara. Simple enough, except for the fact that she's a were-woman, a succubus who sucks the masculinity from her victims rather than their life-essence.
This was a great tale with a nice balance between the erotic transformation and the intellectual understanding of how it all comes about. There's some nice imagination behind the mythology, and the way in which the story develops (although a bit quick) is actually quite reasonable. There are, as we discover, many forms of hunger, and some of them are more exciting to satisfy than others. While you'd be wise to beware the Curse of the Were-Woman, you may just finding yourself hungry for it.
Although short, The Abyss was an entirely lovely little Gothic vampire tale. Robynn Penelope Mussell does a masterful job of creating a sense of histoAlthough short, The Abyss was an entirely lovely little Gothic vampire tale. Robynn Penelope Mussell does a masterful job of creating a sense of history, establishing her centuries-old vampires with nothing more than some music, fashion, and memories. In establishing her chain of 'authentic' vampire clubs across the world, she puts some real thought into justifying their locations.
The transgender element here is slight, but it is integral to the story. Robynn herself is a character within the story (referred to as RP), but the only hint to her nature is the single statement that "she wanted it more than all of the lost friends she had when she became a woman." In a nice twist, her lover (our vampire narrator) is quietly outed as transgender as well, with the statement that "I felt I was not a man; I never did" backed up by the Prince of Vampires later calling her out by name.
The entire story pays off nicely in the end, with a great scene of confrontation that includes a couple of clever twists, and some further establishment of the supernatural element. Well worth a read.
I feel awful for having sat on this review for as long as I have (sorry, Tim!), but I knew that if I were going to save one review to feature on HalloI feel awful for having sat on this review for as long as I have (sorry, Tim!), but I knew that if I were going to save one review to feature on Halloween, then Vampalicious would be it. Like its predecessor, this is extraordinary blend of horror and romance, but with the characters already established and the preliminaries out of the way, Timothy McGivney gives himself free reign to explore the darkest edges of his tale.
It works beautifully.
Once again, this is a blood-and-guts horror story that refuses to shy away from the gore. Adding vampires was a risk, one that could have gone horribly wrong, but McGivney not only establishes his vampires as central characters to the tale, he also allows for a little zombie cross-infection that brings a whole new element of horror to the tale. Adrian is a wonderful character, the epitome of the seductive vampire, and one who is as adept at penetrating the boys with his fangs as he is with his manhood! As for Jeanette, she is dangerously fascinating, a mentally unbalanced vampire bride with a cruel fetish for S&M. Sex with this unholy couple certainly pushes beyond the limits of erotica established in Zombielicious, but the scenes are handled extremely well, and are necessary to the plot.
Romantically, this is an even stronger book than the first, thanks primarily to the relationship between Walt and Joey. Having moved from infatuation to passionate love, they are one of the cutest couples I have ever come across in a horror novel. They really do seem to exist beyond the page, and they endear themselves so well to the reader, you can't help but be drawn into their struggle. This time around they both get to play the hero, taking turns in coming to one another's rescue. There's a second relationship here, though, one that haunts the story, reminding you the world has become a dangerous place. We really only get to know Taco's romantic side through flashbacks and memories, but it drives her to avenge her lover's death . . . while making amends for her own romantic inhibitions.
The story moves along at a breakneck pace, never allowing the characters (or the reader) to rest for long. While McGivney smartly uses the tender, romantic moments to alleviate some of the tension, he never allows the horror to completely recede. This is a book where lives are at stake, and where survival is measured more in terms of days, or even hours, than years. It's hard to talk highlights without getting into spoiler territory, but I will say Walt's sexual submission to power of Adrian left me breathless; the deadly ménage à trois between Adrian, Jeanette, and Christoph (their vampire Master) absolutely blew me away; and the final, desperate dash to Ruby Island nearly broke my heart. There's not quite as much humour this time around, but there were a few running gags - such as poor Walt running around and kicking Zombie ass in nothing but a jockstrap - that left me with a smile.
If you have yet to enjoy Zombielicious, then treat yourself to a Halloween double-feature and pick it up alongside Vampalicious - because, once you take these boys in hand, you won't want to let go.
While I had previously read (and enjoyed) a few of Victoria's transgender fetish tales, I wasn't quite prepared for blossoming of her storytelling abiWhile I had previously read (and enjoyed) a few of Victoria's transgender fetish tales, I wasn't quite prepared for blossoming of her storytelling abilities with Passionate Blood. Here, Victoria Foxxe has managed to take two rather tired cliches, reinventing them through the erotic intermingling of two very different genres.
She introduced it to me as "Rocky Horror Picture Show crossed with True Blood," but while it appropriates the transgender elements of the first, it lacks the tongue-in-cheek cheese factor of either. Instead, it's more of a Dracula homage, complete with the inclusion of the weird sisters . . . who get a vampiric BDSM twist.
What makes the story work so well is the slow, uncertain, reluctant transformation of young Christopher into the reincarnation of Count Radu Velescu's long-lost bride. Here we have a man who has never questioned his gender, never so much as had a stray gay thought, being forcibly feminized and seduced by the power of the Count. There's the suggestion of a supernatural element here, a destiny foretold that he cannot deny, but I loved how Victoria refrained from offering any final confirmation or his true motivation.
Erotic and a bit chilling, this was an altogether fantastic story that really pulled me in, satiating both my curiosity and my own fetishistic desires.
Vampire fiction and I maintain a very uneasy relationship. The vampire has always been my favourite literary/cinematic monster. I feel like I grew upVampire fiction and I maintain a very uneasy relationship. The vampire has always been my favourite literary/cinematic monster. I feel like I grew up with vampires, so I tend to be rather protective of their dark reputation. While I'm willing to allow for a little creative license, such as the reluctant vampire seeking redemption, I have absolutely no patience for the sparkly crap that attempts to do away with supernatural evil in the name of romance.
Fortunately, Plucking Cupid's Bow is one of those books where I found myself not only willing to forgive the creative license, but actually enjoying it. Alex Potvin and Rebecca Murphy have taken some clever liberties here, both in terms of the genre and their characters, but the novelty is more than matched by the strength of the storytelling.
Camille Murphy (Cami) is one of the most engaging characters I have come across in a very long time. She's cute, she's funny, she's profound . . . and she's certifiably crazy. Despite having been turned almost a century ago (in an asylum, of course), Cami refuses to accept the fact that she's a vampire. Crazy as she may be, Cami is a wonderfully strong character, one you can't help but love and admire. Protected by a goth-girl minion she recruited at the 7-11), Cami must deal with a pair of comically inept demons who pass the time by assisting with her hopeless attempts at suicide, a clumsy priest who is convinced she would look best immersed in the holy water of an exorcism, and a hopeless nerd who thinks she'd look far better in a superhero cape.
You can't help but wonder if you'd be talking to Slurpee machines yourself were you in her place.
This is a read that's both fun and funny, but never at the expense of the story. There's a vampire prophecy to deal with, a nicely-developed love triangle, and more than a little anti-heroism. As unbelievable as it may seem, this crazy cast of characters must band together to stop the Shadow King, who wants to unleash Hell (capital 'H') on the nation's capital, and the Baron, who doesn't appreciate such mortal interference with the slave he sired to help him foresee the future.
It's a story that shouldn't work, and one where you would expect the novelty to wear off pretty quickly, but somehow Potvin and Murphy keep it all going. If you're ever in the mood for something completely different that twists (but never betrays) the genre conventions, get yourself a comfy couch, grab a glass of red wine (or two) and settle in for a fun read.
Alex Owens' Kill Me is the first volume of the Blood Chord sequence, an interesting mix of motherhood, music, vampires, and erotic desires.
It all starAlex Owens' Kill Me is the first volume of the Blood Chord sequence, an interesting mix of motherhood, music, vampires, and erotic desires.
It all starts out as a straight-forward piece of chick-lit fiction, with a harried working mother struggling to juggle the demands of a career with those of a resentful husband and a lonely daughter. Claire is a bit awkward, adding a lightly comic tone to the story, and her strained relationship serves to ground the overall story. You can't help but immediately like her. Alex does a wonderful job of establishing her as a strong and admirable woman, more than worthy of our respect, while also developing her as a sympathetic character.
By contrast, Bette is a suave, sophisticated woman with genuine old-word class - a naturally powerful seductress who immediately insinuates herself into Claire's thoughts. I loved the interaction between these two characters, especially the prolonged homoerotic tease. It's a fine line to walk, keeping the sexual tension fresh and exciting, without exhausting the reader's patience for some kind of consummation, but Alex clearly understands the sensuality of the 'classic' vampire archetype.
The introduction of Gregor, another vampire into the mix, was definitely not something I expected, but Alex plays out the love/lust triangle very well. Claire spends so much of the book completely out of her depth, strung along, and forced to react to these two supernaturally powerful individuals, that it's exhilarating to see her discovering her own hidden strengths, ultimately wresting control of the unbreakable bond between vampires . . . and bending it to her own needs.
Almost primarily sensual and romantic, there are some very explicitly erotic scenes that are developed and introduced in such a way that they seem a natural progression of the storyline. They're definitely steamy, and a little dreamy, but they work very well within the context of the story, the path that's Clarie's life has taken, the way her relationships have developed, and the overall vampire mythology.
It's not your traditional, action-packed vampire tale, but it is one that's full of conflict - emotional, psychological, and (at times) extremely physical. Fast, fun, and . . . dare I say it, empowering . . . this is a wonderful story and one that will leave you anxious for more.
With The Lurker War (Book Two Of The Nown World Chronicles), Donald picks up where he left off, firmly entrenched in the realm of traditional fantasy.With The Lurker War (Book Two Of The Nown World Chronicles), Donald picks up where he left off, firmly entrenched in the realm of traditional fantasy. While there are still some erotic moments here, they are very much secondary to the plot, making it a more accessible story to those squeamish readers, while still reminding the more daring readers of what they enjoyed about the first volume. Karen (formerly Ka-Ron) is comfortably settled into her femininity, pregnant for the second time in her new life, and on her way to becoming not a Knight, but a Queen . . . while her husband, Jatel, struggles to accept his new role as husband and King, instead of Squire.
This is very much a book about a world at war - a pointless, bloody, hopeless war in which friends and allies have been turned against one another by the Lurker parasites (think malevolent Tribbles with teeth!). Karen and her crew must survive capture by the enemy, free themselves from the world's most inescapable prison, make peace with ancient foes, find a way to reunite with their past allies, and (quite literally) save the world. What really sets this book apart from the first, though, is the deeper exploration of the mythology and history of the Nown world . . . complete with a cliffhanger encounter that promises big things for the next instalment.
More frantically paced than the first instalment, this is a book that almost demands to be consumed in a single reading. It's a hard story to put down, and one that ably delivers on the promise and potential of the first volume. All the character we came to know and love there are back - including a few welcome surprises - and the new characters, particularly on the villainous side, make for some great additions. There are still some interesting explorations of gender here, of course, even if they're not the focus on the book. I loved how the Dwarven females were exposed/reintroduced into society, and there were some interesting twists/reversals of gender roles and expectations that kept things fresh and interesting.
If you were left hanging after the end of The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight, then you won't be disappointed with The Lurker War . . . and if you haven't read either, then all I can say is "what are you waiting for?
Amanda J. Greene's Caressed by Night is the second book in her Rulers of Darkness series, following her scintilating debut, Caressed by Moonlight.
WheAmanda J. Greene's Caressed by Night is the second book in her Rulers of Darkness series, following her scintilating debut, Caressed by Moonlight.
Whether you're a lover of paranormal romances, or simply a romantic at heart, Amanda knows how to caress just the right emotions in the read, drawing you deeper and deeper into her story, and entangling you with some rather unique twists so that you not only can't let go . . . you won't want to.
While I didn't care for the setting here as much as I did in the first book (Amanda transplants us from the gas-lit cobblestone streets of 19th London to the harsh fluorescent glare of 21st centure Las Vegas), it does provide for an interesting avenue to explore the progression of her vampire mythos. Fortunately, Kerstyn and Dimitri are just as enthralling a romantic duo as Victoria and Dorian were in the first volume, so it's very easy to fall back into the mythology. Personally, I liked Victoria slightly more than Kerstyn, although they are both wonderfull independant women, but I found Dimitri slightly more swoon-worthy than Dorian, so it all balances out.
The character building is superb, as is the amount of detail Amanda has invested in her vampire mythos. I loved the complexities of Dimitri, with one layer of personality revealed after another, further establishing him as both a romantic hero and a vampire legend. Silvie, Kerstyn's best friend and witch, is another character I found myself instantly attracted to, while the blood-slave-turned-vampire Gabriel successfully managed to overcome my initial frustrations to become another favourite by the end.
It goes without saying, of course, that his is another very hot, very sexy, very romantic book with enough steamy bits to make even the most staid reader swoon, but carefully woven into a story that could easily stand on it's own as a straightforward paranormal adventure . . . although it wouldn't be nearly as fun. As was the case with Caressed by Moonlight, this is another self-contained storyline that reaches back to that world, but which also contains enough promise for several new volumes to come....more
Better Off Red, the first volume in the new Vampire Sorority Sisters series, starts simply, almost predictably, with a pair of roommates pledging theBetter Off Red, the first volume in the new Vampire Sorority Sisters series, starts simply, almost predictably, with a pair of roommates pledging the hottest sororities.
Except, of course, Ginger really has no interest in pledging, and is only doing so to appease her roommate . . . and keep her ignorant of Ginger’s sexuality. Except, of course, the sorority that so draws their attention seems to have a few secrets . . . such as how an empty table has managed to have so many people sign the pledge sheet? Except, of course, Ginger can’t even get through the simple act of signing a pledge sheet without a call from her mom . . . and a ‘helpful’ chat with her brother.
The initiation into the sorority is so very well done, introducing just a little eroticism, and then keeping us on edge, playing out the suspense while building more than a little fear, that I found myself breathlessly turning pages. Standing before the queen the pledges have no choice but to confess their innermost desires for other women . . . and she is only too delighted to help see them realised. That, right there, is what converted me from a hopeful reader to an expectant one. I loved the fact that Rebekah managed to establish so much of Ginger’s character so early, and to weave so many other layers into the tale. I wasn’t expecting to have so much of the sorority (and its queen) exposed so early on, but I loved the mythology she created.
I was equally surprised to find the story developing into a passionate romance. Ginger’s relationship with Camila was not at all what I expected, but precisely what I had (in retrospect) hoped for. I fell in love with Ginger early on, and so wanted to see her thrive. She’s a high-strung, smart-ass, vulnerable young woman who portrays a façade of perfect confidence. She literally leaps off the page, taking on a personality that seems to stretch beyond the story itself. A large part of my anxiety when reading was fear for her, fear that she’d be destroyed by her vampire seductress, but Rebekah betrays the genre clichés again, and takes the story in a far more interesting direction.
Almost the very definition of a paranormal romance, this is a book that exceeded my expectations, and fulfilled my hopes. It’s well-written, incredibly sexy, and as full of emotional satisfaction as it is physical. I wouldn't dream of spoiling the ending, but I will say this - it literally had me throwing my hands in the air, squealing with girlish glee, at the wonder of it all.
I will definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever she has to offer next, and anxiously awaiting the next chapter of the Vampire Sorority Sisters...more
I don’t tend to read a lot of Regency romances – as much as I love the fashions – but I was immediately taken by the delicious twist that Amanda putsI don’t tend to read a lot of Regency romances – as much as I love the fashions – but I was immediately taken by the delicious twist that Amanda puts on the tale with Caressed by Moonlight. Victoria Kingston is a poor, penniless orphan, desperate to find herself a husband in time to save her sister from the cruel clutches of their aunt.
Pretty standard stuff, except for the fact that Victoria has less than a month to get herself married.
Despite her desperation, Victoria heeds the warnings of her best friend and vows to stay far away from the dark and dangerous Prince Dorian Vlakhos. An aristocrat of the highest order, he’s the kind of man who would surely be well out of social reach, regardless of her vows.
Again, pretty standard stuff, except for the fact that Dorian rules over a clan of vampires, and under a very personal curse.
What we have here is a paranormal romance that plays with the conventions of the Regency romance – and does so very well – but which also foreshadows the intelligent, fiercely independent, sexually liberated heroine of literary eras and genres to follow. By the time Victoria learns the truth about Dorian, she has already decided to accept him as he is, just as he has done for her. Theirs is a fairy-tale romance, and if it’s tainted with the coppery tang of blood, that simply adds to the magic.
Layered alongside the romance, however, is also a tale of intrigue and mystery related to the wars between vampire clans, and the curse under which Dorian rules. It’s to Amanda’s credit that both storylines work equally well, and the novel certainly benefits from having one enhance the other. Romantic and sensual on the one hand, and adventurous and thrilling on the other hand, this is book that continually surprised me with its depth, its passion, and its creativity.
With characters you can’t help but swoon over, a storyline that I suspect still has some surprises to come, and a wonderfully well-written narrative that quite easily seduces you into reading just another page, I can’t wait to see where Amanda takes things next. ...more
Celeste Nites is a lovely little collection of Clarrissa Lee Moon's first three Celeste, including Claiming Celeste, Hunting Celeste, and Sharing CeleCeleste Nites is a lovely little collection of Clarrissa Lee Moon's first three Celeste, including Claiming Celeste, Hunting Celeste, and Sharing Celeste. These stories serve to establish the main characters, introduce us to Celeste’s situation, and basically arouse our interest.
Oh, and when I say ‘arouse’ our interest, that wording is very deliberate!
Multiple point-of-view (POV) stories have a tendency to annoy me, but I love the way in which Clarrissa uses the format here. Instead of jumping between POVs throughout the narrative, or arbitrarily introducing a different POV to transition a scene, she allows the characters to share the story. The POV shifts are deliberate, significant, and evenly paced. It’s a really exciting way in which to explore the story, creating two separate narratives that don’t yet merge in these first three tales, but which come closer as the story moves along.
One story is that of Celeste, the beautiful vampire, hunted by a spurned (and homicidal) ex-lover. We get to indulge in her dancing, in her careful means of self-expression, always aware of the risks of allowing a new lover to get too close. The other story is that of Jacques and Armand, human brothers with an amorous, protective, almost possessive interest in Celeste, but little understanding of her true situation.
There’s a dangerous game being played out between the three would-be lovers, but they’re all playing by different rules, and with a different perspective on the game.
When the lovers eventually do come together - first as a pair, and then as a ménage-a-trois - Clarrissa turns up the heat, taking an already smouldering story, and drawing us into a fiery tale of exaggerated passion. The sex is, quite simply, stunning . . . erotic and intense, building to one climax after another, until we’re left breathless, almost unable to continue. Although we don’t get to explore a lot of Celeste’s vampiric nature, there’s a darkly threatening potential for violence that adds yet another level of intensity to the story.
Ultimately, we don’t see much of Henry (the homicidal ex) in these stories, but that’s okay. He’s well-established as a threat, and we even get a glimpse into his motivation that promises an even more interesting story ahead. Celeste is a compelling character from page one, but it takes a bit of time for us to warm up to Jacques. Actually, it isn’t until Armand is introduced, and we begin to explore the weirdly symbiotic relationship between the brothers, that he begins to transform into a character worthy of Celeste’s attentions - and ours.
Overall, this is a fantastic collection of stories that serve as the first installment of a much larger story. Erotic, exciting, and well-told, it's a welcome addition to the realm of paranormal romance....more
**spoiler alert** First of all, let me be clear - I love Willow, Angel, Xander, Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Faith . . . generally, depending upon my mood**spoiler alert** First of all, let me be clear - I love Willow, Angel, Xander, Buffy, Giles, Spike, and Faith . . . generally, depending upon my mood, in that order. I was a huge fan of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel when they were on TV, passing up dates, missing appointments, and blowing off family gatherings to catch each new episode. I was a bit too old to have grown up on the Whedonverse, but it definitely shaped much of my teenage years.
I cried like a baby when both shows ended. Buffy, I thought, ended very well, wrapping up 7 years of television with an ending that was every bit as empowering as the show itself. Angel, I thought, ended even better (even if it was sadly before it's time), with a final few moments that still take my breath away.
So, you can imagine my insane delight when I first heard that not only would each show be getting another "official" season, but that Joss himself would be at the helm. It wasn't a new season of televised glory, and it wasn't the movie we all wanted, but it was something - and it was to be "canon" (rather than just somebody else playing in then Whedonverse).
Season 8 definitely had its moments but, sadly, they were in the first 3 volumes (Long Way Home, No Future For You, and Wolves at the Gate). From there, it's been an uneven ride that began going downhill with Twilight (Volume 7) and has mercifully ended with Last Gleaming (Volume 8).
Okay, if you haven't read Last Gleaming, then stop reading now because SPOILERS ABOUND!
Still here? You've been warned . . .
Let me sum up what was wrong with this final chapter:
1. Superhero powers, for both Buffy and Angel. Nope, sorry, just too much. 2. The failure to correct the mistake of revealing Angel as the Big Bad. Come on, really? It was an absolute cheat to have Twilight turn out to be Angel . . . with a twist that ridiculous, I'm sure another could have been manufactured to counter it. 3. Faith being wasted. This girl has potential! If you're not going to exploit it, then at least give her a great exit . . . don't just leave her on the sidelines. 4. The senseless death of Giles. Yeah, Xander and I both saw it coming, but it was still an unnecessary bit of drama. Giles is . . . well, Giles! If he had to die, then it should have meant something. 5. On that note, Xander being wasted. He had his shot at being a hero. He could have stopped Giles, taken his place, and turned a senseless death into a noble sacrifice. Instead, he stands by and watches. 6. Resurrecting The Master, only to neuter him by making him a pawn of some other force, and then giving him a quick death that accomplishes nothing. 7. Buffy saving the world by destroying the magic in it. This was huge. This was the classic no-win situation she faced so many times on TV . . . except she always found a way to create a third choice, one that usually involved her own sacrifice. Here, she picks the easy out, betraying Willow in the process, and does it without a moment of thought. Where's the angst? Where's the internal debate? Where's sense of sorrow and helplessness that have always accompanied those choices? This was lazy and it was wrong (even if it does erase a lot of mistakes and set us up for a return to normalcy in season 9). 8. Giles rewriting his will, leaving everything to Faith. Excuse me? WTF? Yeah, we know he's kind of taken Faith under his wing, but this reeks of just another betrayal. This whole season seemed to be about dividing him from his Slayer, and I don't like the implication that he's lost faith in Buffy.
As for what was right about it:
1. Spike was awesome. He looked like Spike, he talked like Spike, and he acted like Spike. He played a significant role and, despite all the hints, never did betray Buffy. 2. Um . . . really, that's about it.
At this point, I'm not really interested in a Season 9, but I suspect I'll give it a shot - if only because Joss himself owned up to some of the failings in Season 8, and admitted he has already changed his direction for Season 9 because of what we, the fans, have said.
All I can say is it better be good . . . at least Angel good, if not better. ...more
Blood Rights is an urban fantasy story with more unexpected twists to it than a roller coaster in the dark. It's not only a fresh take on the urban faBlood Rights is an urban fantasy story with more unexpected twists to it than a roller coaster in the dark. It's not only a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre, but a fresh take on vampires as well.
What sets it apart from the competition is the strength of it's core characters, each of them cursed in some fashion, but stronger for it. For starters, we have Chysabelle - a comarre cursed by the circumstances of her birth. Born to the life of a blood-whore, and secretly trained as a lethal assassin, she is on the run from the most terrifying vampire of all, and accidentally bound to an outcast vampire just as cursed as she is. Malkolm, the outcast vampire in question, is a human hunter turned vampire, expelled from the noble ranks of the undead, and cursed to wear the names of his victims upon his skin, and to hear their voices in his head.
Doc is a varcolai shapeshifter, also cursed. A loyal comrade of Mal, limited to taking on the form of a common housecat when transformed, he is forever tied by his own conscience to the vampire who rescued him . . . and to the ghost that he wears. That ghost, Fi, is the most tragic of the lot. As the victim whose death triggered Mal's curse, she's not just a name he wears and a voice that he hears, but a ghost who physically haunts him.It's her love for Doc that binds vampire, varcolai, and ghost together, and it is Doc's love for her that eventually ties the comarre to them all.
As for that terrifying vampire I mentioned, the dangerously erotic Tatiana, she is cursed as well - both by her dark pact with the fathers of vampirism, and by her role in the curse of another . . . which is one of those delicious twists we only discover near the very end.
This is a dark story, set in a dark future that's not too different from our own. It's not quite a dystopia, but certainly a future lacking in shiny monuments to progress. It's also a very edgy story, dealing with themes of slavery and submission, and with the more dangerous elements of vampirism (notably sex and the concept of 'pure' evil) that seems to have fallen out of favour lately. As a reader who is all too sick of friendly, sparkly, reluctant vampires who only want to be loved, this was a refreshing change.
Having said that, there are several romantic subplots to the story, but they are handled very well. With the exception of Doc and Fi, the romances tie directly into the theme of slavery and submission, tainting the thrill of erotic discovery with the horror of the monstrous. On the surface, the romances are both curious and distasteful - to the characters, as well as the readers - but Kristen does a superb job of developing the characters so that that we accept the romances and find ourselves wanting them to work.
There's a lot of work required here to establish the characters, the world, and the mythology, but the pace never lags. It's a story that grabs you from the start, and one that keeps you turning pages late into the night. The action is bloody and intense, with beheadings and exploding vampires galore, and the fight scenes are inventive enough to be exciting, without dragging on and becoming gratuitously showy. The writing itself is gorgeous, conveying as much about the world Kristen has built as the story itself, and the dialogue is sharp and smart.
With the groundwork laid, and the next two books due to be released within months of this one, I cannot wait to see where Kristen is taking all of this, and what the ultimate payoff will be....more