Maja (The Nocturnal Library)'s Reviews > Once Burned

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
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Once Burned is a radical improvement over the last few Night Huntress books, but unfortunately, that isn’t saying much. Cat and Bones have been losing steam, but their world still has so much to give, which in some ways makes this a very smart move. I was a bit skeptical at first (aren’t I always?) about Frost using such a huge historical figure as a protagonist, but she handled that part well: she stayed very close to what the world knows about the real Vlad III Tepes.

However, she didn’t stay true to herself. When I tried to combine what we found out about him in the original series (he appeared in at least two Night Huntress books) with what I know of the real Vlad, this wasn’t what I came up with at all. Obviously she had to offer more than she did when he was just a secondary character, but she still needed to stay close to her previous portrayal of him. A lot of things were missing, most of all the sardonic sense of humor I’ve learned to expect. Frost chose to put emphasis on his other traits like arrogance and ruthlessness – all understandable, of course, he is Vlad the Impaler after all – but he seemed too cold somehow, and I didn’t get the attraction between him and Leila at all.

It didn’t help that Leila seemed seriously underdeveloped. Too much of her character was left unexplored. She carried guilt over causing her mother’s death, and yet the whole thing was barely mentioned. Years of animosity between her and her sister were resolved in one very short conversation. Everything was too abrupt. When I fist found out that she was a circus performer, I was excited and I wanted to learn more, but that too was barely mentioned. I see no point in giving your protagonist such an interesting occupation if you don’t intend to make the most of it.

Most of this book takes place in different parts of Romania. Being who I am (linguist, grammar nerd and lover of all things old and European), I was disappointed by the amount of research Jeaniene Frost invested in this book. Sure, she did her homework on Vlad Tepes himself, but Romanian language, culture and customs were all painfully neglected. Even Vlad’s humans, some of whom didn’t even speak English, all had English names.

Like my friend Missie (you can read her review here), I think it best not to overthink this book. Thinking about it too much only makes you see the barely hidden flaws. But Jeaniene Frost’s books are never boring, and they’re always hot. Sometimes – especially in the middle of the summer – that’s all you can ask.

Even after reading Vlad and Leila's adventure, Mircea II Basarab remains my favorite Wallachian prince and my favorite fictional crush. You can meet him in all his glory in Touch the Dark by Karen Chance.

Also posted at The Nocturnal Library
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Great review Maja!!!!!! I've been wondering whether I should get into Frost books.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Thanks so much, Lisa. The first few are actually pretty good.

message 3: by Aa'Ishah (last edited Jun 28, 2012 01:02PM) (new) - added it

Aa'Ishah Aww, I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this much, Maja. I've been looking forward to this so much since I love the Night Huntress series. Great, honest review. :)

Barbara (VampAngel) Maja, I totally agree with your review, although I enjoyed the book a little more than you. The thing that struck me the most was the lack of Vlad's humor/sarcasm. Leila was funnier than him and in all his NH appearances he was always the funniest. I missed that for sure.

message 5: by AH (new) - rated it 4 stars

AH Not a gushing review? I now want to read it more - just to see which way I'll go. Great review, Maja.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) VA, it bothered me that she kept slapping him every chance she got. You made me angry - slap. You insulted me - slap. You threatened my family - slap. Who the hell is she, Scarlett O'Hara? Who does that?

AH, I'm very curious about that too. Can't wait to compare notes.

message 7: by Barbara (VampAngel) (last edited Jun 28, 2012 02:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara (VampAngel) LOL, Maja! I don't recall all these slaps you mentioned. I remember one, right after she discovered he was willing to use her family against her if needed. I remember that Maximus was looking at her right after like the had two alien heads.

I might need to reread it now, just so I can see all these slaps again. Scarlett O'Hara indeed!

Jessica I only remember one slap, too. Maybe there are different versions floating around? I definitely agree on Vlad's disappointing lack of humor in this one... and about Mircea in the Karen Chance series :)

Lindsay "However, she didn’t stay true to herself. When I tried to combine what we found out about him in the original series (he appeared in at least two Night Huntress books) with what I know of the real Vlad, this wasn’t what I came up with at all."

Exactly how I felt. Unfortunately, I am overthinking it. I feel like I got such a flat version of Frost's writing is, which awful since I really love her writing, esp. in NH 1-4 and both NHW books. This book was a let down for me. Vlad didn't feel like Vlad. I thought Leila was repetitive and ridiculous - it's like they took Cat (who, despite her shortcomings, is a fully rounded and realized character) and boiled her down to her snark and insecurities, made her a virgin and failed to round her out fully. I realize that there are more books a-coming to develop her character more, but I feel like Cat was a much more realized character, even in NH1. Subsequent books helped her along her journey through life, but we never got a flat version of her.

Am I being super harsh? I don't mean to be, but it's Vlad. He's the most intriguing character in the series to me (until Ian steps up to the plate a bit more, perhaps) Maybe I had inflated expectations, but I just don't think this one lived up to the quality of writing that we know Frost is capable of.

message 10: by Rane (new) - added it

Rane That's a big disappointment I have fallen for the Vlad in the NH series, with his hidden and bad past, with his great sense of humor, this doesn't sound like Vlad but someone very different, a big let down.

message 11: by AH (new) - rated it 4 stars

AH Rane - I'm reading it now and so far, I kind of like Vlad.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) L, I agree with you on the NH 1-4 and NHW books and on Leila not being strong and special enough. She's not heroine material. She'd make a great secondary character, but she's no Cat, that's for sure. I don't think you're being super harsh at all, I feel exactly the same way. I was expecting something entirely different, and Frost's trademark sense of humor is almost entirely absent in this book. I mean, even Mencheres was funny, and he scares me to death. There has to have been a way for it to work with Vlad too.

Jessica, I'm glad we agree on Mircea, I need to reread that series. Although I don't appreciate the direction Chance took in the last book.

Barbara (VampAngel) I enjoy Mircea, but that series annoys me. There is NOTHING I DETEST MORE than love triangles. I don't even care if the heroine chooses the guy that I'm not fond of, but she MUST choose one quickly or I lose all respect for the writer and the heroine. And Karen Chance has been doing it for a lot of books.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) I'm with you there. In fact, that's why I prefer her Dory Basarab series: Mircea is still in it, but as Dorina's father, and there is no love triangle at all.

Barbara (VampAngel) I haven't read the Dory series yet. I meant to, but I got so annoyed with the triangle that I gave up on Karen Chance for a bit. I'll try it now though. Thanks!

Julie Read Our Lips! Book Review Blog I really liked this book, but I couldn't help but feel it was a bit of false advertising on Jeanine Frost's (JF) part.

This is a book on VLAD - even the series is named after him, so why isn't it in his POV? I really felt cheated that Leila got top billing over him. I really didn't care for her story at all, and her scenes were flat, until Vlad came on, that was when the book picked up for me. After all, none of the fans rushed to get this book for Leila - the only reason we bought it was for Vlad and he felt like a secondary character throughout :(

The sex scenes were so hott - except I cringed when JF used 'loins' LOL but I loved the shower scene *fans self*

Other than those 2 points, I enjoyed when Vlad was featured in the book. I hope the next one has his POV, otherwise, I don't see this series going very far and that's a shame because I love Vlad.

message 17: by AH (new) - rated it 4 stars

AH Julie - I agree with you. The book needed more Vlad.

message 18: by Jodi (last edited Jul 12, 2012 06:46AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jodi I agree. The part where Leila makes up with her pretty much estranged-for-years sister in one bland and short conversation, and then doesn't even give her any more thought or think 'gee, might be nice to spend a few hours catching up with her and talking to her' rang so false to me and made me feel the Leila character was either quite cold, or not quite fully thought through enough. I liked Leila at first and her humour but this part made it a bit hard to warm to her. Yes love is a big thing but family deserves a few stray thoights and hours devoted to it too surely? It has some importance!

Overall I'm a fan but just wish the family stuff could have had a bit more emotion and care added maybe. It'd have made the character more real and fully rounded as a person.

Chichipio There should be another button called "like (with reservations)."

I was nodding my head along until I reached the last paragraph and I got dizzy from changing directions so quickly. I even have a kink on my neck now. Mircea, seriously?

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Well, duh. Didn't we have this co versation before? In my enormous army of fictional crushes, Mircea is a general. You know I despise Pritkin!

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Also, you're full of kinks, so what's one more in the collection? :D

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