Dorina is doing more and more missions for her father, Mircea, senator for the North American vampire council. Of course, being a vampire, her father, and extremely ancient he keeps far too many secrets – including the true nature of her latest task and the powerful artefact at the heart of it
A task that also drags in Louis-Cesare, who has his own political machinations caught between two senates
And then there’s Dorina’s best friend Claire – bringing a whole lot of lethal fae politics and her fae child with her.
This world has so much happening in it and it all comes into play in this book. The mages, the fae and the vampires all play varying role (focusing on the vampires but there’s a huge fae involvement). We have lots of political machinations from the world that has been completely upset by a huge ongoing war. I really like that each of the supernatural beings presented has a sense of culture – and not just a sense of culture but a sense of multiple cultures and factions rather than them just being homogenous groups.
I also love the sense that there is a lot going on beyond what Dorina is aware of – that great feeling that the world continues without her and doesn’t focus on her just because she is the protagonist. A lot of worlds seem to disappear when the protagonist is not involved, but not here.
The war makes for an excellent backdrop for the series because it gives such a perfect motivation for Dorina to be involved. The consumption of resources and attention by the war – coupled with the disruption by it – gives us a perfect reason why Dorina needs to be involved in things she’d normally be kept from. It also makes for an excellent world building exposition without making Dorina ignorant – she’s clearly capable and skilled (and, excellently, has some tricks that even the ancient master vampires don’t have), but the new situation means things need to be explained to her (and us). Similarly, explaining how the war has changed things also elegantly explains to us how the status quo normally operates. It works, it works really well considering just how much there is to grasp.
My complaint with all of this is that there is just so much going on. This rune is so valuable that half of the supernatural world want it which means there are a lot of players, a lot of possibles, a lot of factions that is all kind of overwhelming. Some I can see as important foreshadowing for the future and world building like Ming-de and the Chinese delegation, but Ganimus felt like a step too far and I’m not sure if the mage involvement and their event was particularly necessary either. I’m not saying any one of these elements was badly done or boring – certainly not – but there’s just so much going on not just in this book, but in this huge, varied and multi-layered world there needs to be triage, especially for readers who haven’t read other series set in the same world. Sometimes I felt like I should have been taking notes or keeping a flowchart or something.
The first book showed me this world and this book relied on me remembering that well because we dive in this time world. I’m especially thankful I’d read the short story in On the Prowl
because that helps fill in some gaps with Claire’s backstory which kept me afloat.