Ethan and Merit have been on edge waiting for Balthasar, Ethan’s creator, to show himself. Finally the ancient vampire makes an appearance – and he’s as terrifying and powerful as they feared; he also feels entitled to his progeny’s achievements, including his house
But it’s not the only threat looking. The problems besetting Navarre house have finally been revealed as two of their vampires become attempted assassins in a very public attack. While Navarre has never been a friend to Cadogan, Ethan and Merit can’t stand aside while the vampire house is acting so strangely and has to investigate, even with Balthasar stalking them.
This is one of those hard reviews to write. It’s hard because I find myself with a feeling of, well, vaguely positive indifference towards the book. I didn’t dislike it, there were few things about it that I had issue with (though there are some which I’ll get to). The writing was well paced, the action seems nicely described. The two main plots were nicely interwoven, related and each got sufficient time and attention to be properly developed and come to a natural conclusion.
Merit continues to be a relatively fun character, active and in control without being overwhelming and eclipsing everyone else. There was also more presence from the other women around her, the other female guards, Helen who runs the house, Margot the cook, Mallory her best friend. They’re not present in huge amounts but this is a very Ethan and Merit focused book. I also like that Mallory is finally coming from beneath the shadow of her past misdeeds to be a less controversial and dubious presence in the book always haunted by her own guilt
I also appreciated that Merit managed to be intelligent and insightful in this book without the need for everyone else to suddenly lose half of their brain cells. It has been an unfortunate habit of the series to make Merit seem extremely intelligent by making everyone else… somewhat limited in their comprehension.
I love Merit’s adoration of all things edible and unhealthy and she almost makes me hungry reading
the book (or, in her case, hangry – her hungry anger has no caused emergency lunches to be ready at all times) though there’s a dubious element of this unhealthy eating without any side issues.
We had some touching on the Sorcerers with Catcher and Mallory’s upcoming wedding – and a lot of interest debate around it. I loved how they chewed over the idea that even with someone you love, getting married for “practical purposes” rather takes the wind out of things. But equally there’s the counter debate that people grow up, what they once dreamed of isn’t what they want and love and practicality can mean that a big romantic moment is less important – it’s a nice back and forth with the added good input from Ethan that her friends are adults who don’t need Merit to police their relationship.
I do think this book could have been improved by a little more development – Mallory and Catcher want to rejoin the magical organisation… ok, why? What does this organisation actually do? Why is membership an advantage? We have a miscellaneous criminal group doing criminal things – expand on that please. We have a new American Vampire organisation – ok, what does that mean? What does it do? How? I was starving for some exposition to make me more invested in this book and the world
Especially since Merit and Ethan leave this book pretty much as they came in. I can understand not needing to grow a character every book – but this book was so micro-focused on them that it felt like there should have been something
Now to some actual issues
The first issue I have is that one of the big bads in this book tries to sexually assault Merit. The book does do a good job of showing this as a hard experience for Merit and not something she can just get over, equally it shows Ethan being highly respectful of that and giving her the space she needs. But it remains that we have a sexual assault that added nothing to the book except traumatising Merit for the sake of… of… I actually have no idea. It didn’t make the conflict more real or the big bad badder or, well, anything. It was just there. If anything I felt it was there to try and make the fight against Balthasar more Merit’s personal fight than Ethan’s which seems pretty sad and unnecessary.