Vlad and Leila face an insidious threat – a connection to Leila that could kill her but can’t simply be burned away by Vlad’s vast power
And when an unknown force with unknown motives and powers co-opts that bonds, it forces them to seek new alliances and venues to ensure safety. This is a threat that direct confrontation and threat cannot defeat; instead a delicate cat-and-mouse game ensures
They enter the world of magic – of powers and abilities that may even outstrip Vlad’s terrifying fire.
One thing I like about this book is how it deals with some extremely powerful characters. I’ve seen many book series that have run into serious problems because they’ve allowed their characters to have such an immense power creep.
This series started with major power hitters from the beginning. Vlad is impossibly powerful and Mencheres just takes this to the next level. These characters are unassailably powerful and in many ways it should take out a lot of the conflict of the series. This usually leads to stories being pretty convoluted in ways to disapply their powers (or just have the characters forget they have these powers) – or we have constantly escalating enemies
Instead we have enemies using lots of cunning, hiding from Vlad’s direct powers, not allowing direct confrontation. The tension and frustration of these mighty characters trying to bring their powers to bear but being unable to actually really works. And it works that the ending becomes an anti-climax because of that – because cat and mouse can be wonderfully tense but when the cat actually finds the mouse? It’s short – and that’s ok. They set up a good dynamic besides that.
On top of that I like how Vlad’s arrogance is often a problem, he charges in expects everyone to cower in front of him and is generally absolutely terrible at any kind of investigation. Intimidation, death and power are his skill sets and none are applicable here.
The action scenes are interestingly well done, the tension and worry and the prices they have to pay are all well laid out. I am tired by Vlad’s eternal “protectiveness” of Leila but she does resist that nicely. If ineffectually.
I like how we get more of an insight into magic in this book. I wouldn’t say it actually added to the world building of this series in any great detail – instead I’ll say that it hinted a lot as to what could be possible and the power and forces that are out there. It laid the groundwork for Leila to become more of a power and laid out the possibility that there are forces out there that Vlad may have to respect.
There are a large number of dead people in this book. The collateral damage is immense. And I can buy that Vlad doesn’t care – after all, his whole persona is that he is ruthless beyond ruthless. But Leila appears to be equally uncaring. Oh she’ll give lip service but then we’ll move on leaving absolute carnage in their wake all the time and she won’t spare more than a second to consider this
Similarly this grand epic romance that has Vlad quite willing to sacrifice anything for Leila? It’s terrifying, it’s creepy and it’s never really exposed as much except, maybe, round the edges, as sad because of the people Vlad is forced to kill to protect her. And by “forced to kill” I mean willing to sacrifice. There’s a whole sense that Vlad is terrifyingly ruthless willing to kill friends and allies and literally destabilise all of society.
As I’ve said before, I’m not against Vlad being this ruthless force – because he is. But no-one is challenging it, and the book presents this not as a character flaw of Vlad’s but as a proof of his romantic dedication. It’s not an obstacle others need to work round or something they consider troublesome or vexing. It’s not even presented as particularly negative.
Hey, remember when I said in my review of Twice Tempted that Leila was one quarter Cherokee, had only belatedly remembered it but at least mocked someone for assuming she had woo-woo because she’s Native American? She mocks the idea that her woo-woo must be linked to her being Cherokee and that her magic has nothing to do with her heritage. And this is a good thing because far too often People of Colour in general and Native Americans in particular are used to provide some exotic, shiny magic powers because they’re so “mystical” – especially for mixed race characters