Merit and Ethan are forced to leave Chicago to try to avoid the Mayor’s persecution of the Vampire houses, Cadogan House in particular. They take shelter with the local shapeshifters – though not many of them are exactly thrilled with their presence. Especially since it’s a major werewolf holiday and outsiders are not usually welcome.
That hostility only grows sharper when the party is attacked by a mythical creature that shouldn’t even exist. An impossible attack – and one that builds suspicion, which only gets worse when it turns out the local werewolves aren’t the only supernatural group that has been targeted. Under the threat of being scapegoated by the werewolves, Merit and Ethan have to investigate
But Chicago doesn’t remain quiet with their absence; the other vampire houses now fall under the mayor’s eye.
And Lakshmi, member of the Greenwich Presidium, is back in town with their judgement for the killing of one of their own – and an interesting and dangerous proposal
In many ways, the writing and character development of this book has come a long way over the rest of the series. I can actually believe Merit as actually being her age (and I can believe Ethan as an adult, if not quite the 400 year old vampire he’s supposed to be). Merit also showed some levels of skills and abilities and general thinking that made it clear why people were turning to her for help – something that in previous books seemed a little bemusing. While the book focuses nearly entirely on Ethan and Merit, we also have a fair few interactions between Merit and other female werewolves (including a couple of scenes of them being awesome) and Merit and Mallory have mended their relationship in a very organic way. Previously Merit had been so very surrounded by men, it’s nice to see strong female connections and some competent capable women around Merit as well. We also have some excellent displays of leadership – more from Gabe than Ethan, but there’s a sense of understandable leadership from both of them.
With both Mallory and Tate the book also brought up some excellent depictions and considerations of redemption – what is needed for redemption, what true contrition looks like, and the necessity of making things right
The relationship between Ethan and Merit also works well. We have some navel gazing about losing Ethan because of the GP plans, and definitely some appreciation of how attractive he is, but on the whole the romance is there, reminding us how much in love they are, without distracting from the matters at hand. We don’t have tense scenes interrupted by drooling, for example.
Unfortunately, half way through the book we have a lull. It’s hard to write a mystery without these – the characters don’t have any answers, are lost and confused and are chasing down false leads. Red herring and dead ends abound while everyone has to wait around until they get answers – this is a very natural part of any investigation, but it’s not very fun to read. It’s hard to keep the story going while still conveying this inherent waiting – and the book does try and isn’t nearly as bad as many I’ve read, but it still has a mid-book lull.
It doesn’t help that the book doesn’t have any real side plots of merit – there are things introduced like the elves and Merit agonising over Lakshmi’s proposal – but the former is just completely undeveloped and the latter is clearly a prequel for future storylines. We have the ongoing Mayor of Chicago is abusing all of her powers storyline but it’s also unsatisfactory – because Ethan and Merit has left the city we just have reports of various things happening without them really getting involved. Which is a shame, because I think the legal drama, drawing in the governor and federal government, suing and counter suing, calling in friends and allies in various establishments could all have been an interesting storyline