Rayne Whitmore had an extremely privileged life – not without issues, but with a loving family, immense wealth and a girlfriend, Selene, who loves her. But this comfortable life is shaken badly when she sees what terrible things her father has to do to preserve it.
But it’s only the beginning – the retaliation brings demons to her family’s door and leaves Rayne devastated, grieving and lost with the knowledge that monsters and magic still exist. Only Selene is there to offer comfort – and knowledge of the magical world that had been hidden from her. It’s a world Rayne will have to become more deeply involved in if she ever wants to justice for her family and to ensure she will never be the victim again.
We have a huge world here – with a lot of layers but also a lot of depth. We don’t just have a world that has trawled every supernatural mythology out there, declared “these exist” and then moved on and relied on tropes to characterise them. We don’t just have demons and gods and vampires and werewolves, they have histories and cultures and development – or at least hints of them (more would be an unconscionable info-dump) to set out what is actually meant by these terms in this setting, to show that the author has developed and created these rather than just slapped some fangs on a sexy person and said “behold, vampire – you know how this goes.” There’s a lot built into things like the werewolf packs, the history of the vampires and their societies, the internal problems with the witchborn and how that affects Selene’s life and past.
This genre is very very full and it’s hard to take concepts that are long established and tweak them sufficiently to bring originals spins on them – this book does it, it makes something new out of the old tropes, brings a lot of originality while still keeping the familiar.
Rayne is also an excellent character. She’s a Black lesbian, which is excellent inclusion, both of these both inform her and are very present in her character. She’s in a long term relationship with Selene, a latina lesbian and being a lesbian touches on her relationship with her (sadly absent) mother and how she lives and interacts with immortals later. Similarly race and ethnicity are present in the characterisation, language choice, explanations, descriptions, and generally are integral part of their characters. It’s not just a tossed away description but nor is it a heavily hammered, all consuming stereotype. It was a nice balance and excellent character development and inclusion (and not limited – we have numerous main POC, several bisexual and another lesbian character. There is a problematic “everyone is bi” insistence from the immortals but Rayne herself is quick and firm to shoot that down, there’s also a bit of a shaky idea that gay male werewolves can’t possibly exist for random, unnecessary reasons).
In fact “nice balance” pretty much covers a lot of Rayne’s character. She’s confident and assertive, but rarely explodes all over people in the name of defiance (I say “rarely” because she’s also passionate and flawed and doesn’t always make good decisions when she is very angry). She has some character flaws – a tendency towards over-confidence at times that is both justified but also does get her into trouble. She is awesomely powerful – but then so are a lot of people around her (several of them more so). Including Selene who is at least her equal. She has some awesome strong relationships with the people around her – her family, Selene, and builds friendships based on mutual respect; and she and Selene aren’t the only “good” women either.
Every side character seems to have motives and drives that I can understand – there’s no caricature, no evil for the sake of evil, no-one whose motive or actions seem just a little contrived. The characterisation is excellent; I’m not just invested in Rayne’s story, I’m invested in everyone’s story