Larissa Ione crafts another rich and unique world in her latest PNR series. In some ways this is like her Demonica books: it’s dark and layered, witty and sexy. But the worldbuilding is very different. Yes, there are vampires, but in this society they are slaves. Humans are the bad guys here. They view vamps as wild animals. They abuse them… treat them like lab rats, servants or property. And as the book begins, the vampires have had enough.
Nicole was just a child when the vampires rebelled. Her family was slaughtered and she was nearly killed herself. At her age, she didn’t understand the way her family abused vampires. She saw the servants as part of her family, especially her nanny, Therese, who was killed before the uprising. But now, as an adult, she fears the vampires. She has taken over her family business that is deeply rooted in the vampire industry. She wants to get away from the slavery side –and focus on the medical breakthroughs science can use with vamp physiology.
Our hero is Riker, one of the top men in a clan of free vampires. Nicole’s company has taken captive a healer for a rival clan and he must get her back –or face an attack. What better way to get the healer back than to kidnap the company’s CEO? So Riker goes after Nicole. The dynamic between them is rough enough– but it’s made even worse by the fact that Riker was mated to Therese. He blames Nicole’s family for her death –and Nicole grew up thinking Riker killed her, so there’s a huge amount of animosity. And some unwanted attraction.
The story follows their attempts to get the healer back, as they learn about each other’s cultures and break down their own bias. It’s not easy reading. The slave thing is pretty horrible and while Ione tries to paint Nicole in a more sympathetic light, she’s still part of a society that is pretty awful. At worst, she is part of the problem… at the very best, she is incredibly myopic and naïve for someone who is supposed to be very smart. True, she doesn’t own slaves, but she does treat vampires like lab rats and beings less than human. I just couldn’t quite put that away as I read the story. Add to that, women have a pretty rough go of it in this world, with rapes and forced breeding.
I think some people will find it too dark. And I will admit, I was on the bubble. But I made it through because Ione showed us that some of the characters were able learn and grow beyond their environment.
Now to what I did like: I really enjoyed the dynamics of Riker’s clan and the vampire world. I thought the secondary characters were well crafted and I cared what happened to them. I am very interested, for example in Hunter and Myne. (I am really looking forward to reading stories for these two.) As always, Ione scores with sexual tension and hot love scenes. She burns the pages up!
The romance is ok. Both the hero and the heroine have a lot of Issues to get over. A lot of prejudice… which I could empathize with at times, but also left me frustrated at times. This one probably won’t end up my favorite in the series, but I liked the foundation enough to feel confident that I will enjoy future installments.
*ARC Provided by Pocket Books